Anger and Open Attention

Recorded on: 

Northern CA

Participant 1: Hello David, is it delusional to think I can get rid of my anger? I have a bad temper that comes up from time to time, even following blissful and joyful meditations.

David: It cannot be disposed of but it can be released. To dispose of something quickly and efficiently it’s like littering, you just get rid of something because it’s undesirable. It’s undesirable to keep that thing. In the case of anger, it’s part of your emotional structure. It might even be part of your mind and perhaps some impression deep in your body. The anger might speak all of these languages simultaneously but most importantly it’s a part of you. It’s something that is expressing itself as you and there must be a reason for it. There must be some basis for it. Remember, we are talking here about you, about your emotional structure. So, there are many levels then from which we can look at this. We can look at it from a bodily level, even a nutritional level, and a dietary level. For example in Ayurveda anger issues can be traced to Pitta imbalances. I’m not advocating this point of view. I’m not stating that’s what it is in your case. I’m just looking at it from a point of view where diet is considered a very central factor related to emotional states. But you can also look at anger from the point of view of relationships. The arising of anger could be associated with some dissatisfying relationships in the past where you don’t get closure. You don’t get the reciprocal honesty that’s required to move on from a relationship where you feel like you’ve been cheated, that’s what you can call a psychological emotional understanding of anger. There’s also a spiritualized anger that comes about when one does not completely know Being. In other words there’s a friction created by duality, the ignorance that sees only duality in life that is inherently frustrating. People who are ignorant in that sense are also angry whether they realize it or not, the anger could be cast deeply into unconscious or subconscious areas, where it very rarely if ever shows itself. But there’s a subtle underlying feeling of discomfort about not knowing the self. So, the ways in which anger can express itself, the avenues it takes requires a deep sensitivity to observe in oneself what the anger is, what the feeling of it is. Because if you go into it totally with unobstructed openness you will find out what’s causing it. It is not delusional to think that you can or even should move beyond this, it’s intelligent. It’s just that the way you do that is going to indicate whether you are successful or not. Please let me know if you have a follow-up question to this or if you need to make a comment.

Moderator: A question from a participant in Maine, “Sri Aurobindo said the positive path is a higher samhadi than the negative path. Is it possible to achieve bliss and be passive? Does one have to be assertive?”

David: Are you associating the higher path mentioned by Aurobindo with passivity? Is that what you’re trying to connect up here? And that the aggressive approach, which I guess would not be the highest approach according to him, which would not be based on pleasure or bliss, that would be the lower path. Is that what you’re getting at? I just don’t see the relationship between the two points very clearly. Just ask the question as naturally as you can, as you mean to ask it.

Participant 2: My confusion is, which is which, is positive assertive?

David: Here you don’t need to have an approach. I think you’ve tasted some of what goes on here. You could consider the placing of your attention toward me on this webcast to be aggressive and I don’t mean that in a negative sense, but we can categorize that as a movement. You could also at the same time rest in a kind of peace, which is completely passive, that would constitute a more relaxed posture. But in fact both of these, the application of attention and resting in openness where you listen, where you absorb, where you hear and see, they are really two aspects of attention both equally valid. They work complementarily with each other toward simple understanding, toward direct understanding. So, I would say, don’t be concerned with choosing or trying to understand which is higher or lower rather just settle in and see if you can really being to observe what is happening here using your attention either actively or passively or balancing it out, listening carefully, watching carefully but also resting in the openness of your attention where there are no preconceptions.