Anger wrecks our day(s)

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The smallest thing can fill our mind if we have no control over our thoughts.

Someone on Facebook fessed up that they had been engaging in an “internal tantrum and imaginary arguments”, and I thought to myself, “Now ain’t that the way our delusions go!”

It is so easy to get irritated if we let ourselves due to our unchecked habit of inappropriate attention. Normally I live in a pretty peaceful place with lots of space — just cats, dogs, possums, and huge parking spots for one’s air-conditioned car — I’m not rubbing shoulders with a mass of annoying humanity as I try to get around. But I also travel to NYC from time to time, partly so as to get my fair share of shoulder-rubbing, to keep it real 🙂

On the plane recently a young man sat next to me and, despite his good health, looks and fortune, I could tell he was already feeling slightly edgy. He got out his Blackberry and engaged in some very fast texting with his two thumbs. I nosily eyed what he’d written and to my surprise the last text said “This fat b**** next to me is so large that I cannot put down my armrest.” I could tell this was the tale-end of a moan about the person sitting next to him, and I noticed to my alarm that the armrest between us was firmly up. But I’m not that big so I glanced hopefully to the other side of him just in case, and it did appear that a large lady was occupying that seat.

Relieved as I was that he wasn’t texting about me, I felt a little sorry for her, oblivious as she was to his annoyance at having to spend the next 2 hours and 48 minutes wedged next to her, thinking how mortified she’d have been if she had been as nosy as me and looked at his Blackberry. Perhaps she’d in any case sense his dislike and spend a few less than happy, confident hours as a result. Even hurtful thoughts are hurtful; they are mental actions that do leave some impression on our mind and our world. In the teachings on karma, Buddha says that no action is ever wasted.

Just as I was musing on this, he suddenly thrust his Blackberry under my nose, gesturing me to read his latest message, which just happened to be addressed to me. It said: “Don’t get weirded out if I sit closer to you, but the woman next to me is sitting half on my seat.” She wasn’t actually, and he was now sitting on my seat, but I thought I’d try and cheer him up a bit by smiling that it was no problem, sure, I don’t mind being squashed into half a seat even if he does, its not inherently bad after all… (I doubt he got all my silent messages, but I thought them anyway). The rest of the journey passed without incident, he entered his own sullen headphoned world — hopefully he cheered up later.

A tiny example of a minor irritation blown out of proportion, but these can waste every day of our whole precious life if we let them.

Got any good examples?!

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

13 thoughts on “Anger wrecks our day(s)”

  1. Hi Luna ..public transport travelling.It is very significant that just one person can affect our uncontrolled feelings when placed in close proximity with others.
    One of my friends has a beautifully happy personality,very non threatening and some people used to criticise her for being everybodies’ friend in that she would happily chat with anyone…she had been in public service all her life but was naturally ‘a natural’ if you know what I mean(How mad is that being criticised for being friendly?)When on the Tube in London she cheerily engaged a business guy next to her on a packed train like she had known him all his life.He responded very positively and their friendly natter lit up that normally slightly uncomfortable experience of public non engagement.She never failed to amaze me with her easy laugh and way of connecting with people.It actually felt quite surreal because NO ONE does that in London.
    At the other extreme, another friend travels regularly by bus from a small village to a small market town in the Midlands.Everyone is normally friendly in that part of the world and it is common to say hello or acknowledge ‘strangers’ with an appropriate conversation.Generally ‘we are all in this together ‘ vibe if you get my drift.A very different experience to ‘that there London’.However,one woman is renowned through out the bus route for creating a negative atmosphere whenever she travels.She caused uproar on one journey over some comments with even the bus driver confessing to the rest of the passengers when she got off that she was his ‘worst nightmare’.People who use that route all know who everyone means when they mention their journey involving her presence.Yes, Ive met her myself and I can see how she is particularly gifted at saying the absolutely wrong thing.
    Hope these examples are not too long but they are all real ones so thought they may be useful little teachings.
    Dharma and daily life..the two are never separate!
    Especial thanks for keeping it realxxx

  2. that’s so funny! we can be so precious, can’t we? Not that funny for th person on th receiving end tho. And yes, it’s hard not to feel someone’s anger, whether they verbalise it or not.

    I’m just coming out of an angry / low mood (flip-sides of th same coin) period th now. It’s worse when th anger feels justified, coz the object of your anger has hurt your friends with her gossip & lies too. But anger’s never justified; and what’s th point of wasting time n energy and creating more harm for ourselves and others now and in th future? I don’t think there is one.

  3. You weren’t on the plane to/from Fall Festival were you? Did I miss you again?!

  4. I recently got feedback that my email account was sending out infected emails to people on my contact list…yikes!, so I was really frustrated and trying everything I know to stop that. I deleted my contact list, but the emails kept going out….

    Then as i was in a bit of a panic deleting ALL my folders so there would be nothing left, there was a knock on my door, and I knew who it was…the Jehovah’s Witnesses!

    So in my “inappropriate” mental state I answered the door. I can just imagine what the look on my face was like!.. I was sighing, huffing, and puffing, but they took no notice, so I surrendered to the situation (they weren’t going anywhere!), and we ended up having a pretty good time.

    As Geshe Kelsang says, if something is wrong with your car, your car has a problem, not you

    It is so easy to get lost in our drama. Thank goodness for knocks on the door to help us to snap out of it.

    ps – I ended up closing my email account, so you might get some bouncing emails for the blog i signed up for…but there is always facebook!

    Bill (a facebook fwend)

    1. Sorry to hear about your computer mishap! Hope you get all your fwends back soon. (No worries this end, WordPress kindly takes care of bouncy emails.)

  5. Thank you for this Luna. It’s so true. Some time ago I spent an entire car journey from London to back home – about 5 hours, with someone I had a difficult view of. They were not actually in the car with me mind you, but they were certainly in my mind! I had repeated rehearsals of arguments with them, where I should have said this or that, and planning arguments with them which never happened. It was the most unhappy journey of my life. The uncontrolled mind really is a wild elephant – like Geshe-la says – trampling over our happiness and good judgement. Inferential cognisers are sometimes treacherous too – a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!

      1. Hi Luna. Sorry about that. Reading it again it doesn’t make much sense! What I was getting at was the pain our mind can experience based on mistaken assumptions.

        As you know, inferential cognisers are types of thoughts we use to reach conclusions about things that are not directly ‘visible’. In this sense there are two types of cogniser – direct cognisers and inferential cognisers.

        If we see an object clearly in front of us we use a direct cogniser to ‘know’ it is there. It is a ‘direct’ cogniser because we don’t need to use signs or reasons to believe it is there – we can see it directly.

        If we put a towel over the object so we can’t see it any longer, we still believe it is there because of logical reasons. This belief is arrived at by the use of an inferential cogniser, which reasons that although we can’t see the object, nothing else has changed and we can make out its shape through the towel, so it still there.

        Although the logic of an inferential cogniser may be sound, the basis if the logic may be faulty. Magicians fool us by leading our inferential cognisers reach the wrong conclusions based on their presentation (which cup is the ball under etc.)

        Your example was to read your neighbour’s text and to briefly conclude that the statement referred to yourself. With self-cherishing, someone in this position would easily feel quite upset, and perhaps act in non-virtuous ways in response. These actions and their consequences would no doubt create all kinds of problems and suffering. How tragic, especially as they are based on a misunderstanding.

        So my badly made point was that inferential cognisers can cause a lot of trouble if they are not valid.

        1. All inferential cognizers are valid, though. If it is a faulty inference, it is not an inferential cognizer but a wrong awareness.

          (Definition of inferential cognizer page 52 of Understanding the Mind: “a completely reliable cognizer whose object is realized in direct dependence upon a conclusive reason”.)

          My reasoning was not conclusive when I inferred he was texting about me!! Not this time anyway, though I should go easy on the fries…

  6. I remember years ago having a ‘rehearsal’ argument before having to go and ask someone to do something at work – I spent a good few hours practising my cutting and valid counter-arguments to what I ‘knew’ they would come up with against me. I hardly slept the night before through psyching myself up. I got to work, met up with the person and asked them to do whatever it was (I can’t even remember now, that’s how important it was!) and I was completely flabbergasted when they said ‘Ok’ and smiled!! I’d wasted all that time assuming how they were going to react and getting myself in a right state! It was a good teaching for me and made me determined not to do that again so at least I learned something out of it 🙂

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