Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Observer Within

Even after writing several posts on anger, I find that I still have a long way to go. I recently ‘blew my top’ in quite a (for me) shocking way. I went from being in a good mood, laughing and smiling, to blood-curdling indignant anger and oath calling in the space of about 45 seconds. That is several thousand eons of good deeds up in smoke right there. And I cannot say it was for a good cause. However, in the midst of the anger I did experience what I have known some writers call ‘the observer within’. This is our ‘higher self’ or subconscious, which always remains emotionless even if we cannot, observing events happening to us in a dispassionate way. There was a distinct moment where I could have ‘snapped out of it’, but it passed – I let it pass - and I continued in my anger.
I remember once my son said something to me that from anyone else would have angered me enormously. Indeed for a fraction of a second I felt the anger. But before anything could be expressed some inner circuit-breaker was flipped - getting angry at my son for sort of ‘being me’ seemed suddenly ridiculous, impossible - and the anger instantly disappeared. Note that I did not ‘suppress’ the anger: it suddenly no longer existed.
This leads me to conclude that anger is a very strange thing indeed. If one second we can be gripped by its emotion and almost in the same second switch it off or look at it from a calm centre, then it has no real life, no real basis in our mind. Anger really is a temporary insanity.

A Zen student came to Bankei and complained: "Master, I have an ungovernable temper. How can I cure it?"
"You have something very strange," replied Bankei. "Let me see what you have."
"Just now I cannot show it to you," replied the other.
"When can you show it to me?" asked Bankei.
"It arises unexpectedly," replied the student.
"Then," concluded Bankei, "it must not be your own true nature. If it were, you could show it to me at any time. When you were born you did not have it, and your parents did not give it to you. Think that over."

From ‘Zen Flesh, Zen Bones’ by Paul Reps

1 comment:

Roy said...

I see this effect quite often in other people and occasionally feel it in myself. It is nice having a name for it and a better viewpoint of it. Thanks

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond