Beware of the anger of the body.
Master the body.
Let it serve truth.

Beware of the anger of the mouth.
Master your words.
Let them serve truth.

Beware of the anger of the mind.
Master your thoughts.
Let them serve truth.


Anger is a particularly difficult emotion to tame. For me, anger never seethes, it tends to flash up out of nowhere and take me utterly by surprise. A recent example: I was on the phone at work with a representative of a trade organization our company belongs to. We send them a file monthly and the woman I spoke with told me there was a problem with the formatting of the file, but couldn't tell me what the problem with it was. I had checked the file and it validated fine for us. We went back and forth five or six times with variations of the following - Her: "The file isn't formatted right. It must not be a fixed-width file. It has to be fixed width" Me: "It is fixed width, I've checked it against the specification and previous months files and can find nothing wrong with it. If you can tell me exactly what's wrong with the file, I can fix it and re-send it." Her "The file isn't formatted right..." and so on. I wasn't getting anywhere with her and it was frustrating, but suddenly I felt tremendously angry with her. My voice started to crack as I struggled to keep my temper, stay focused and not let me emotions come through in my voice. It made no sense at all. I've been in similar situations all the time. Why did my mind and body choose this time to get angry? It was all I could do to keep the swirling emotions and thoughts about the situation and my reaction to it in check while I finished the call. She eventually agreed to have her "IT guy" look at the file for her, and I hung up relieved. I sat there, stunned at myself for quite a while. Where did that anger come from? I hadn't felt like that since my divorce and this time over such a trivial thing! I'm still confused by that episode, but I take some comfort in the fact that almost as soon as the feeling started, I began watching it. I recognized it for what it was and didn't identify with it. It helped that the trigger made no sense. If it were a more personal matter, I may have had more difficulty doing so. Still, it's evidence that my practice is helping me effectively cope with these difficult emotions.

I like this passage as it touches on the three aspects of anger, or any emotion for that matter: body, words and mind. First the mind processes some perceptions and you formulate thoughts about these external phenomena. The 'primitive' mind may then have an emotional reaction to these thoughts which manifest in the body as raised blood-pressure, a rush of adrenaline, flushed skin, rapid heartbeat, etc, all involuntarily. The body may even enter that fight or flight state and violence may follow (thankfully never for me!). Simultaneously, the words may start in with criticizing, insulting, cursing... All of which leads to nothing positive. Even if the words and actions are kept in check, the emotion generates negative energy that can be sensed by others, often resulting in other negative reactions by them, escalating the situation. I'm sure this happened with the lady I was on the phone with. To face phenomena that are potentially angering with a sense of genuine calm and equanimity can diffuse negative reactions in others. Catching myself and letting the true me watch the mental situation with a sense of calm detachment is the first step in cultivating this state. I continue to work on this in my practice. It's mindfulness 101, but it works.

When she called back a few days later to explain that one of the records had a Canadian address which was causing the problem. I thanked her and apologized for my being so frustrated with her on the phone earlier. She hung up on me. I guess I deserved it.