Sit in front of a mirror, look at your reflection, and
insult it: "You’re ugly. You’re bad." Then praise it: "You’re
beautiful. You’re good." Regardless of what you say, the image
remains simply what it is. Praise and blame are not real in
and of themselves. Like an echo, a shadow, a mere reflection,
they hold no power to help or harm us.
As we practice in this way, we begin to realize that things
lack solidity, like a dream or illusion. We develop a more
spacious state of mind--one that isn’t so reactive. Then when
anger arises, instead of responding immediately, we can look
back on it and ask: "What is this? What’s making me turn red
and shake? Where is it?" What we discover is that there is no
substance to anger, no thing to find.
Once we realize we can’t find anger, we can let the mind
be. We don’t suppress the anger, push it away, or engage it.
We simply let the mind rest in the midst of it. We can stay
with the energy itself--simply, naturally, remaining aware of
it, without attachment, without aversion. Then we find that
anger, like desire, isn’t really what we thought it was. We
begin to see its nature, to realize its essence, which is
It may sound easy to do this, but it’s not. Anger
stimulates us and we fly--one way or the other. We fly in our
mind, we fly to a judgement, we fly to a reaction, we fly to
this or that, becoming involved with whatever has upset us.
Our habit of lashing back in this way has been reinforced
again and again, lifetime after lifetime. If our understanding
of the essence is only superficial, we’ll find out that we
aren’t capable of applying it to real-life situations.
There is a famous Tibetan folktale of a man meditating in
retreat. Somebody came to see him and asked, "What are you
"Patience," he said.
"You’re a fool!"
This made the meditator furious, and he immediately started
an argument--which proved exactly how much patience he had.
Only through continual, methodical application of these
methods, day by day, month by month, year by year, will we
dissolve our deeply ingrained habits. The process may take
some time, but we will change. Look how quickly we
change in negative ways. We’re quite happy, and then somebody
says or does something, and we get irritated. Changing in a
positive way requires discipline, exertion, and patience. The
word for "meditation" in Tibetan is a cognate of the verb "to
become familiar with" or "to acclimatize." Using a variety of
methods, we become familiar with other ways of being.