Sitting in a Hut With Anger

The passage in Jack Kornfield’s “The Wise Heart” that spoke to me goes something like this:

Jack Kornfield had graduated from college, and gone to Thailand, where he had joined a Buddhist community and taken monk’s vows. One day, he became upset because he felt he had been mistreated by a senior monk. It made him feel angry. He spoke to his teacher about the incident, hoping to find resolution. His teacher said, “Good. Go back to your hut, put on all of your robes, sit, and be angry.”

It was in the middle of summer. He went to his small hut, put on all of his heavy monk’s robes, and sat down to meditate. He was hot outside from the heat of the day and the heat of the robes. And he was hot inside, from the anger churning inside of him. The anger boiled up, all out of proportion to the incident which had occurred with the senior monk.

Kornfield had grown up in a home with a father who beat his mother. As a child, he had tried to be the peacemaker. All of his life, he had imagined that he was incapable of anger, that it was something that did not exist within him.

Sitting in that hut, he began to open that old wound, and slowly started the process of healing, by experiencing the anger. He worked with anger over the next few years. He realized that all along, he had been much closer to his father than he ever realized – so close, that he had suppressed the anger out of a deep fear of hurting himself or others.

I completely understand the flash anger that is out of proportion to the incident, such as Kornfield experienced when mistreated by the senior monk. My sense of righteous indignation is strong and fierce and sudden. Most recently, I have been dealing with some issues in my work, where I feel people are not being truthful with me. It is not personal; we are playing out roles, with me as a representative of “the press,” while they are representatives of “interviewees.” But I become incensed, enraged by the apparent dishonesty. I am quick to judge, and relentless in my determination to “win.” My years of training have allowed me to camouflage that anger in their presence – I am a master at playing nice. But in the office, in front of my peers, I pace and rant and storm about. It seems that I am gradually losing my ability to tamp down the feelings. They keep popping up unexpectedly, lingering, following me home. I’ve been feeling really pissed off.

Although this feels like a loss of control, it is, ironically, I believe, a move in the right direction, a step towards greater cohesion. If I can face these little irks and problems, maybe then I can begin to tap into that deep well of rage boiling deep down inside of my gut. I think it is my time to go sit in my hot hut in all of my heavy robes.

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  1. Remember, the flip side of hate is discriminative wisdom — a joyful use of released energy zt

  2. Kornfield also commented about that discriminative wisdom, saying that the “hate types” at his monastery were the ones who were dissatisfied when things were not going well, and were often a catalyst for positive change for the group. Thank you for reinforcing that. I can only hope that I, too, can use my energy in that positive way.

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