When our sangha met Monday evening our leader performed a purification ceremony. At one point we each approached the altar and took a pinch of incense, then while holding it in between the fingers, we privately considered what we needed to be purified from. Then we put the incense on the burning charcoal and watched the smoke rise into the air. When my turn came I had no hesitation in aspiring to be purified from anger for it is anger that hinders me more than anything.
The next morning I was performing some routine work when something unexpected occurred. Because of it my plan for the day’s activities was disrupted. It was nothing serious but it was enough to spark a tiny bit of anger.
As I watched that tiny reaction build and spread through me I understood why anger is called one of the three poisons. It spreads until it dominates the entire system with its negativity. Everything around me became colored with a sense of discomfort and dissatisfaction. I could feel myself reaching a threshold of irritability that excluded nothing. I knew that if I didn’t take steps to cope with it, this anger would in short order seek out a target.
So I put on my winter clothes, called the dogs, and off we went on a 10 mile walk to one of my sacred places which I hadn’t visited in several months. The trail that takes you there has a series of steep hills which challenge the body. And as my body demanded more attention my mind gradually lets go of its discontent. In this I rediscovered that the body is often wiser than the mind.
When I arrived at my destination it was like seeing an old friend. I could see the beauty of the place; I listened to the creak of the trees rocking in the wind; I felt the warmth in my muscles which was the pleasant price of reaching this destination; and breathing in the cold clean air was as delicious and refreshing as a drink of icy spring water on a hot afternoon in July.
Anger had disconnected me from everything. This special-ordinary place welcomed me, showed me the Buddha nature within it and let me become part of its whole.
On days like this I wonder how I could live anywhere but here.