Transforming Rage into Right Action

Apr 12

I have always had to go deeply into my own rage in order to bring it into the light to heal. If I don’t allow myself to feel the rage, I cannot heal either myself or others. Not allowing myself to feel it is like clamping a lid on a boiling pot of water. Eventually, it boils over in uncontrolled ways.

Feeling the rage does not mean acting it out against others. But what then do we do with this powerful emotion?

When my husband refused to leave his mistress for the sake of our marriage and family, at first I felt shock, disbelief, and deep numbing pain. I sobbed at night for hours.

Then suddenly the pain transformed into rage. I felt disrespected and betrayed, not only by the man I had married and trusted, but also by the woman I had once believed was my best friend. I deserved so much better, as did our children. Together, my husband and his mistress had relegated me to nothing more than a convenient maid, cook and babysitter. I felt used without my consent so that they could go off and play.

I felt like buying a gun and killing them both, but didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in jail; nor did I want to leave my children orphans. What was I to do with this boiling rage which had suddenly appeared in my life? I was between a rock and a hard place. I had tough moral decisions to make.

Rage serves valuable spiritual purposes.

One, for me, was the release of self-righteousness. I knew from personal experience how it felt to want to murder. If I were capable of murder, how could I ever judge another person who was going through a similar traumatic inner struggle?

A second was the realization that rage was a messenger. It was telling me I needed to grow and change. But how?

Change does not mean getting rid of rage. Change means transforming rage into constructive, nonviolent action that supports values of fairness, safety, justice, mutual respect, and courage.

The children and I had needed my husband’s financial and emotional support and protection while the children were growing up. He had abandoned us all mentally and emotionally. I had no choice but to learn how to protect both myself and our children as well as I could.

I divorced my husband, dropped his surname, went back into the job market, fought for half of our assets in court, took care of our children as well as I could, applied to law school, graduated cum laude, and was offered a position as an associate attorney with a large Atlantic City law firm. Later, I opened my own law practice.

Ultimately, my rage transformed into a deeper understanding of what the Buddhist Eightfold Path calls “right action.” There is conduct that supports human cooperation, respect, love, justice, harmony, abundance, and peace, as well as conduct that disrupts them. “Right action” supports the values we all cherish where everybody wins. It is the arena of morals, ethics, and the Ten Commandments. Committing adultery destroys marriages and families.

This is not a path I desired. Rather, it seems to have chosen me, and yes, it has been challenging and a constant overcoming.

I have had to learn to stop enabling injustice without myself being unjust, stop enabling disrespect without being disrespectful, stop enabling abuse, control, and manipulation without myself becoming abusive, controlling, and manipulative. I have had to learn to be very transparent in expressing my needs and offering support to others.

I have also had to learn to be just, respectful, loving, forgiving, and grateful toward myself so that I know how to be just, respectful, loving, forgiving, and grateful toward others. I have had to walk out of many unjust, disrespectful, and abusive relationships to protect my own soul and sanity. Only then have I been able to re-engage these same people from a more expanded, deeper, and transformed awareness.

Under no circumstances do I believe others are evil. Their intentions, in ignorance and lack of awareness, are simply directed toward goals that serve only themselves at the expense of others. They have their own spiritual lessons to learn and their own karma to live.

Has my path been the path of the spiritual warrior? Are we all spiritual warriors grappling with the rage within so that we can transform it into passionate purpose?

Good “Angry” People

Aug 07

My good friend, Frederick Zappone, just started a big discussion as the result of his INSPIRED LIVING blog talk radio show. His topic was Got ANGER?  Find out how to make anger your most powerful ally and your best friend.

You can’t imagine the resistance his topic brought up from people still stuck in their heads about anger, certain that anger was somehow bad.

I can only assume that those people have lived very comfortable lives. Have they ever been jailed for a crime they didn’t commit? Raped? Tortured? Had their homes ransacked and gifts from their loved ones stolen? Been evicted because their landlord could get more money from someone else? Lived in a society where disputes are resolved by bribes? Been forced to exist in a concentration camp? Been relegated to the back of a bus or forced to drink from a different water fountain because of their skin color? Been an innocent victim of a nuclear bomb? If not, they simply can’t understand anger and outrage.

The issue is not whether there is anger and outrage. There is. The issue is what we do with it when we experience it.

Do we stuff it and pretend these evils never happened? Do we remain silent, tacitly supporting this kind of inhuman conduct and allowing it to continue?

I, for one, choose to speak out against it, bring it to the light of day, make it transparent for the whole world to see, and take action to stop it whenever I can. It is simply not acceptable conduct in a co-creative, collaborative world.

Feeling anger and taking appropriate action is not the antithesis of love and understanding. It is love and understanding at the very deepest levels of our souls.

I can still love the person who engages in this kind of despicable conduct and understand that he, too, may have been abused, without standing silent in the face of his dysfunctional conduct.

Does Evil Really Exist?

Jul 01

Are we asking the wrong question when we ask, “Does evil really exist?”

What if we change the question to: “What does the word “evil” mean to me in this particular experiential context?”

Envision a mother, bound and gagged, forced to watch a brutal gang rape of her beautiful ten-year old daughter. The mother’s and daughter’s physical and emotional pain has to be nothing short of excruciating.

If I were in the shoes of either, it would be easy to label the rapists “cruel”, “brutal”, “uncaring”, and even “evil”. From the rapists’ perspective, they are probably simply showing off their sexual prowess and engaging in male camaraderie. But at what cost to the mother and daughter?

If you’ve never spoken with a woman who has been brutally raped, you have no idea what shame, guilt and anguish she experiences or the years it takes her to heal. If she’s fortunate, her shame, guilt and anguish will eventually turn to rage and outrage, and yes, this rage and outrage may initially be directed at the rapists. Temporarily, she may need to label these men “evil” in order to find the courage to step into her own passion, power and purpose. What will that passion, power and purpose be? To protect herself and all other women on this planet from this type of life-shattering experience and stand firm in her own core respect for and appreciation of herself and all other women.

Free Yourself from Fear Forever

Oct 11

When you’re feeling fear, notice where your mind is ….

Dealing with Abusive Relationships

Sep 05

A friend asked, “What if people have done something very unacceptable or hurtful to me, I tell it to them and they deny, their reply is that ‘it is just my shadow’ without acknowledging my feelings or truth (other people see their behavior is not right), how can I solve the situation? Perhaps let go of resisting their behavior, heal my negativities and probably they will stop? But shall I also walk away from those people? Aren’t they using the fact that “it is my shadow or projection” to throw crap at me?”

I empathize with my friend’s questionings. What to do about ugly or abusive relationships has been one of my lifetime challenges.

Yes, we are all absolutely entitled to healthy relationships. So how do we get them? We simply choose the relationships that support us and walk away from the ones that don’t. We don’t need to justify our actions. We don’t need to explain unless we want to. All we need to do is walk away.

Nobody deserves abuse. Nobody. But as long as we stick around, we are enabling the abuse and it is likely to continue. If we simply walk away, there is no one left to abuse. Our power lies in changing ourselves.

I first learned about the power of walking away from a very dear friend of mine, a judge who had offered me a job when I first graduated from law school. I should have taken the judge’s offer. Instead, I decided to work for a very large, prestigious law firm.

The partner for whom I worked had me working 80 hours a week. He would send me off on one research project only to change his mind and send me off on another. He never seemed to be able to decide what he wanted. Worse yet, he always seemed frustrated, angry and irritable.

One evening, at a bar dinner, I was chatting with the judge and began complaining about this abusive partner who was totally exhausting me. After about a minute, the judge simply excused himself and walked away. My tirade stopped immediately. I had lost my audience and rightly so. I was wasting both my time and the judge’s with ineffective complaining.

What I should have done was quit the job. I did that six months later, willingly taking a pay cut to gain the advantage of better working hours and respectful treatment.

If you’re like me, walking away is not easy. After all, we’re strong, right? And smart, right? And committed, right? And we can handle anything, right? Well maybe the shadow we don’t want to look at is our own vulnerability and pain. When we notice these and don’t want them anymore, it’s quite easy to change. The power lies totally with each of us. While we can never change another person directly, if we change ourselves, the dynamics of the relationship change. Sometimes, the other person changes indirectly as a result of our own direct change.

Can You Choose What You Want to See?

May 14

Old Hag or Young Woman?

A friend recently commented, “I wanted to believe I could choose what I wanted to see, what thoughts would be in my head, what emotions would be in my heart, and bring them into my life. It didn’t work. The people starved, were trafficked, raped, and plundered.”

Sometimes choosing what you want to see works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

You can never will yourself to see something that isn’t there. “Choosing what you want to see” does not mean hiding your head in the sand, nor does it mean ignoring your thoughts and emotions. Far better to be honest, see what you see, think what you think, feel what you feel, and stay open to receiving more information and clarity. Prayer and meditation help you stay open.

“Choosing what you want to see” does work when you’re looking at a half full or half empty glass or at an optical illusion such as the young woman or old hag. What’s out there doesn’t change. What changes is the way your mind structures what is out there. Hindus call it “maya” and strive to “pierce the veil of illusion”. This means you either experience awareness and oneness with no mental structuring or learn to mentally structure in many different creative ways. Sometimes you do one; sometimes the other. It all depends on your needs of the moment and the needs of those around you.

My friend made an observation based on his personal perceptions – an observation he couldn’t, wouldn’t, perhaps even shouldn’t release. But wouldn’t it have been more useful to ask an action question?

  • If you experience something you don’t like, what are you going to do to change it?
  • What realistically do you have the power to do?
  • If you are feeling mentally and emotionally drained by what you see, can you do anything other than let the tears flow and be kind to yourself?
  • If you are so full of rage that you are about to become violent, can you save your own sanity and move out of the relationship?
  • If all your human support systems have deserted you, do you have the courage and perseverance to move forward alone?
  • Can you choose to believe there is an energy out there much bigger than all of us that will support you in mysterious and unexpected ways when you ask for help?

When I lived in a country other than my native land, I told my landlord that I needed to stay in his rental home until my own home was built. He agreed. We signed a lease giving him no rights of termination as long as I paid the rent and took care of the property. Under the law of my native land, I could have stayed forever.

After two years, my landlord sent me an email saying he had found another tenant who would pay more money and give him a three-year lease. Could I meet those terms?

The short answer was “No.”

While I might have paid more money, I couldn’t in good faith enter into a three-year lease. I expected to move into my own home within six months.

My landlord then gave me notice, commenting he was sure I would understand. Business was business.

Was I angry? I was livid. Did I pursue my legal rights in that adopted country in every way possible? You bet.

I talked with local friends. I talked with the local District Attorney. I talked with my own lawyer. They all said the same thing. Under the law of my adopted country, I had to move.

What if I didn’t move and forced the landlord to evict me?

I would just get a judgment against me. That’s not a good thing for someone living in another country by sufferance of their laws.

I had explored every possible avenue for asserting my moral and ethical rights. I had no legal rights or societal support. I moved out as quickly as I could so I didn’t have to pay the landlord any more money. I also let everyone in the neighborhood know exactly what he’d done.

There was nothing beyond what I’d already done that I could do. I shifted my focus, released everything, and let the Universe take over.

My landlord had breached his contract with me. Suddenly and without warning, his new tenants breached their contract with him. That house sat empty for eighteen months with not a penny going into my landlord’s pocket.

You can call this co-creation. Together, my landlord, his new tenant, the Universe and I created the end result.

You can call it the Law of Attraction. My landlord became the recipient of exactly the same treatment he had given me.

You can call it Karma. My landlord’s action in breaching our agreement and evicting me shaped his future experience of having his own new lease broken and not having any tenant at all.

Always give yourself permission to dance your own dance of consciousness. You’ll be amazed at the dynamics that evolve with those around you and the opening perspectives and enlightenment you’ll co-create and receive.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Sep 20

Why do bad things happen to good people? There is always a deeper spiritual purpose behind the “bad” things that happen in the physical realm. Time, experience, and hindsight ultimately provide answers.

Many “bad” physical things have happened to me: my divorce from my first husband,  struggles caring for a family member hooked on drugs, the sudden death of  my second husband, a landlord who evicted me because he thought he could get more money from someone else. At least, they felt bad, unjustified, and unexplainable at the time.

Is this Higher Power’s way of strengthening me with courage, deepening me with compassion, clarifying my values, and moving me along the path I am intended to go? Not my will, but Thine?

I never thought I would divorce my husband. I believe in commitment and accountability. Yet when he became involved with another woman and refused to end the relationship, I found myself sitting in a spiritual limbo. I felt degraded to nothing more than a baby sitter, cook, and housekeeper. I had lost my partner. Perhaps I never had one. We were simply on different spiritual paths.

I agonized for months over whether to stay or whether to leave. After all, we had three children, all of whom I loved dearly. I struggled with anger, guilt, and fear. Ultimately I left the marriage and applied to law school.

I had never considered being a lawyer. The divorce radically shifted my path. After almost twenty years of staying home to care for husband, home, and children, I had to find a way to support myself financially on the physical plane. On the spiritual plane, I  felt compelled to find a way to speak about the mystical experience I had had years ago. Law school could teach me to think and speak with more clarity. None of this was easy.

Would I have become a lawyer had I remained married? Probably not.

My struggles in a relationship where a family member was addicted to cocaine propelled me into Naranon, a twelve step support group for families and friends of addicts. Would I ever have become aware of my own addictions to people and relationships, but for that experience? Would I ever have realized the value of setting boundaries and tough love? Would I ever have learned to focus on my own issues and stop trying to change others? Would I ever have learned the value of using first person singular language when speaking? The words then become simply my own thoughts. They are no longer ideas I am forcing on others, but, at the same time, I am free to express what I truly think and feel.

When my second husband Don died suddenly of a heart attack on Roatan, Honduras, it was, of course, a terrible shock. My life immediately afterwards was not easy. His death changed my life direction drastically. Among other things, I no longer had a home in the States.

Don was 14 years older than I. He had heart problems and had begun to lose his balance and fall a lot of the time. His mind was not as sharp as it used to be. It was becoming a full time job to care for him.

When I look at his death from hindsight, I can’t help but wonder if the timing and manner were exactly right. Have you heard of people making agreements before they enter this physical life to relate to one another in a particular way? I can’t help but wonder if Don and I did that.

After Don’s death, I simply holed up in the house in Roatan and wrote Shift, the book I’ve known for 35 years I had to write. Would I have had the time and focus to write a book had Don wasted away for years? Probably not.

When my landlord in a foreign country evicted me because he thought he’d found another tenant who would pay him more money and give him a longer term lease, I was furious. The anger again made me aware of how important commitment , accountability, and trust were to me. I struggled to find ways to enforce those values in a country that had little respect them. On the physical plane, it was not a struggle I could win. Even though my landlord had violated our agreement, I soon discovered I had no legal right to stay. On the spiritual plane, I had help in ways I could never have imagined.

I left as quickly as I could. With the breach of trust and lack of accountability, I didn’t want to pay this man any more money than necessary. I had to let go and trust Universal Energy to take care of the “bad” physical things. I was not disappointed.

Shortly after I left, my landlord’s wonderful new tenant breached his lease with the landlord. He hasn’t rented the house since.

An astute, spiritual friend said to me eighteen months ago when I was first having challenges with the builder of my home, “Haven’t you figured out yet that you aren’t supposed to live there?” No, I hadn’t. I’m stubborn. I will exhaust every viable avenue I can think of to resolve a situation or relationship issue before I’ll walk away. However, when Higher Power doesn’t want me to stay where I am, She just keeps slapping me harder and harder and putting more and more roadblocks in my way until I have no choice but to move in a new direction. From hindsight, the new direction is invariably the one my spiritual path is intended to take.