The phrase To know oneself is used a lot in yoga, but when it comes down to it, what does this require of us? Often we celebrate and wish to know more of joy and happiness, but what of the more troublesome emotions, like anger. It is easy to befriend happiness, but to befriend the darker emotions is a challenge for the warrior. As Joseph Campbell said, The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. Below and beneath, the process of alchemy calls us to examine and transform our challenging emotions from base experience into gold.
The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh describes anger, pain and frustration as blocks, internal formations that tie us up and obstruct our freedom. If we are unaware of how to untangle these knots, they remain, inflamed and ready to react and be reinforced by a remotely similar experience stored deep in our unconscious. These formations contain the power to motivate behaviour, the consequences that we and those around us bear.
In mediation and yoga we can ask questions to our anger why are you here? What are you angry at? When did this event first occur in your life? It is often a revelation to hear what replies we get. Through this questioning we can begin to understand ourselves, what we need and how to meet those needs and untie the knot of anger. Resentments can be released through forgiveness of others and ourselves.
When we resist what is already inside us, tension forms and disease occurs. The developmental psychologist and author of When the body says no: The cost of hidden stress Gabor Mate discusses the lives of people with chronic illness and how these lives are characterized by emotional shut down: the paralysis of “negative” emotions in particular, the feeling and expression of anger. Through entering the cave of darkness, we can bring illumination and heal through understanding and knowledge.
The Buddha said Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. Through awareness, familiarisation and understanding of the self, we can see the root source of anger and then have compassion for ourselves and for the millions of other people in the world who also struggle with feelings of anger and frustration.
Instead of becoming victims of anger, we can learn to untangle the string and fly the kite of freedom through the dark places and spaces in our minds and bodies. No longer do we have to numb our anger, through compassion we can befriend this part of us, in order to know and bring the self back to wholeness.
Breathing in, I know that anger has manifested in me; breathing out, I smile towards my anger ”“ Tich Nhat Han
Through recognizing our anger, and not fighting or suppressing it we can embrace the self with tenderness, promoting growth and providing our own light to guide us out of the cave of darkness. Start your process of transformation now!