A few weeks ago, in the entryway to our home, I saw my oldest child yell at her brother and in turn, him yell at the baby. I “literally saw the seed of anger go from one child and on down”. I reflected on this, realizing that I was the one that started this seed, and that I wanted to change.
I don't want to be angry with my children. It doesn't feel good in my body and it frightens them. I feel horrible when my little three-year-old says, “Mom, I'm scared of your anger.” There's a wonderful book about anger and mindfulness, “Peace is Every Step” by Thich Nhat Hanh.
He describes anger as weeds in a garden that need to be weeded and tended too regularly. In his book, Thich Nhat Hanh says if we continually weed the anger from our life through mindfulness, we will change. Anger feels uncomfortable in my body and is something that I want to transform; similarly as the liver or gallbladder would transform pollutants in the body. Dandelion root helps our liver and gallbladder to process toxins. In the Traditional Chinese system of the 5 elements Springtime is associated with the emotion of Anger and the element Wood. This is why in this animation I drew the transformation of the root of dandelion from a red, jagged Anger into renewal of a green and yellow leaf of light.
When I feel anger or irritation arise when I am with my children, I walk away from whatever happened that triggered anger and go to a place I can be alone. Then in my head I have been saying, “this is anger, this is anger, this is anger, over and over again until I feel the wave pass. When I'm saying this, I don't focus on the person who made me angry. I don't focus on what happened. I don't focus on other times that the same thing happened. I just continue to bring my mind back to: “this is anger.” Once I am calmer and the initial crest has passed, I try to integrate a supportive visualization and breath work. I have been visualizing my anger as a gray or black cloud sort of coming into me as I breathe in and then coming out as I breathe out into light or sunlight radiating out.
This is my process of transforming my anger internally similarly to how our liver and gallbladder transforms toxins in our body.
Part II: Anger (animation for this part will be posted on IG later this Spring):
I have noticed that I have three kinds of anger as a mother: irritation, present anger and old anger, or grief. I can use mindfulness to process my irritation and present anger. If it's the deeper, older anger, being triggered by my daughter in the present moment, I have a different healing process. Sometimes my daughter will say something to me and I'll be horrified by what she says. I'll have thoughts like How is that possible? How dare she? Who does she think she is? I think this is from my own past, my own grief that I wasn't able to do that when I was six years old. When I was her age I was a sweet, well-behaved girl who did exactly what I was told and didn't say anything back or as my parents used to say “talk back.” But I think what was really happening, was that I was really scared, maybe even repressed. These moments with my daughter trigger all of this pain and grief from my past when I was six. I have been making time for myself to be alone and grieve. For me, my grief usually starts with anger, once I give myself the space to feel and release the anger, or “deconstruct”, I always cry and feel the deep sadness underneath. I am going to create another animation showing this process, Part II of Anger series later this Spring.
Years ago, an elder told me “Mother Earth can handle all of your emotions. Your anger, your sadness, your grief. You can give all of it to her.” She told me that at the core of my anger is the natural energy of destruction just like the waves on the ocean break down jagged rocks into smooth sand. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “We need the insight and non-dual vision of the organic gardener with regard to our anger. We do not need to be afraid of it or reject it. We know that anger can be a kind of compost, and that it is within its power to give birth to something beautiful.” Just as a mother can hold space for their child to have a temper tantrum and lovingly just be present with it, the earth can handle all of your feelings. At the time when she told me that I had an enormous amount of grief from my past, I went out into the woods and found a pile of sticks leaning on each other like a sort of shelter somebody had built. I was scared and I felt embarrassed. I felt like what I was doing was wrong, but I allowed myself to pick up a large stick and hit this pile of sticks and scream and scream and cry until I felt completely done.
One thing that made me OK with doing it was that while I was hitting the sticks I noticed that they were getting smaller and breaking up into smaller pieces. So I had a thought, “Oh I'm just helping the earth decompose/deconstruct the sticks faster by breaking them into smaller pieces.”