By Alison Donley
Anger and frustration are emotions that most of us deal with in our lives. They may even seem to be inevitable side effects of the human condition. Throughout history, philosophers and theologians have speculated about the dilemma of the “human condition.” An interestingly painful, yet comical, definition of this term comes from Elizabeth Gilbert in her book, Eat, Pray, Love. Ms. Gilbert refers to the human condition as “the heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment.”
The late author, mystic, philosopher, and clergyman Alan Watts spoke about the human condition in the following quote:
“Under these circumstances, the life that we live is a contradiction and a conflict. Because consciousness must involve both pleasure and pain, to strive for pleasure to the exclusion of pain is, in effect, to strive for the loss of consciousness.”
As Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in the field of mind/body medicine, so thoughtfully observed in his book titled, Full Catastrophe Living, life is made up of the good and the bad. The lovely and the not-so-lovely. The joyful and the dreadful. The “stuff” of life. How we choose to react to our circumstances will indeed either create or destroy our opportunity for inner peace.
A daily yoga or mindfulness-based practice of any sort can be an amazing way to navigate these fluctuations in our lives with clarity and compassion. Through the lens of yogic philosophy, anger is energy. Frustration is energy. The intensity of these emotions will vary immensely depending on the circumstances. Even a weed trying to push through the concrete possesses the anger-like energy needed to fulfill its destiny…to reach the light.
While there are probably hundreds of articles about how yoga can help, please keep in mind that not all breathing exercises and yoga postures may be appropriate for you. Below is 3-step fury-tamer to try the next time you find yourself letting your anger get the best of you:
1. Close your eyes (if you can do so safely) or find something pleasant to gaze at.
2. Smile softly. It is hard to feel angry with a smile on your face. Don’t want to smile? Fake it for a few minutes. You can do it!
3. Make a fist with each hand as you inhale deeply. On the exhale, feel your muscles relax as your hands begin to open. Continue closing hands with each inhale and opening your hands with each exhale. Take 5-10 slow, mindful breaths in this manner. Feel the breath as pure sensation by focusing your awareness where you most easily feel your breath-the nostrils or the belly. Let inner tension go with each opening of your hand.
“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.” ~Rumi