I made a mistake this morning.
Instead of hitting the altar first thing - or even the shower, or the coffee pot - I hit up the social media feed and got the ol' bad news blast I'm so used to by now.
A lot of days I'm unfazed, I know that my sense of hope is something that springs forth from me, not something requiring external circumstances to be just right.
But I think today a combo of physical fatigue and introvert-fatigue has me a different kind of sensitive.
There's something about the planet burning, and racist rallies, and war threats, and indefinite detention that just really impairs my ability to see the good in others. It's been building for a few days, this vague discontent.
And I'm privileged to be able to note what's happening in me. To be able to say "oh look, there's anger, and it's arising because of these stories I hold, and these needs, and these values." Often, the cascade of feeling goes so fast that we're not able to gather any insight about the process.
For me, what often happens is that this type of emotional energy will arise and almost immediately I'll push it down. I have all kinds of good origin-stories for this response: a "no back-talk" childhood household, upbringing in a "religion of peace", and further training in new age and ancient pacifist ways. Whatever the cause, the result is that this energy arises and I clench up around it with the thought that it's bad or inappropriate, and this just causes further discomfort.
Perhaps people came up with this strategy of repression because the opposite is not much better - acting out. Most of the time, acting on our anger is reacting, and even that assumes you have a path of power through which you could make change. In many cases, people lash out wildly because their anger has no real hope of effecting positive transformation.
So with all this, when a roiling, tumultuous, cataclysmic emotion arises in me first thing in the morn, Im forced to taste the complex bouquet of all these various elements. And the question that lives in my heart - which I believe is a question we all need to hold - is how can we let this natural emotion arise in us while neither blindly lashing out, nor self-destructively repressing?
The thought that came to me by Grace at the end of my meditation this morning (once I finally sat down to Work) was something like: "Your anger is a response to great tragedies in our world, it would be sacred if you just continued feeling it for as many years as necessary." And this was such a wild and far-out thought to my mind! As many years?!? Because in the past, my own capacity to hold the hot coals of anger has been so limited. This particular emotion has been so destructive and so fatiguing in my experience that I've always worked to get the hell away from it whenever it arises!
But somehow this simple message at the tail end of my meditation felt like it was coming from Mother Gaia herself - the great big Goddess of the earth. And the feeling was like we were holding it together, I had my lil heart, but it was wrapped up in Her big heart. There wasn't a tight little "me" that all this energy was bound up in, but a whole planet. And it wasn't just my needs I was concerned about - the longing to see justice and possibility for everyone felt like it expanded my capacity. Being mad because of my personal pet-peeves made me tight and constricted, but being mad for the sake of goodness, for the animals and forests and maybe even humans of our earth - seemed to turn me into a being big enough to hold that anger.
And I was surprised. Because I felt like I could do what Gaia was calling on me to do. I could not have a message of love and light and hope to help ease these pesky feelings. I could not know the exact solutions necessary to solve all our problems. I could have intense energy coursing through my being... and it could be ok.
This is exactly what I've been taught by my Buddhist and Daoist masters. That these energies that arise in us are natural - not to be denigrated or denied. To the Daoists, the anger that arises is the energy of the Wood element. When it's constricted through excessive self-concern, it's anger, but when liberated by understanding our real nature, it is called Benevolence. To the Tantric Buddhists, this energy is the piercing clarity of the Space Element. When crimped by the cataract of self-grasping, it arises as anger, but when liberated by orienting from our Buddha Nature, we see this is part of the dynamic display of our deeper being.
Put simply, anger - and any emotion - is another face of Love. I feel these discomforts because some value I hold is violated. To deny the emotion is to denigrate the value. It is to say that a longing for justice, peace, kindness to prevail is foolish, childish or useless. But when I remember where this feeling is coming from - it's coming from the longing for a better world, for a better way - I recognize that this feeling is itself Love. It's a form of love I'm not familiar with, it's a form I've been taught to avoid. It's a form with almost no representation in our world as love. But it is no less compassionate for all that.
Love can ache, and love can bleed, and at times that makes the love all the stronger. It's an answer to my question of how do we hold this anger without harming self or others. How much love can you hold? How long could you sustain compassion. I've been taught that these qualities - love and compassion - are without limit, if we but train them. And I intuitively feel that it's true.
It feels like the dawning of a new era in my practice and my relationships. Moving from a place of telling others how to calm down, how to get peaceful, how to soothe those wild energies, and into a place of greeting these feelings as the face of love, and helping each other become large enough beings to contain them.