Q: I just read through your book Living from the Heart and really enjoyed and loved it. Even though I accept the wisdom of it, I become extremely resistant when I fall into anger. Instead of allowing, I insist on my preferred story. It is like being angry and making things worse actually fulfills my story by making me more 'special'. Are there any pointers or direction you can give on this? Thank you.
A: Thanks for your question. It is a very good one. Anger is a completely natural and normal response. There is nothing wrong with it, and we can even naturally want to hold onto it and enjoy the specialness it gives to our story and our identity. And yet, it is possible to experience our normal anger and resistance from a place of allowing and acceptance.
Often with anger we feel the need to either suppress our anger or to express our anger, and in both cases we are trying to feel it less. Obviously if you suppress your anger, you are trying to feel it less. And if you express or even if you hold onto your anger, the hope is that you will manage to unload it onto someone or something else and then not have to feel it so much. We hold onto it to try and get to that place where we can righteously unload it. But still the hope is to stop feeling it by eventually expressing it.
There is a third possibility which is to just feel the anger without suppressing or expressing it, to just be filled with the red hot energy of anger, and not do anything about it. This is usually only possible when we have become skillful at suppressing or expressing our anger so that we can regulate the level of our anger and not be overwhelmed by it. But once we are good at suppressing our anger, then we can experiment with just letting it be here. We can discover that it is safe to be angry as long as we do not express it.
This letting it be here is a true allowing of the anger, and it also allows us to really get to know the essential nature of this energy we call anger. Most emotions are limited or distorted expressions of something more essential. In the case of anger, it is a limited or distorted experience of our essential strength. When we develop the ability to just feel very angry, the experience of anger can then open up into a fuller experience of our essential strength. We can be filled with a deep sense of the limitless energy and capacity of our true nature. Feeling our true strength can bring us to a place where we no longer need to be angry because we feel safe and capable in our own essence. This is not a suppression of anger, but a discovery of something bigger and more complete.
Practically speaking, because anger and strength are big, energetic experiences, it can help to give them lots of space as described in the section of the book entitled "Giving Space" which I will include below. Specifically with anger, it can help to let the anger be bigger than your body. Because we identify with our body, when "I" feel angry, there is a tendency to hold the anger inside the body. But you can simply let it fill the space all around you. If necessary, you can let the anger be bigger than the entire neighborhood, or bigger than the entire country you are in. This can make it much easier to simply let the anger be here in all of its red hot glory. Imagine what would happen if you tried to hold an entire volcano inside your shoulders! And imagine how much easier it would be to "contain" a volcano if you just let it rest here within the entire solar system. Then there is no problem with the nature of a volcano as there is plenty of space for it to be a volcano.
Everything we experience is always an opportunity to discover more about our true nature, including every emotion and feeling. You might as well get to know your anger instead of trying to get rid of it or be free of it. You may discover it is a wonderful resource you can enjoy and embrace, and integrate into your true identity as limitless Being. It might even seem silly then to waste it on another person, when instead you can keep it all for yourself!
I hope this helps and the excerpt from Living from the Heart is below.
When it seems especially difficult or even impossible to move into your Heart or belly and look from there, another way to move into a more spacious perspective is to simply give space to your experience. You can give space to your sensations, thoughts, feelings, and the physical objects and events occurring around you. You can give space to whatever is appearing in your experience right now.
You are unlimited, aware space, so you don’t need to pick and choose what you are aware of and what you allow into your experience. You can just give it all space to be here. Imagine if you were a multi-trillionaire. Having essentially limitless money would mean you could give lots of it away and still not run out. You are like a multi-multi-trillionaire when it comes to spacious awareness. You truly can’t run out. You can give space to anything that shows up.
When you give space to your experiences, it shifts you more fully into the spaciousness of your Being, which is experienced in the Heart. You can imagine space flowing to or around the objects and sensations, or you can simply notice that there is already space for them. A simple test to determine if there is space for something is to notice if it exists: If something exists, there must be enough space for it to exist.
Exercise: Experiment giving aspects of your experience space. Imagine space flowing to them or around them. Or simply notice that the objects and events around you and within you already do have enough space to exist. Give space to your body and sensations just as they are. Give space to your thoughts, feelings, and desires. Give space to the objects in the room. Give space to the sounds appearing in your environment. Give lots of space to everything you can notice right now. What is that like? How spacious and free do you feel when you give space to everything?
There’s no need to be stingy—give things as much space as they need and more. If some aspect of your experience seems difficult or uncomfortable, then give it lots and lots of space. What happens if you give that difficulty or discomfort all of the space in your neighborhood? How about if you give it as much space as the entire country you are in? Or all of the space in the world or the solar system? How important does it seem now? What else do you notice about that difficulty or discomfort when you are giving it lots of space?
It can be helpful to start experimenting with giving space to something neutral like a piece of furniture or the sounds of birds outside. Once you have a sense of your capacity to give space to your experiences, you can experiment with giving space to more challenging, difficult, or painful aspects of your life.
Don’t worry too much about what it actually means to “give something space.” Even if the experiment of giving space is mostly intellectual at first, it can still put you in touch with that space. And since that aware space is what you are, it also puts you more in contact with your true nature.
Much of the time we have a sense of being limited. It seems like there is only so much time and awareness available, so we feel the need to pick and choose what we give our awareness to. We try to withdraw awareness from events or circumstances we don’t like or want and focus it on what we do want.
The key is to give space and awareness to everything. You can give space to both your thoughts and your sensations. You can give space to both an external event and the feelings it evokes within you. You can give space to both a sense of excitement and a sense of fear about the same event and any doubts or worries you have about it and any memories that get triggered and any insights that arise in the midst of all these other responses. You can always give space to this and that and everything else.
Exercise: Notice something that is happening in your environment or, more generally, in your life right now. As you give space to this, also give space to the thoughts appearing in your mind about it. Simultaneously, give space to the feelings or desires you have about it. Give as much space as all of these events and internal reactions need and more. You can’t run out of space. As you continue to give space to these things, also give space to everything else in your environment: other people, unrelated events and objects, and unrelated thoughts and feelings. Notice that you can just keep giving space to more and more of what makes up your life and experience. What is that like? Are you only in your head right now, or are you experiencing more fully from your whole Being, including your Heart and belly?
Much of the time you can simply drop down and look from the Heart and/or belly, and the flow of spacious awareness will open up naturally. However, when you can’t seem to stop thinking and looking from your head, then to loosen things up, give that experience some space. Then see if you can drop more easily into your Heart and belly. Giving space is another way to contact this spacious awareness that you are. As you give more space to your experience, awareness naturally shifts into the Heart and belly.