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Dear Yoga Mentor, My Question Is…

Sometimes students have written to or asked Swami Veda Bharati, Swami Ritavan Bharati, and other senior teachers in our tradition questions about practice.  This is one such “Question and Answer,” or Q&A.


I am practising yoga and meditation taught by Gurudev Swami Rama. I am getting angry. Please help me so that I may control it. 


Stephen Parker (Stoma) and Carolyn Hume have answered this question.

From Stephen Parker (Stoma):

Sorry to hear that you are feeling this anger. But it’s important to know that the anger was always there and now it has become clear to you (which is a good thing). You know your starting point with this aspect of emotional purification (citta-prasādana) which is the major of goal of our initial practice of yoga. We always want to “control” it or make it go away; what is important is that you can observe it with mindful awareness. If you do this you can then inquire and discover what the anger is about (it may have many sources and levels), how it works, with whom you feel it, etc. All of this helps you to understand it and gradually get a sense of how to redirect that emotional energy in a more constructive way. For myself, I often redirected the energy into aerobic exercise which always left me feeling better afterwards. As long as I had something that would reliably help me feel better. I never felt helpless or hopeless which always made any anger or frustration worse. Gradually I felt more and more choice in how to respond to the anger I saw in myself. This effect of cultivating mindful self-observation is that this sense of freedom grows. In addition, maintaining mindful awareness by remaining aware of the sensation of breath flowing in your nostrils neurologically generates a subtle sense of joyfulness that gradually becomes more and more the habit of your mind.

Remember that your anger is always your responsibility. As Swami Veda used to say, nobody can make you angry; all they can do is hold up a mirror to what is already in your mind. When you blame others, and even when you blame yourself, you try to duck that responsibility but you also give away all your power to change anything. When you blame, you automatically define yourself as a powerless victim. When you take responsibility for your anger, regardless of others’ behavior, you take back whatever power you have to affect the situation.

So I wish you well in exploring the function and the sources of your anger. And I hope that you find your way to the sense of freedom and greater joyfulness that comes with the cultivation of mindful awareness.

From Carolyn Hume:

Stoma's response is insightful on anger and how to handle anger.

In addition, diaphragmatic breathing can be a tool in anger management. When one is angry, one is emotionally distraught, and if one examines one's breathing at the time, one may find that they are not breathing diaphragmatically. One can re-establish one's diaphragmatic breathing and also relax (this can be a progressive relaxation) which goes well with the mindfulness about which Stoma wrote.

Also, it is good if one does not identify so strongly with the anger that one starts condemning oneself.

"We get angry, and we think, 'I am angry.' Who is angry? To say 'I am angry' is to identify with the emotion, to believe that the emotion is us. We cannot be an emotion. As humans we are capable of having anger and experiencing anger, but we are not anger or any other emotion." - Swami Rama

Swami Rama wrote, “You should decide which desires are helpful for your growth and which desires will create obstructions to your growth. Learning to train the intellect within (buddhi) will definitely help in doing this: when you get angry, you can arrive at the source of your frustration and anger by sitting down and analyzing why you got angry in the first place and examining which desires were not fulfilled."

And Swami Veda Bharati has written, "Ask yourself, What is the alternative, sattvic way of behavior? Instead of anger how should I have responded to the situation? Slowly these questions will become paramount in your mind. If they create conflict, your rajas is still dominant. A gentle breeze of an answer is what you are looking for from within. The determination of behavioral choices begins within the mind. Instead of pondering on how to act, go to its causes, which are thoughts and feelings. Do not suppress your anger. Strive to convert it into compassion and acceptance...Gradually you will find mental tools to help you alter your choices. Your smile will cool and soothe the other person’s anger and leave him smiling. Having succeeded once, you are encouraged. You now have faith that, yes, indeed, this can be done. For sure, it will bear pleasant results. You then reaffirm your resolve for the next time. We can call this morality of emotions, ethics of emotions."

Sometimes change can start with the grossest expression and move to the more subtle level. For instance, when I was a child, I was much more likely to strike out with a hit or a kick or something similar if I was angry.  Then later perhaps with a sharp tongue, critical and sarcastic. As I grow emotionally, first I realize that I am not physically striking out at people, and later I notice that I no longer attack with words.  The thought patterns become more sattvic.

However, as one continues the mindfulness, one finds more and more subtle levels of desire and possibly anger or irritation... This can be a lengthy process, but, as Stoma has said, it is also an opportunity, and it is an opportunity that leads one to grow in happiness and greater happiness. As we let go, love flows more freely through us.

Editor’s Note:

If you have a question about spiritual practice, you can use the "Contact the Spiritual Committee" link on the Ahymsin website to ask it.

Previous columns can be read at “Dear Yoga Mentor, My Question Is…



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