Last week, someone broke down our door, stole a bunch of valuables, and left a big mess behind.
We are very fortunate that we only lost material things and that nobody was hurt. Doors can be fixed, things can be replaced. In fact, we have been overwhelmed by the kindness and concern of our neighbours, family, and friends! It could be worse and we will certainly be fine.
However, since this happened I’ve found myself struggling with anger. Anger at whoever violated our home, anger at the poor security at our building, anger at myself for putting up with it, anger at people who seem unable to show an ounce of compassion for a situation that would be upsetting to anyone, anger at not knowing what to do to feel safe in my home again…
I’m definitely no stranger to anger and I’m not one of those people who “never feels angry.” But this anger is different. It has at times been overwhelming. Although I can do things to feel better, it comes back. I need some anger management!
Anger comes from fear
I think this is because it has its roots in a fear I’ve never felt before – a fear for my safety and security. While I have definitely had some catastrophically bad things happen to me, I don’t think I have ever felt unsafe in my own home. So, while I haven’t cried once (maybe it’s coming?), I keep returning to anger.
Here are some strategies I’ve found helpful:
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Alexander Pope
Something that I have struggled with in my life (and still do often enough) is that reality does not match my expectations. I guess that is true for pretty much every other person too, but what seems to vary is how attached we are to those expectations.
Expectations sound like this: “Things SHOULD be…”, “This person SHOULD…”, “I SHOULD…”
Part of my anger has been due to things not being as they SHOULD be. But then I found myself wondering, is that actually true? Should things be as I think they should be?
The answer is no. Circumstances and people do not come programmed to follow a pre-determined series of steps. Who is to say that this is not exactly the way it SHOULD be? Who is to say that things are not unfolding in exactly the right way? Except that there is no right way. Let me say it again:
There is no right way
There is only the way things are. Does this mean we can’t exert our influence to make good things happen or protect ourselves against possible bad outcomes? Absolutely not, but when we become too attached to expectations, we create stress for ourselves that is unnecessary.
Here’s where Buddhism comes in handy
I am not a Buddhist, nor an expert on Buddhism, but for this concept I’ve found Buddhist philosophy is right on the money.
One of the central concepts in Buddhism is the principle of dukkha, also known as anxiety, stress, or suffering. One aspect of this is the feeling that reality does not match our expectations. As such, Buddhism teaches us that happiness and suffering are both inevitable and both impermanent, as is everything in the world.
If we gain this insight, we can reduce our suffering by releasing our attachment to expectations and accept reality.
Meditation as Medicine
Last July I challenged myself to meditate every day for 100 days in a row. You can read more about my experience and follow my progress via these articles:
- How to defeat stress in 10 minutes
- Quick start guide to meditation
- Loosen up with body scan meditation
- Where I meditated
- Why not to meditate
Since then I have only missed a few days of meditation over the past year! In fact, today is the third time I have reached the milestone of meditating for 100 days in a row. The two previous times I got past about 130 consecutive days of meditation and then somehow forgot a day! What happened? We’ll see in about a month if I can beat my record…
Clearing out the junk
Since the robbery, I have relied on meditation to help clear some negative thoughts emotions from my mind and body. Specifically, I’ve been using my favourite breathing technique (alternate nostril breathing), adding a visualization to it.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you surely remember the Pensieve. If you have not read any of the Harry Potter books, what are you waiting for? They are amazing.
Professor Dumbledore describes how the Pensieve works:
“One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.”
Now, I am not lucky enough to have a Pensieve (and maybe it would have been stolen by the thieves!), nor can I physically siphon thoughts out of my head, but I HAVE used this idea a lot lately as a visualization.
While I’ve been meditating, I’ve been visualizing a big spoon stirring up the thoughts and emotions in my brain and then pulling them out one at a time until I have a tangled mass of them in a ball. Then at the end of the meditation I visualize that tangled mass being burned away.
The other meditation I’ve been using a lot lately is a guided meditation in Insight Timer, the meditation app on my phone. This app is now FREE, although it was well worth the $1.99 or whatever I paid for it last year.
This guided meditation by Scott Rogers is called “Finding Ease in the Moment” and it helps you accept “the inherent OK-ness in the moments of our life” and to connect with someone in your life who has, as Scott says, been good to you, cared for you, shown you compassion and love.
Not only does this meditation help me to feel overwhelmingly grateful for the wonderful people in my life, but I also feel reassured and secure that “everything will be alright.”
“Exercise relieves stress. Nothing relieves exercise.” Takayuki Ikkaku
The last strategy is not only a great stress-buster, but one of the most powerful things you can do for your health. Exercise!
Ever since I first read Live Right 4 Your Type (al) by Peter D’Adamo, ND and learned about how important physical activity is for blood type O, I have discovered that exercise is a major stress management tool for me.
If I ensure that I get regular exercise, my day-to-day stress level is noticeably lower and my productivity and energy levels are MUCH higher!
As Dr. D’Adamo says in Live Right 4 Your Type:
“The act of physical exercise releases a swarm of neurotransmitter activity that acts as a tonic for the entire system.”
Today, for example, I woke up feeling frustrated, tired, and deflated. I had planned (yesterday, when I was full of great ideas of what to do tomorrow!) to either go to the gym or run, but I definitely didn’t feel like it today when I woke up.
As I lay in bed, I thought about how I would feel AFTER I exercised, especially if I went for a run, even if it was short. I tried to FEEL how I would feel – relief, peace, focus, etc.
I ended up forcing myself to go for a run and ran for nearly an hour! By the time I got home, not only did I have the idea to write this blog, but I also felt all the stress, anger, and frustration drain from my body. That’s what exercise does and it is a tool available to EVERYONE EVERYWHERE. For free.
You don’t need to be blood type O to benefit from exercise – choose whatever works for you! Yoga, stretching, walking, swimming, running…