I'm coming to dislike that word, spiritual. It conjures up an image of something ethereal, other-worldly, supernatural, divorced from the messy reality of this physical world.
Which, of course, is the only world there is -- because there's precisely zero demonstrable evidence that any other realm exists. No heaven. No hell. No divine regions of reality.
This is it. So rather than say something like "I'm a spiritual person," how about simply "I'm s person." Just as we all are. Doing our best to live a good life in a world that's filled with challenges.
That includes dealing with challenging emotions, such as anger.
I've continued reading a book I mentioned in my previous post, "The Joy of True Meditation" by Jeff Foster. Below I'll share some wise words he has to say about anger, and by implication, any sort of supposedly negative emotion.
I say supposedly, since there is no such thing as a negative emotion. Or, a positive emotion. There's just emotions. How we label them is up to us. Emotions don't come with labels attached. That's a human invention. So I"m not saying that Foster's view of anger is objectively correct. It's just his perspective.
I enjoy reading books like "The Joy of True Meditation" not because I think they point to some cosmic truth.
For many years I did do that, in my religious phase -- which lasted about 35 years. I'd consider that writers about meditation or spirituality might have achieved a vision of something true about a realm that transcended the physical world.
Now, I look upon people like Jeff Foster as I do novelists or movie makers.
They are communicating creative insights that mean a lot to them, and can be entertaining for other people. If I find something in their vision that resonates with me, great. I can learn about what I find interesting and valuable by noting what I find attractive in someone else's perceptions.
Keep that in mind as you read what Foster has to say about anger. He makes some good points. It fits with observations I've made of so-called "spiritual" people who are so afraid of normal human emotions, they become almost robotic in how they talk and act, not natural at all.
But this is just one person's point of view. If you find something useful in what Foster says, wonderful. If you don't, that's fine also.
Spiritual teachings that tell us to extinguish our anger completely, that judge anger to be a categorically 'negative' and 'destructive' emotion, or call it 'unhealthy' or even 'unspiritual', can be very misleading teachings indeed.
Anger is life, a powerful expression of the vital life force that infuses and flows through and animates all things, and must be honoured as such.
Of course, we don't want to be ruled by our anger! We don't want anger to speak for us, put words in our mouths or control our bodies and behaviours. We want to have space around our anger, be able to use it consciously, as a tool, when necessary and appropriate and kind.
We don't want to be consumed by it, identified with it, blocked by it, or lose ourselves to it. We want a healthy -- and even loving -- relationship with this most powerful and fiery of friends.
When we try to be 'spiritual' and suppress our anger, when we push it deep down into our bodies and into the waiting room of the unconscious, it festers there and wreaks havoc with our immune systems. We no longer 'have' anger. Anger 'has' us.
Anger is no longer a feeling that comes and goes. We are angry now; anger is in our bones, we are identified with it. We find ourselves perhaps exploding in aggression and rage in our search for relief from the pressure within.
Or maybe we become passive-aggressive, simmering quietly with resentment and hostility towards the world and others -- the neighbours, politicians, family members, our partners. We find other unconscious ways to express or deflect from the anger: lying, blaming, sarcasm, complaining, or simply giving others 'the silent treatment'.
All ways to avoid ourselves. We are still angry inside.
Even if we think we are "spiritual" and "beyond anger". There are stories of the most "peaceful" and "enlightened" and "spiritually evolved" gurus and self-help teachers exploding with rage behind the scenes at students or shaming and blaming staff members or participants.
The anger never really goes away, you see, it just finds new and creative ways to move.
There is a healthy, sacred middle between numbing out anger on the one hand, and habitually acting it out and hurting others on the other hand. Between repression, pushing the anger down, and unconscious reactive expression, pushing the anger out in search of relief.
In the middle, which is the sacred realm of meditation, we can breathe, and we can begin to actually feel our anger deep inside our bodies. We can come out of our minds -- out of the drama in our head, the blame and the attack on others and the revenge fantasies -- and go right into our own bellies, chests, throats, solar plexus, head.
Go right to the core of the aliveness, to the raw fiery sensations of the present moment... We can slow down and respond lovingly to our anger instead of unconsciously reacting to it.