Vipassana and Anger

I had a violent and angry outburst three days ago, the kind I had not experienced in a long time.

I have been consistently practicing vipassana for close to 8 weeks. In the past 4 weeks, its been two sessions of an hour each, every single day. I know that I am making progress on the cushion. I know that the effects of meditation are spilling into my daily life. Its going great.

Yet, three days ago – during a conflict-inducing-discussion with my wife, I had a violent outburst. I shouted, my wife shouted and our 12 year old son watched the whole shouting match, scared and helpless. Although, after sometime he stepped in and struggled to calm us down and restore peace.

I vented out so loud, so strong and so harsh that in the days that followed, my throat hurt. I lost my voice and I couldn’t speak properly. I had acid reflux and a bad headache.

Having gotten into the practice of meditating for 1 hour each, twice a day – I continued my practice on the day of the outburst, and the days that followed too. I practiced dilligently, oblivious to the life events that were bothering me psychologically. Here is what I saw:

  • On the day of anger-outburst, I could feel my body exhausted. It wasn’t as vibrant as it was before.
  • The day after, I could feel acid burning up my stomach. In my flickering-mind-space, I could hear voices and see images of people arguing, debating and dissecting the fight I had with my wife.
  • I had a lot of gas accumulated in my belly and gut. I was burping and farting all the time. And each time I let out the gas, the body felt lighter and the headache I was dealing with seemed to subside.
  • Yesterday, everything went silent. The vibrance of vibrations returned. Headache was gone. No more acid in the stomach. In the periphery, I did notice within the flickering-mind-space, those voices and images of people still “studying the fight” and trying to make sense of it. They were seemingly not convinced of their study, because the study-activity hadn’t stopped, although it’s not as intense and noisy as it was before.

One of the consistent themes I heard and saw in those internal-debates was “how can someone doing Vipassana get angry?

First off, the assumption or expectation that “Vipassana meditators shouldn’t get angry” is fundamentally flawed. Almost every meditator I know including Vipassana meditators eat, drink, sleep, pee, crap, sweat, stink, get sad, angry, happy, disappointed just like every other person. Meditators don’t stop being human.

When I first learned Vipassana eight years ago, I went into it with the expectation that I will become super-calm and angerless. But none of that happened and I abandoned the practice all together. So when I restarted my practice a couple of months ago, I gave up any and every expectation from the practice. I am now practicing, simply for its own sake. Whatever will come off it will come off it. I give myself the freedom to be sad, angry, happy, disappointed and every other way I have always been. Meditation is no excuse to bottle up or posture a specific way of being.

To me, Vipassana is a practice in which I on-goingly get better at watching the sensations in my body. That’s it.

Now, having spent all this time watching the sensations in my body — I can say few things:

  • The sensations are mostly just happening all by themselves, I have almost no control over them.
  • The rationalising of real-world-events (violent fight in this case) also happens automatically in the mind-space with mental-sensations (images and voices) over which I don’t seem to have much control either.
  • The “body”, by which I mean this whole seemingly cohesive bunch of vibrations, isn’t experienced by “the self”. There isn’t a “self” holding all the threads and calling shots. Even if there is someone calling the shots, that ‘someone’ doesn’t feel like “me”.
  • Looking back, I can recall that the day before I had the violent-angry-outburst, the vibrations were quite intense and rather random.
  • I know that I freaked out watching them. To put it more accurately, the vibrations were freaked out about the intense-and-rather-random vibrations.
  • The evening after the violent-angry-outburst, the vibrations weren’t intense-and-random. They seemed familiar and normal.
  • Neither the “intense-and-rather-random vibrations”, nor the “familiar-and-normal vibrations” are permanent. They both arised, did their thing and passed away.
  • Neither the “intense-and-rather-random vibrations”, nor the “familiar-and-normal vibrations” are me.

On the surface, for sure I did get angry and I did have a violent outburst (as did my wife). We will both have to do what we have to do to heal. Our son is doing what he is doing to accommodate the occasional fights his parents get into.

On a deeper level, I could sense the flow of energy in the body shift before and after the outburst.

There was no “separate-and-permanent-self” that got angry, and there is no “separate-and-permanent-self” that has calmed down. I don’t have to make this whole tsunami-of-vibrations personal and get confused with them as “me” or “mine”. Had I let those “intense-and-random vibrations” arise and pass away, like they did anyway, without freaking out — maybe something else would have happened. In any case, all sorts of waves arise and pass away, when we bother to sit by the beach and notice.

There were simply different shades of vibrations before and after, and I can say that I did not watch them both equanimously. I can now clearly see that I generated aversion towards the “intense-and-rather-random vibrations” before and I generated craving towards the “familiar-and-normal vibrations” after.

Meditation continues.

My wife, our son and I are alive, around and going about our lives. She is dealing with it (the violent outbursts) the way she is dealing with it. Our son is dealing with it the way he is dealing with it. I am dealing with it the way I am dealing with it, but this time PLUS meditation. We are all doing what we must do to heal.

Around us, all the plants, trees, cockroaches, rats, cats, dogs, snakes, city, air, moon, sun, sky, solar system and universe in general are seemingly unaffected by our violent outbursts, nor do they care that the vibrations I feel now are familiar-and-normal. I can be peaceful about the proportionality of impact (of my violent outburst), find freedom to learn what I can and move on. The world and universe are doing just fine.