Should You Meditate if You Are Angry or Upset?

Nothing seems farther from our minds than meditating when everything is going wrong, we're distressed, and peace feels far away. How can I meditate at a time like this, you ask? It is interesting how we often neglect to do what will benefit us the most at the time when we need it the most. Yes, of course, you should meditate when you are feeling angry or agitated. Eckhart Tolle's book A New Earth has much to say on this subject.

Path The first step to a successful meditation when you are angry is to identify the anger or agitation. This is where the all-important meditation practice of mindfulness can help. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a mindfulness pioneer, defines it like this, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Rather than getting angry that you are angry, simply acknowledge the feeling—put your finger on it. For example, Eckhart Tolle explains about understanding the difference between, “I am angry,” and “Right now, there is anger.” This mindfulness can help you transition from the first statement to the last one. The anger you are experiencing is not you and is not a part of you, it is just there in your experience. Tolle describes seeing the emotion with a space around it, a cushion so to speak. In this way, you can see that the emotion does not have to permeate your being unless you let it.

Remember also that you are almost never upset for the reason you think you are. Use the feeling to dig deeper. What is underlying the anger? During your meditation, explore this. Is there a disappointment in childhood, a painful experience of abandonment, or some trauma or abuse at the root of your current anger? Another insight pointed out by Tolle is, “One of the most common ego-repair mechanisms is anger, which causes a temporary but huge ego inflation.” Are you upset because someone bested you, belittled you, or poked you in a vulnerable and sensitive spot? If so, focus on a mantra like, “I am. I am. I am,” during your meditation to re-connect with the vast, loving energy of the universe. This can help remind you of what you truly are–the essence of all there is–and thereby show you what you are not—the ego, the voice in the head incessantly thinking and chattering.

Another tip on meditating while angry that Tolle provides is nonresistance. He recounts a story of when he was counseling a woman who was angry about abuse her father had inflicted on her. He said to her, “There is nothing you can do about the fact that at this moment this is what you feel. Now, instead of wanting this moment to be different from the way it is, which adds more pain…is it possible for you to completely accept that this is what you feel right now?” As the saying goes, what we resist, persists. Use a meditation session to simply accept and stop resisting whatever emotion you are feeling. 

Remember that meditation does not always have to be the same old experience of “thinking about nothing” or focusing on a spot on the white wall. Make it what you need it to be. In this way, you can be feeling anger or agitation as you go into a meditation—because they don't all have to be loving kindness practices or communing with God. If you are experiencing anger, then do an “anger meditation” focusing on the things mentioned above. The chances are good that your anger will dissipate quicker than you know.

 ~ Jillian Avey,