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Dwindling faith -- overcoming doubt

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Dwindling faith -- overcoming doubt
Answer
10/27/16 10:01 AM
I recently sat my own part-time retreat and struggled the entire time with this immense anger. The content is not important but I have realized it's a common theme in the courses I sit. The mind is particularly difficult to focus when I am boiling in anger.

I suspect it is from a lack of faith. Perhaps a lack of faith in the Center where I sit my retreats? Perhaps just a lack of faith in the world? Or is it doubt ... and doubt in what?

How can I investigate this in a way that will enable me to come out of it and remove this hindrance in practice?

RE: Dwindling faith -- overcoming doubt
Answer
10/27/16 10:09 PM as a reply to Mark Orange.
Hi Mark,

There are a few ways I know about for dealing with anger. The Visuddhimagga (IX 15) describes in about 5 pages a collection of reasoning exercises that you can go through to control anger. This might work, I've never tried it, but since there is nothing logical about anger, I am somewhat doubtful. Perhaps someone with an extremely logical mind might find it helpful.

Another way is a practice called cittanupassina (mindfulness of mind states). In 2011, I was basically freaking out at a jhana retreat. Every morning, I would wake up with intense fear. After about a half hour, it would morph into intense anger, and that would stay with me for a few hours, through my first sitting period. I had an interview with a vipassana teacher, and she told me to become very objective and curious about the fear and anger, examine them, and try to label them the way one does Mahasi noting with bodily sensations. What body sensations accompanied them? What kinds of thoughts arose? I did that for a day or two and the afflictive mind states disappeared (but that was just the beginning of the freakout, you can read more in my memoir, Silicon Valley Monk).

The last way I know about I recently picked up from a Mahamudra teacher I've been working with for about a year. Near the end of August, I found that I was getting irritated a lot by minor stuff, and acting out occasionally in various unskillful ways. I spoke with him about it, and he suggested when that happened, I should try to get under the irritation, try to see the energy behind it, and then see that there was really nothing behind the anger except that energy. I did that a couple times and frequency of the irritation episodes subsided.

One thing that's important is to not identify with the anger,  i.e. don't feel that "I am an angry person". And also don't judge yourself for it. i.e. "I'm a failure as a meditator because I get angry". Neither of these are true. Everybody gets angry now and then (well, maybe arhats excepted) so you are no different than anybody else. Basically, anger is just a kind of energy and if you can see through it, it will disappear or morph into something useful.

Good luck!

RE: Dwindling faith -- overcoming doubt
Answer
10/28/16 12:42 AM as a reply to Mark Orange.
Hello Mark,

You ask, "How can I investigate this in a way that will enable me to come out of it and remove this hindrance in practice?"

Has it ever occurred to you to use that anger, doubt, or lack of faith as an object of your contemplation in order to examine it so that you can see and understand its origin? And, perhaps, by doing so begin to let go of it?

Or is it buried so deep in your subconscious that you are unable to identify it in order to understand the cause and resolve its power to bother you? In other words, it is there, but you lack the self-honesty or the insight to properly accept that this or that is its cause. Without knowing the cause, you are fighting an invisible ghost! How much sense does that make?

Once identified, any hindrance can be dealt with and let go of. But not until. You would need to use a vipassana (insight) meditation approach to do this. Similar to what sv monk is suggesting in his second paragraph.

Sit in contemplation and investigate whatever comes up. Examine it from every angle you can think of. Use that time to gain insight into the source of your disturbance. And once you find out what it is, become still, by letting it be... in order to still the mind.

There is a quotation from an old television show which may inspire you to dig deep within yourself.

Caine: I am troubled.

Master Kan: Why?

Caine: My parents are long dead. General Chung is tumbled from his arrogance and power. Yet within me anger boils as water in a heated pot.

Master Kan: Observe the day lilly. Each morning with the warmth of the sun, it opens in lovely blossom. Each night it closes.

Caine: Am I to do nothing, feel nothing, be still?

Master Kan: Still water is like glass. It is the perfect level. A carpenter could use it. The heart of a wise man is tranquil and still. Thus it is the mirror of heaven and earth, a glass of everything. Be like still water: you look into it and see yourself.

Just some food for thought; that is, if you care to contemplate it.

In peace,
Ian

RE: Dwindling faith -- overcoming doubt
Answer
10/28/16 4:51 AM as a reply to Mark Orange.
Howdy MO,
it seems that you have two possiblities to either choose between or to implement both.

I would suggest that trying to develop equanimity with regards to anger would be the wise way to move forward, but how to do that is the question.

The first possibility is to apply the antidote to anger which is the bramha vihara of loving kindness.  Especially applying this to the percieved cause of YOUR anger.  This is usually done incrementally moving from dear loved ones to the object of your anger.  This is the shamatha way.

The second possibility is to confront this directly as IanAND suggested (I believe) by directly investigating the affective qualities of the anger itself.  This is the vipassana way and is generally less comfortable, more destabilizing but probably faster if you can take the heat.  The idea is to confront the anger and to not become emotionally sucked in by it but rather to break it down to its simple components and to objectify them.  Doing this, drilling into the sensations will break it up and remove its power.

Good luck and success

RE: Dwindling faith -- overcoming doubt
Answer
10/28/16 6:21 AM as a reply to Mark Orange.
Anger is always hard to deal with. It is one of the "fastest" reactions, it quickly colors the mind from just short exposure to triggers (memories, thoughts, the presence of enemies, etc.) The adrenaline and cortisol lingers in the body for a while too. It's a hard emotion to work with.

It's particularly hard because underneath anger is hurt. I'm not saying 100% of the time, but pretty darn close to 98% of the time so to speak. So anger is an interesting form of self-protection. Anger feels bad and screws up our mind and actions... but it keeps us from feeling the hurt underneath.

The challenging thing about dealing with old wounds is that if you don't bring enough attention and space to the wound, remembering it or thinking it or reliving it just retraumatizes you. It reinforces the anger protective mechanism, rather than making peace with the old hurt.

So it really is a matter of going slow, exploring the anger-hurt on multiple levels, mind and body and personal history. No one should expect a quick cure for anger. 

Usually the hurt has an element of overwhelming physical trauma, or a psychological a loss of innocence, in general a failure to protect the innocent. There is usually a sense of personal sense of guilt about the whole thing. Teasing out all the dimensions of it is hard work, but it really frees up our heart and mind.

Frankly, just finding a safe place/method to slowly explore all of this is the main challenge. Don't over look psychology as a method as well. 

If you google "mind body code" there is some interesting stuff that combines elements of meditation and psychological practices. Hope it helps!

RE: Dwindling faith -- overcoming doubt
Answer
10/28/16 3:01 PM as a reply to Mark Orange.
Mark Orange:
I recently sat my own part-time retreat and struggled the entire time with this immense anger.
The entire time? Wow, you found something permanent to investigate. What were the sensations like? Where were they in the body? What can you tell us about the hours and hours you investigated this predominate feeling that you must have got to know very very intimately.

Mark Orange:
The content is not important but I have realized it's a common theme in the courses I sit.
The courses? do tell. What is your background and practice entail?

Mark Orange:
The mind is particularly difficult to focus when I am boiling in anger.
So you are trying to do something other than what is happening? How's that working for you? Do you have a plan as to where this technique of yours is heading? How will you realize this goal?

Mark Orange:
I suspect it is from a lack of faith. Perhaps a lack of faith in the Center where I sit my retreats? Perhaps just a lack of faith in the world? Or is it doubt ... and doubt in what?
Soooo, more faith or less doubt will create less anger? Are you sure of that?

Mark Orange:
How can I investigate this in a way that will enable me to come out of it and remove this hindrance in practice?
Are you sure you are investigating anger at all? Or are you avoiding it with all your might? Are you investigating the avoiding at least?
Are you angry about the anger? Does thoughts feed anger? Does anger feed thoughts?
Can you turn up your anger? Can you turn it down?

I find that the Knowledge of Disgust makes me angry. Which one makes you angry?

MCTB The Progress of Insight

RE: Dwindling faith -- overcoming doubt
Answer
10/29/16 6:19 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Adding on:

Here's the general mind-body-code info:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNpSh0vE5Vs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJG9GTTpxvU

Here's the specific one that talks about -- well a lot of thought provoking ideas-- but specifically also how to combine righteous anger along with the four immeasurables in order to ensure no spiritual bypassing or repressions. That get discusses around 30 minutes in, and in particular around 34 minutes in.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2Duu9JO6vg