If only just this one person didn’t bother me, my life would be perfect. I would have no reason to be upset and nothing and no one could spark anger in me then.
How often have you felt this?
This is wishful thinking. In fact, it is impossible. For, the issue is never entirely because of the other person.
If you look back at your life, the many years or decades you may have spent, you’ll realize that there was always someone or some cause for you to be angry, annoyed or frustrated. If today you are upset because of this person, yesterday you experienced similar feelings because of someone else and chances are your tomorrow is going to introduce you to yet another person. Once again this new person may be someone who won’t get along with you, value you, respect you, understand you and so on. After all, how many people can you claim to have known who loved you unconditionally or understood you completely?
I won’t even say that just assume that difficult people are always going to be there in your life, for I can promise you that they will be there. So long as the sun continues to rise from the east, you will have at least one difficult person in your life. This is a fact and not an assumption. We all have such people in our lives and sometimes, if I may state the complete truth, we are these people for others. Just like we wish for certain people to not be there in our lives, there must be some who wish for us to disappear from their lives. Nature, however, pays no attention to what we wish for. Particularly considering that we wish for different things all the time.
Since it’s a given that at each stage in your life, you’ll meet people who may hurt you, disagree with you or dislike you, what can you do to retain your sanity, you wonder. Is there any way that you may not lose your peace and calm? For a brief moment, when things don’t happen according to us, when people don’t behave how we wish them to, everyone experiences a brief surge of anger. It’s swift like lightning. If at that moment, you drop your mindfulness, this bolt of lightning is going to strike and before you know it, words have left the mouth and the damage is done.
This surge of anger stems from feelings of annoyance, often deep rooted. All feelings have a seed which means you can go to the source and remove them forever. Some six years ago, I’d read a beautiful discourse by Buddha and today I managed to find its translation online.
Bhikkhus, there are these five ways of removing annoyance, by which annoyance can be entirely removed by a bhikkhu when it arises in him. What are the five?
Loving-kindness can be maintained in being towards a person with whom you are annoyed: this is how annoyance with him can be removed.
Compassion can be maintained in being towards a person with whom you are annoyed; this too is how annoyance with him can be removed.
Onlooking equanimity can be maintained in being towards a person with whom you are annoyed; this too is how annoyance with him can be removed.
The forgetting and ignoring of a person with whom you are annoyed can be practiced; this too is how annoyance with him can be removed.
Ownership of deeds in a person with whom you are annoyed can be concentrated upon thus: “This good person is owner of his deeds, heir to his deeds, his deeds are the womb from which he is born, his deeds are his kin for whom he is responsible, his deeds are his refuge, he is heir to his deeds, be they good or bad.”
This too is how annoyance with him can be removed. These are the five ways of removing annoyance, by which annoyance can be entirely removed in a bhikkhu when it arises in him.
(Anuguttara Nikaya, 5.161. Ñanamoli Thera translation.)
To be effective you may have to alternate between the five methods above to see what suits you best in any given situation. Sometimes, you may use the affirmation that the other person is responsible for his or her deeds and you yours, while other times you may cultivate feelings of compassion and loving-kindness to overcome your anger, for example.
Practicing onlooking equanimity, that is to act and speak with an evenness of the mind, when under stress helps you in avoiding situations you may regret later on. You can never be hurt by words you didn’t say.
My personal method is to mindfully ask myself before responding to anyone in any given scenario if a. I need to respond at all, b. am I being compassionate? If yes, c. can I just overlook their actions as ignorant mistakes? (Even if they are deliberate acts, I tend to think they perhaps don’t know any better.) Plus, d. am I not aware anyway that they are responsible for their deeds? And finally, e. what sort of behavior befits me? These five aspects go through my mind within a couple of seconds. This is the gift of mindfulness. Even in the Buddha’s discourse above, you can only practice any of what’s suggested if you are mindful, or at least aware of your feelings at the time so you may carefully choose your response. Mindfulness helps you stay in the present moment.
A guy was known among his friends to be very brief and to the point – he really never said too much. One day, a saleswoman promoting a certain brand of brushes, knocked his door and asked to see his wife.
“She isn’t home,” he said calmly.
“Can I wait for her?” the woman said and then used her standard line. “Just last week when I spoke to her she’d sounded interested.”
The man directed her to the living room and left her there. More than two hours passed when eventually, she called out for him and asked, “May I know where your wife is?”
“She went to the cemetery,” he replied.
“Oh. And when she may be coming back?”
“I don’t really know,” he said. “She’s been there eleven years now.”
Anger is something like that. You keep waiting in anticipation for someone who’s long dead (not necessarily physically but karmically). Their past actions, unless removed from your consciousness, continue to fuel anger and negative feelings in you making you increasingly sad, angry or frustrated with your own beautiful life.
For your own good, don’t disrespect and devalue yourself by harboring anger, bitterness or grudges. It’s not easy to cleanse yourself of these leeches, but this is what is required if you want to progress on the path of spirituality. In fact, this is all that is required. Not rituals, traditions, religions and prayers, just a heart that can forgive, a mind that can forget, a consciousness free of anger. I’m not suggesting that you can’t be firm or that you shouldn’t protect yourself but being firm with someone and putting your foot down is not the same as bearing anger and resentment towards them.
If you choose to reflect on your words and actions just before manifesting them, you will find it a whole lot easier to be compassionate, loving and forgiving. With each noble act, you elevate yourself spiritually. It works without fail.
Why have the garbage of stinking emotions when you can keep a bouquet of fragrant feelings? One will attract flies and the other butterflies. Choose carefully.