On a flight not long ago, while listening to mellow mantra yoga music on my IPod, I noticed what was playing on the movie screens all around me. Everyone seemed to be watching a film called “Anger!” Whether it was an explosive action movie or a dramatic love story, anger was the main theme. As I witnessed the angry faces and movements on the screens without being able to hear the dialogue, sound effects or music, I wondered what everyone seemed so extraordinarily furious about. It occurred to me then that anger—like happiness—is something we can choose, and by surrounding ourselves with angry images, sounds, and expressions we’re feeding into the choice to be pissed off.
I will admit there is plenty of disturbing news in the world every day. But anger doesn’t seem to solve problems, and in many cases makes things worse. When my kids were little, the popular advice was to give them a pillow to punch or enroll them in an active sport like football so they could “get their anger out.” Even back then, this seemed unwise to me. Anger and punching just appeared to produce more anger and punching. As the mother of three boys, I was used to anger, even though my kids were not especially out of control. Still, there were balls thrown through windows, the occasional broken bone, and insults and expletives hurled (among other items) when anger exploded. All this was unsettling, to say the least. I’m not against active sports or punching bags (as long as they’re punched with joy!) but I found that reading a story or taking a walk in the woods was just –if not more—effective when tempers flared.
My kids (now grown) still get angry now and then, and so do I. But as Kundalini yoga master Yogi Bhajan once said (and I’m paraphrasing here) the fire in your heart can be used to make food, or it can burn your house down! Anger and explosive passion can lead to so many types of destruction (including self destruction) and I’ve observed that anger begets anger, just as love produces more love. I’ll stick to my healing mantras and breathing techniques to weather any angry storm; I’d rather let the light in than punch anyone’s lights out. Namaste!