Sage's Pages: "Love Your Enemies" Part 2
By now, we hope that you’ve ordered and received your copy of the book from Hay House, but if you haven’t, you can order it here with a special Wanderlust 50% off discount (enter code 5758 at checkout) and catch up with our reading group once you’ve finished Parts One and Two of the book.
PART TWO: The Inner Enemy
Of all the forceful energies that can take hold from within — obsessive desire, anger, jealousy, stubbornness, pride, self-righteousness — anger can be the most dangerous. When we are in the throes of anger, we are no longer the master of our thoughts, speech or actions: we become the instrument of our rage.
While love (the wish for others to be happy) is the opposite of anger, it is difficult to begin at the loving end of the spectrum when adjusting our mindset toward the object of our anger. Patience is the middle ground — think of it as a space of tolerance. As Thurman explains, “We might still be irritated when we are harmed, but we will not lose ourselves to anger so long as we can tolerate the irritation, be patient with the harm and the harmer, and maybe even forgive the injury.” During your next meditation session, resolve to cultivate patience, since it is the antidote to anger, and love can thereafter freely arise on the wings of patience.
Sharon suggests that mindfulness practice will help you in working with anger: instead of identifying with the anger as part of our ‘selves’ or something we deserve to feel, we can say, “Oh, it’s anger. This is anger.” Then we can take anger apart and see into its nature: that it can be born from sadness, fear, helplessness, anxiety, isolation — or a mix of the above. Once we acknowledge those feelings, we can speak or act with more cool-tempered knowledge rather than from the hot, top surface of anger.
“Before real anger happens, there is a kind of mental discomfort that comes with the awareness that something is happening that you don’t want… The key is to intervene mentally, verbally, or physically as soon as possible to dissipate your internal discomfort. In this moment, before your frustration burst into anger, you tend to be vividly aware, and you have a chance to act effectively. By being mindful and finding that momentary gap before reactivity takes over, you exhibit a force that is controlled, measured and well- timed, responding with the grace of a martial artist.”
Anger doesn’t just work in the mind, however. It wreaks havoc on our physiological balance by causing an increase in cortisol, which breaks down body tissues and disrupts our blood chemistry and circulatory system. With these dangers lurking in anger’s shadow, it’s no wonder that Shantideva says that the anger we feel is the second injury, wounding us from within. The only way out of this cycle is to realize that anger itself is the real enemy, and the enemy that must be defeated in order to find happiness.
Tolerating discomfort gives us the ability to endure, which leads to an inner release from the force of circumstances. One can begin to practice transcendent detachment, which stems from a feeling of freedom from the fear of suffering.
When we bring a focused mindfulness to the situation - looking at both the situation, our opponent and ourselves - we see that the enemy’s behavior is driven by their own unconscious impulses and attitudes, just as our own behavior is driven by ours.
It is helpful, perhaps, to entertain some non-dual thoughts as well as you practice insightful patience. Meaning, as you search for the “me” who has been so wronged, you will undoubtedly find this “self” is hard to locate within you. The more we look, the more elusive this wounded “self” seems, and the more our certainty about being a victim erodes. Further, as we use insightful patience to search for “self”, we discover that our enemy also has no fixed “self” and thus we see the fruitlessness of enacting revenge upon a mutable and uncertain entity. As our certainty about the enemy’s intent and identity becomes less rigid, it becomes easier to ease into resilience and have a flexible response.
You realize that suffering only comes about because of a mental addiction in which humans become ensnared, and that your enemy is merely the tool of his own anger.
The third kind of patience is forgiving patience, and it is the hardest to develop. It also operates via a counter-intuitive principle: in order to overcome being the victim, we can skillfully and joyfully blame ourselves. This does not, in fact, deepen your victimhood, but grants you a sense of control: when you take responsibility for what happens to you, you take command of it, and you take the steps toward freeing yourself from victimhood.
The insight of patience, then, is that our enemy (outer or inner) is our opportunity to awaken. Through this conscious practice of patience, we can overcome our inner enemy of anger and transform our relationships with our outer enemies in the process.
YOUR MEDITATION ASSIGNMENT
Sharon provides a very specific and useful meditation for dealing with your Inner Enemies on p. 160. Please take the time to read over that passage, and then sit on your meditation cushion (or somewhere quiet where you can reflect) and read each paragraph along with a few minutes of meditation practice. Four variations on a lovingkindness meditation are given, please explore the nuances between them.
Practice one of the four meditations starting on p.160. Were you able to tune in to how tolerant patience, insightful patience and ultimately, forgiving patience can arise from a steady meditation practice? Please describe your experience (or share any questions) below.