Identify the beliefs that ignite us. In the Zen tradition, extreme emotions are manifestations of attachment to beliefs, illusions. The more our beliefs are numerous, rigid and solid, the more the illusions that we maintain about ourselves, others and life are tenacious. Free from soi, free from tout is the beautiful French title of Shunryu Suzuki's book (see box), titled in English Not always so: practicing the true spirit of Zen (Harper Collins, 200). In this collection, master Shunryu Suziki exposes the difficulties and the infinite richness of Zen meditation. In the chapter "Finding the vast mind", he explains that "when we practice zazen, one cannot say that the vast mind really controls the small, but simply that when the small mind calms down, the vast mind begins its real activity. »
The vast mind is that of our true nature, the one that takes shape and imposes itself when the cumbersome and deceptive illusions, most of the time linked to the ego, dissipate. Among the illusions that keep us confused: erroneous and limiting beliefs. What are they ? The stories we tell ourselves or others, to appear to our advantage, to dominate, to protect ourselves, to be taken care of. These stories are built on beliefs. There are two kinds: collective beliefs, linked to a culture, an era, and individual beliefs, the fruit of our family heritage and our personal history. They serve as benchmarks, help us define ourselves and relate to others, but they can also limit, lock us into roles, condemn us to the repetition of behaviors that are harmful to ourselves and to others. We can recognize the nature and strength of these beliefs by the emotions they generate. For example, the more our anger is intense, the stronger our attachment to a belief. What is a belief? Something that only exists in our minds, our little minds.
Stop choosing anger
When we feel anger brewing within us, we have the choice to let it continue or to stop and question it. There is a Zen saying that "only hatred makes choices", in the sense that it discriminates, operates divisions and oppositions. Love creates the opposite movement, it embraces, encompasses, unites, unifies. Anger is like hate, it makes choices. It creates division, the most toxic of illusions, by making us see a situation or a person as separate from us, as an enemy. It is because something or someone upsets my certainty, my stability, that I get angry. I no longer reflect, I no longer analyze, I defend my territory like a wild animal, and in doing so, I waste my vital energy and poison the air around me. We can make the opposite choice: choose not to feed the angry tiger.
When I get angry, I no longer think, I no longer analyze, I defend my territory like a wild animal, and in doing so, I waste my vital energy and poison the air around me.
It starts with identifying and naming this emotion: we can say (to ourselves) “I am angry”. Naming makes it possible to suffer less. Thich Nhat Hanh (1) compares anger to a small child crying out for his mother. “When the child cries, his mother takes him gently in her arms. She listens to him and observes him carefully to find out what is wrong. The mere fact of taking and holding your child in your arms with tenderness and love soothes the baby's suffering. Likewise, we can take our anger lovingly into our arms and we will feel immediate relief. We don't need to reject our anger. It is a part of us that needs love and deep listening just like a very small child. Once the baby has calmed down, the mother can see if he has a fever or if his diaper needs a change. Likewise, when we have regained our calm and freshness, we can look deeply into our anger and clearly see the conditions that allowed it to arise. »
Appease the angry tiger
To achieve this state of inner peace, there's nothing like sitting with our roaring tiger for a while and trying to think of it as a partner who can teach us things about ourselves. We can ask him: why does he put himself in this state? What threatens him, frightens him? What does it protect? Does this situation or this person who attacks him remind him of situations or people who have hurt him in the past? Thich Nhat Hanh explains that since anger often masks sadness and fear, it is important to then think about the best way to take advantage of what made us angry: rethinking a relationship, breaking the pattern of repetition, being less in the ego, questioning one's beliefs and certainties by trying to adopt another point of view than one's own. Extinguishing your anger not only means preserving your vital energy and seizing the opportunity to gain lucidity and calm, but it also means leaving the world of duality, of division, which generates hatred and suffering.