Anger is perpetuated all around us constantly in news media, advertising and entertainment. It is no wonder anger is such an easy emotion to default to when put into a stressful situation. Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh in his teachings notes that Americans “cannot speak about anger, and how to handle our anger, without paying attention to all the things that we consume, because anger is not separate from those things.” Acting out in anger can cause harm to one’s self and to others, whether in the form of physical confrontation or in the way we speak to each other. Acting out in anger is what happens when there is a lack of mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is having the presence of mind to control one’s emotions and behavior. Some would say mindfulness is the ultimate coping mechanism. Mindfulness is achieved through meditation, therapy, yoga, or a combination of all three. Mindfulness comes more naturally to some people than others, but it can certainly be learned. To learn mindfulness means:
- Letting go of all past negativity
- Learning to live in the present moment
- Do not hang on to the past, and do not try to predict the future
- Be rooted in what is now, and only now. With the now as your foundation instead of the past, it is difficult to find anything to base anger upon.
It takes practice and discipline to remain in the present, which is why many people meditate daily. Meditation is when the mind is stilled, the noise of everyday life quieted, when peace of mind becomes the singular focus. Some people find it helpful to meditate in silence, while others listen to the sounds of gongs and trickling waters. There is also guided meditation which is when a person or monk trained in the practice gives verbal cues to help guide and keep the mind focused on the task: letting go and staying in the peace of the present moment.
Acting out in anger is destructive to the self and to others. Being mindful of one’s tendencies toward anger and negativity and letting them go is the most effective way to manage anger. The Universe brings about what the mind focuses on. With mindfulness, peace becomes the focus and a calmer self emerges to experience full control over actions, words and behaviors.