According to John Welwood, in his book “Awakening the Heart,” our sensitivity and tenderness comes from our basic aliveness, which is our conscious presence of the soul. It seems like the most prevalent emotion that I experience because of that tenderness is anger.
I am afraid of how I might react when I recognize my body temperature rising, and my heart racing. It can quickly escalate to anger and then I begin to judge myself for being angry. I try to control it and that just builds pressure up to explode even more.
Welwood’s first step of befriending emotion is to keep our seat in the middle of experiencing the emotion. He refers to Chogyam Trungpa’s idea that meditation teaches us to “face and accept” the feelings that arise in meditation. We can learn to accept them as part of our mind. For me, I need to develop a stronger meditation practice so that I can stay present and keep my seat.
His second step is to cut through our judgment of the emotion, so we can fully experience it. For me, facing my anger and letting it dissolve might reveal the underlying life energy of fear. By taking away the storyline and charged thoughts, I can feel the fear, and recognize it as part of being human, as my basic aliveness.
The third step, is to identify with the power and painfulness of the energy. I can begin to see the anger as a means of direct communication from my environment. I am fearful of getting hurt so the anger helps to protect me, but I do not have to become my anger.
Welwood notes this process is not instant, but takes time and we are gradually able to hold our seat longer and longer. That bit of advice can go a long way with me when I start to get mad at myself for getting angry. That awareness helps me to come back to my seat and the more I practice, the more I can befriend anger.
Welwood, John, Awakening the Heart: East/West Approaches to Psychotherapy and the Healing Relationship, Boston MA: Shambala Publications Inc., 1983