If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist.
When you get angry, go back to yourself, and take very good care of your anger…Most of us don’t do that. We want to follow the other person in order to punish him or her.
~Thich Nhat Hanh, from Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames
This morning I realized that I hold a great deal of anger in my body. While I have had this thought many times, I have rarely felt it so clearly in my body. So I returned to Thich Nhat Hanh, whose wise advice on anger has been seeping in slowly since I read this book a few years ago. He likens anger to a baby who needs holding:
When the mother embraces her baby, her energy penetrates him and soothes him. This is exactly what you have to learn to do when anger begins to surface. You have to abandon everything that you are doing, because your most important task is to go back to yourself and take care of your baby, your anger.
As practitioners…we hold our baby of anger in mindfulness so that we get relief. We continue the practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking, as a lullaby for our anger. The energy of mindfulness penetrates into the energy of anger, exactly like the energy of the mother penetrates into the energy of the baby.
When we begin to cultivate the energy of mindfulness, the first insight we have is that the main cause of our suffering, of our misery, is not the other person–it is the seed of anger in us.
And because you have not practiced the methods for taking good care of your anger, the seed of anger has been watered too often in the past.
May I be mindful enough to recognize anger when it arises. May I remember to go home to myself and take care of that anger, rather than water the seeds of the anger. May I then have compassion for those who may seem to be the cause of my anger, but who may be in reality suffering.