My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird -
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
~ Mary Oliver ~
In some spiritual and psychological circles we often hear unambiguous proscriptions against the emotion of anger. However, in many indigenous traditions, anger is not experienced with the same suspicion one finds in Western psycho-spiritual circles. While ancient teachings regarding anger do not condone aggression, they do not unequivocally assume that feeling the emotion of anger will lead to hostility or violence. In fact, they tend to revere anger as an innate human emotion which may be utilized on behalf of the earth community without inflicting harm. Ancient teachings often include practices for "uploading" the raw emotion of anger to higher chakras or physiological energy centers on behalf of preserving boundaries or protecting the innocent-both of which are characteristics of the non-aggressive warrior.
Anger is one of the Five Stages of Grief articulated by the death and dying researcher, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. As I noted in Sacred Demise, in the context of those stages, anger shows up in reaction to a loss. First we feel shock and denial, then move into anger which may include frustration, anxiety, irritation, embarrassment, and shame. Subsequently, we move into depression and grief, followed by bargaining, then acceptance and re-investment in our lives. As Kubler-Ross emphasizes, none of the stages are neatly detached from the others. We tend to move through them fluidly, with each stage somewhat blurring into the next stage or containing remnants of the last one.
In the process of preparing emotionally to navigate the coming chaos, it is crucial to examine each stage of grief, to note where we have been in the process, to look at where we are in the moment, and to honor each emotion along the way. Many people today are stuck in anger because they have not allowed themselves to move through it into mindful grieving. In fact, I believe that the United States, and many nations throughout the world are currently mired in anger. In 2009, author and spiritual teacher Caroline Myss, stated in her article "An Epidemic of Global Anger": "We are a community of nations on fire with anger. And we are getting angrier by the day. Whether we look at the increase in uprisings occurring around the world or at the escalating tension brewing in America, what is becoming more apparent is that we are witnessing a rapidly increasing rate of global anger, so much so that it qualifies as an epidemic."
Many Americans are enraged at their government. Some who have been researching the demise of the current paradigm and understand the self-destructive aspects of corporate capitalism, the limits of economic growth, and the unsustainability of a civilization dependent on fossil fuels feel angry because their leaders refuse to acknowledge what is so. As their minds have been awakened, so have their emotions, and anger has been part of the process. But as they have come to understand that industrial civilization itself is collapsing, they are likely to have stopped wanting to repair and improve it and have begun to entertain a larger picture of how they could join with allies in constructing a new paradigm and a new culture.
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