To be clear, I'm not talking about anger or saying we shouldn't be angry sometimes. When we see people being oppressed, anger seems the appropriate response. What I'm talking about is petty resentment, which often leads us to talk a lot of smack in the face of something we interpret as a personal affront.
It takes courage to work with our resentment, and it takes a mind that is aware of the object of resentment, our fear and the impulse to escape from it. At the bottom of resentment is pain and we need the courage to run straight into that pain. The way in is the way out.
The Shambhala Buddhist tradition uses the metaphor of the warrior to represent courage. The Bodhisattva warrior has a big courageous heart and s/he stands firm in battle, not matter what terrifying enemies are on the attack. The difference between this fearless warrior and the conventional warrior, is that this warrior is not so insecure. This warrior has the presence of mind to know what s/he is scared of and works with that rather than using aggression to push the scary thing away. The fearless warrior has a deep, primordial confidence that is totally genuine. It's not a pumped up kind of confidence that is full of hot air, because this warrior works with fear, not against it.
Tonglen to work with resentment, which I find very useful.
In brief, the practice here is to notice your resentment and then breath it in. Breath it in so fully that nobody else on earth ever has to feel resentment again. Feel it in your whole body. Once you have done that, air it all out. Pema Chodron offers the following thought on the out breath: "On the out breath you may say, 'Let me give away something good or true that I ever feel, any sense of humor, any sense of enjoying the sun coming up and going down, any sense of delight in the world at all.'"
To some people working with resentment in this way may sound fluffy, but my experience has been quite tangible. This practice has helped me dissolve a lot of resentment, when I remember to do the practice. During silent retreat it was interesting to notice when resentment would bubble up in the most subtle way. If someone got the biggest cookie, I immediately recognized resentment peeking out and I'd start working with it.
|Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche|
If you would like to learn more about Tonglen, check out the book called Tonglen by Ani Pema Chodron, or stop by your nearest Shambhala center and ask about how you can get personal instruction in this practice. There is also a chapter on Tonglen in the book called The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron, and there is an article by her here.
For a brief but pithy description of compassionate warriorship, check out this essay by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche.