Saturday, January 22, 2005


I'm reading the book Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh and I'm really enjoying it. I've been hearing about Hanh for awhile now, he's a Buddhist monk who has written many books and is well recommended. I've been sort of skittish about Buddhism, feeling that as a Christian, it has nothing to offer me. I'm changing my mind. I'm not about to become Buddhist, but I feel like Buddhism may offer me more concrete ways of living what Jesus taught. Getting into the theological works of Hanh would probably be too much for me at the moment, but as I scrolled the list of his books contained in my county library, I ran across several that address important issues to me.

I have a problem with anger (I'm prone to fits, my husband said when asked). Its not a huge problem in that I don't destroy things or physically harm others, but I know when I'm angry I'm in a bad mood, I can't concentrate, and my interactions with others suffer. I'm snappish, pre-occupied, and impatient at the least. I know its not good to be angry -- its not good for me, not good for my family, not good for my friends. I try to deal with it, to overcome it, to analyze it so it might dissipate. I know its not good for my spirit or my body. At this point, I've seen no ill effects physically, but its only a matter of time. What bothers me most is that my eldest daughter shares my personality and how can I ever help her to overcome her own anger and frustration when I cannot overcome my own -- when she is learning how to deal with anger from me and sees me swept away in it.

So, I thought I'd request Anger. I've read the first two chapters and was relieved to see that it doesn't require a lot of knowledge of Buddhism nor is it heavy handed in its Buddhism. Hanh is a Buddhist, clearly, but I feel he shows compassion and understanding towards those of other faiths. He seems merely to be trying to show a way.

What I've read so far has really changed my view of how to deal with anger. I always tried to rid myself of it, to overcome it or transcend it. Hanh uses lots of analogies, which I enjoy because it helps me visualize and understand what he is saying. Anger is not to be banished from us, it is to be accepted and cared for just as a crying infant is coddled and cared for by its mother. In caring for your anger and in awareness, the anger will eventually turn to compassion. He speaks of the importance of mindfulness training but he hasn't gotten into how that is done. He stresses, however, that it does not take weeks or years of practice and that even short bits of meditation and mindfulness can be helpful. I like this approach. I started reading Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, but she was getting into meditation in the beginning of her book and I just wasn't interested. I view meditiation as something that I'd have to stop and make time for, and I just don't have the time (or interest). However, Hanh seems to be hinting that mindfulness and focused breathing can occur anywhere, anytime and need not take hours to be helpful.

Food for thought. I look forward to reading more.


Anne Zelenka said...

I have checked that book out of the library but I'm not sure how much I actually read. Perhaps I should request it again... my anger just sent Anna running to her room, where she fell asleep sitting up in her closet. (On second thought, perhaps that was for the best; she must have been awfully tired).

You know my opinion: that Buddhism offers many practical ways of living a good life. Maybe Jesus can motivate it but I never felt guided enough by Christianity.

As for meditation, you seem pretty good already at just hanging out in the moment. I don't think you need to meditate to get something out of Buddhist ideas. Anyway, I hope not because I've not been meditating much. You might enjoy writings by the Dalai Lama, because he focuses a lot on compassion rather than meditation. Thich Nhat Hanh seems to present a good balance though.

clanlally said...

I dont think you (we, even) dont give ourselves enough credit. The very fact that we recognize such changes in our behavior says, to me, that we are at least trying to live a semi-enlightened life. Its not getting angry that is "bad", its what you DO with it. Re: meditation...and you can file this under DOESNT LISTEN TO OWN ADVICE...Anne is right, meditation can happen anywhere for any amount of time. Mindfulness. Being in the moment, which you seem to be pretty good at are what is important. It doesnt matter for how long, only that you ARE.

david said...

If Christ is the Light that enlightens all -- then the Christ-Spirit can speak to us from any Teacher. If Buddhism feeds you today I wouldn't be too concerned about your faith tomorrow. Maybe Hahn will teach you to read the gospels with new eyes.

Larry said...

You may have read this before, but
Christ loves Buddha and Buddha loves Christ.

Re anger: you have faced it, shared it with your friends, which to me is tantamount to seeking our prayers, and you can be sure we (all, together) will be doing just that re your anger.

BTW Ellie is capable of "turning white". We never tried to deal with it, just suffered through it, and it is getting less and less acute. Maybe that's another of the advantages of ageing!

As for me: I pop off at the least provocation, most often directed at myself or my computer, but it means nothing, and I, too am getting too old to take the trouble.

Re Thich Nhat Hanh I like best his Being Peace. I give it to all of my violent pacificist Friends, but it's time for me to read it again myself.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like a great book. I'm going to order it as well as Being Peace. And good for you for finding a way to maintain your faith while opening up to other ideas. Remember, Jesus was Jewish and lived his life by the Old Testament as 15 million still do today. He would be proud.

Marjorie said...

Thanks for your comment and kinds words, Anon. I hope you come back and visit!