The monk and the Jungian psychologist. When you are torn by anger, take the Dalai Lama’s simple advice: be kind
When you get ready to meet someone like the Dalai Lama, you wonder what it will be like – whether he will blow you away with his charisma. He does, but not in the way that you imagine. It is not like meeting Bill Gates or Indra Nooyi and being floored by their intellect, or by Shah Rukh Khan’s celebrity and charm. People who traverse the worlds of the soul and spirit touch you not through power or money, but through the sheer energy of their presence.
When the Dalai Lama greeted me, I sensed in that most primitive, reptilian part of my brain that I was in the presence of – not the “greatness” that hits you like a ton of bricks, but a softer gentler guiding spirit, a guru. Stand near His Holiness and you will feel yourself relaxing, less careworn. You become calm, mirroring the stillness that surrounds him like a cloak. Answers arise from the subconscious – all without a word being said. You see what you seek. Clarity is gained, peace regained.
I went to the Dalai Lama to find out how to live well – how to conquer bitterness and anger. We each have many selves that are both genuine and a garb. With friends and acquaintances, we are civil, even gracious. For others, that mask comes off and we turn into volatile, immature children. Emotions, long suppressed, come tumbling out. Anger, dismay, sadness, betrayal, the whole nine yards or in the Indian context, the navarasas.
Jungian psychologists (followers of Carl Jung) call this a complex. Something triggers your emotion and you erupt in a way that is totally out of proportion. You drop a pile of books. Your friend laughs and calls you clumsy. Some faraway whisper in the back of your head brings back memories of childhood taunts, bullying, jeering. The hurt and anger you felt then come back. Emotions rise. You start yelling at your friend, call him insensitive and rude. He is shocked. “Boss, it was just a joke,” he mutters. “Why are you getting so triggered?”
Jungian psychoanalysts suggest that you confront your triggers head-on. The Dalai Lama says the same thing. I have a feeling that His Holiness and the Swiss psychologist would have gotten along famously. After all, they both believe in divination, dreams, synchronicity and timing.
Their methods of conquering emotions too are broadly similar. “Analyse, analyse,” urges the Dalai Lama. What are the residual emotions inside you that raise their ugly head at inopportune moments, when you cannot control them? Usually these triggers come from jealousy, guilt and shame. Where are they coming from? “Analyse, analyse.”
For those of us who think that meditation is simply about paying attention to breath, the Dalai Lama’s Nalanda tradition is more active, more than prayer, as he says. “Unlike the Indian tradition, nothing is mentioned in Judeo-Christian cultures about meditation. It is just about pray, pray, pray to God.”
Loving-kindness meditation helps with depression, anxiety and coping with the strains of long-term caregiving
The Dalai Lama advocates “loving-kindness” and “compassion” meditation, which is “more scientific,” he says. It involves visualising that you are receiving and giving love to specific people – including and perhaps most importantly to yourself. “You first practice sending love and kindness towards people who are close to you. Then you send loving-kindness energy to a neutral person like a postman or security guard. Then to your enemy and then to the whole world.” Studies show that loving-kindness meditation can help with depression, social anxiety, marital conflict, anger, and coping with the strains of long-term caregiving.
Say you have just received an email from a boss, colleague or acquaintance that is rude and critical. You feel mad and sad. Loving-kindness meditation – the advanced practice at least – involves thinking of this very same jerk and sending him or her specific loving energy. “May he be free of worry and enjoy happiness,” you think. Or “May she be full of happiness.” The problem is that you cannot fake it. You have to practice so that you actually imagine and feel the “loving-kindness” for that person.
As a novice, I practice a modified version. When I get triggered, I punch a pillow or sprint up the stairs, or do something physical to get out my angry energy. Only then can I even attempt the Dalai Lama’s version of sending loving energy to the people who have irritated me.
The genius of this technique is that when you feel love rising in your heart, your own body calms down and eases up on the anger. Love begets happiness – in you!
(Next week: when you are mad at your loved ones)
(This column addresses the issue of parenting our parents, an integral part of This Indian Life and our culture. If you have stories about the weird and wonderful relationships that enrich or enervate your life, write in.)
This Indian Life appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, September 30, 2018
BRUNCH Updated: Sep 29, 2018 23:00 IST