Today marks the beginning of Anger Awareness Week. We might think that anger is obvious, but the more aware we are then the more we can see negative thoughts right as they begin to develop, so that we can nip them in the bud. Normally, by the time we’ve spotted a delusion, we’ve built up quite a head of steam and it’s very difficult to change track: to be more successful as changing negative habits of mind we need to be more mindful of the first faint stirrings of discontent.
For example, when you see a sign lit up on the motorway saying ‘congestion ahead’, what do you do? Probably, start some mental grumbling. Then, by the time you hit the traffic jam, you are already well on the way to full-blown anger. So you try and practice patience, tell yourself that getting angry and beeping your horn won’t change anything so you may as well just accept the situation … and that reasoning probably has very little effect: you’re still annoyed.
That’s because you didn’t become aware of your anger until too late. If, when you first saw that ‘congestion ahead’ sign, you had begun to prepare yourself to be patient with the situation, then that mental grumbling would never have gained a foothold and the pathway of anger would be averted. You would be ready for the traffic, bolstered by a peaceful mind.
So, awareness really is key. Learn to notice what is going on in your mind in every moment, and immediately turn your attention away from those grumbling thoughts that lead inevitably towards anger. Geshe-la says:
If we maintain this peaceful and positive state of mind through the force of mindfulness, unhappy minds will have no opportunity to arise. On the other hand, if we allow ourself to dwell on unhappy thoughts there will be no way for us to prevent anger from arising. For this reason Geshe Chekhawa said, ‘Always rely upon a happy mind alone.’