My stomach sank the second I opened the email.
I’m sure you’ve gotten this kind of message: Yesterday’s was a long note from a colleague that explained my job to me like I was in first grade. Other people were on the email and I was hurt and embarrassed. Those feelings were quickly replaced with anger.
I credit my meditation with what happened next.
Responding to Anger:
Stop: When I’m having a strong emotional reaction, my first response now is to not do anything. I take a deep breath and separate myself from the situation.
Observe: In that space I have created I have an opportunity to look at my emotional reaction very closely. Underneath the anger there is almost always hurt or fear. I ask myself what is driving the anger. If there are a lot of factors I take pen to paper that shows the cloud of causes to actually be just a few.
Share: One of my go to tools is reality checking with a friend. I’m lucky to have a number of people who know my life well. I called my friend John and I didn’t have to spend a lot of time bringing him up to speed because he knows about my work challenges. I got some useful feedback that helped remove me from my self-centered reaction and place me in a more neutral place.
Aspire: I start my days with morning meditation and a list of affirmations about how I want to live in the world. One of my affirmations is, “Today I will be kind whenever possible and it is always possible.” When I’m angry and working on my response I channel my better self by asking a simple question, “What would a kind and loving person say in response to this?”
Respond: The greatest gift of my meditation practice is the ability to slow down and respond instead of react. The difference for me is a reaction comes from a place of unpredictable emotions. A response honors my feelings but gives me a chance to incorporate my aspirational self.
Bonus Tip – Loving Kindness: Sometimes I need a little extra help in responding generously. I practice metta meditation (loving-kindness) when I am having strongly negative emotions of ill will toward someone. The simple act of wishing for someone’s wellbeing helps shape and mold my feelings towards that person.
Meditating every morning helps me start my days from a positive place. I’m better equipped to absorb a critical remark, see the emotions clearly and choose how to respond. At any given moment I’m able to be generous because I’m only dealing with one issue at a time.
Emotions are real and worth honoring but they aren’t the only expression of my truth. My more thoughtful replies aren’t inauthentic or a repression of my feelings. Rather, slowing down incorporates both my ideals and my "in the moment" feelings.
I sent a pretty nice email back to my colleague and made an aggravating situation a little better.
May your practice go well!
Anthony A. Cernera, M.Ed.
P.S. My friend Dusty and I are leading a live streaming workshop on Sunday, June 14 at 5pm EDT on Metta (Loving-Kindness) Meditation. Email ZenHappinessProject@gmail.com to get on the list of interest. As always the workshop is free but space is limited.
Recommended Reading: What to do when Anger Takes Hold - Harvard Business Review
Quote of the Week: “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” ~ Ambrose Bierce