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?

General David Petraeus – An Archetypal Pattern? (continued)

Dec 11

(This is the final half of the blog begun on November 16, 2012.)

While a few men know how to court a woman, far too many men see women as a one time conquest that simply increases their bonding ability and respect from other men. “Score!”

A man can always walk away after satisfying his sexual need. A woman who becomes pregnant never can. She then carries the full responsibility for nurturing the child, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and often with an added societal burden of judgment and blame and the consequential internal feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem.

A man who fully respects a woman and wants her to bear his seed and provide him with offspring, makes a commitment to protect and provide for her so that together they can nurture, guide, rear, and protect their children. Without a protector and provider, the woman simply cannot do her own job well. She needs a very safe and physically comfortable nest in which to rear their offspring.

Is it this same almost uncontrollable biological sex drive that drives married men like President Kennedy, President Clinton, and General Petreaus to become sexually involved with women other than their wives? The man sees no harm in what he is doing. He may see it as a one-time fling or simply an affair. My friend commented that every woman with whom he had ever had sex was an angel.

The male involved in an extramarital affair still loves the mother of his children and takes for granted that she will always be there for him – to cook, clean, wash his socks and babysit the children. But his wife knows at a deep gut level about his affair. His involvement with the other woman changes his energy and therefore changes the energy of the marital relationship. His mind is elsewhere. He is less attentive to wife and children. He is less present in the relationship. While the man’s involvement with the other woman may transform and expand him personally, it simultaneously destroys (impurifies, adulterates, ruins) the energy of the original male/female relationship on which the health of the entire family depends.

Once the children have grown up and left home, the woman has lost 25 years of her life that otherwise might have been spent developing financial skills, building assets, and expanding business acumen. Her only skills are cooking, cleaning, gardening, and babysitting. By that time her husband may have developed a fabulous career, be making lots of money, traveling around the world, and associating with many more interesting people. If his sexual drive then pulls him into the arms of a fascinating woman from whose sexual charms and magnetism he cannot release himself, his wife will go through denial, disbelief, emotional anguish, loss of trust, rage, and ultimately, she’ll leave – forever. Then she’ll sue him for as much money as she can get. Faced with the challenge of reconstructing her life, she must make a living in a world where women are financially disadvantaged, heal her feelings of low self-esteem, victimhood, rage, being used, not being respected and appreciated, and her total distrust of men.

If the male and female biological differences are real and the needs very different, how do we consciously reconcile them? Or don’t we?


Benevolence and Leadership. Valuable? Possible?

Jul 31

A recent post on the Business Spirituality LinkedIn site asked: “What difference can a benevolent leader bring to people and organizations? Is it possible to be benevolent without being naive?”

I’m not sure benevolence is the right word here. Benevolence, to me, implies giving to others, sometimes without including myself in the benevolence. I find myself preferring the word compassion. The word compassion, to me, has more of a sense of having walked in the shoes of the other, having experienced their suffering, and supporting all of us in moving toward a more joyful, purposeful life. Compassion is essential to good leadership.

One of my life long lessons has been learning how to expand into my own spiritual understanding and power and then use that spiritual understanding and power to support others as they expand into the fully developed, unique individuals they are intended to be. Supporting them does not mean giving them whatever they want. Often, it means challenging their current thought processes or flat out saying ‘no.’ This is the role of the spiritual warrior.

I was very fortunate to have had two wonderful parents. Both were teachers. Both were fair and compassionate. Both valued order and structure, and yet, there was always space for play and creativity in our home. My parents truly led by example. Because I was happy, I never questioned their leadership. I knew I was loved, respected, and valued. I did what they told me to do simply because I trusted them.

Then I moved out into the rest of the world and discovered, over and over, through painful experience after painful experience, that not everyone was as kind, benevolent, compassionate and fair as my parents. Other people said negative things about me, verbally abused me, bullied me, and betrayed my trust. I had to learn how to protect myself from all this negative energy. I had to learn how to detach mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically. I had to learn how to release my fear. I had to learn how to refocus my outrage from judging and blaming the bullies and abusers to shifting the energy of that outrage into being just, fair, and accountable. As painful and sometimes terrifying as it often was, I had to learn how to say ‘no’, I will not enable and support that conduct. I will not stay in a relationship where I am not respected. I will move out of relationships where I am verbally abused. I simply deserve better.

For me, finding the balance between benevolence and naivete requires a constantly shifting awareness of the energy dynamics of any situation. I can then change those dynamics by changing myself. It always requires staying in integrity with my own values of compassion, non-violence, mutual respect, and accountability.

I’ve walked in the shoes of the other. I’ve experienced their suffering. How can I be anything but compassionate toward us all?

Why Forgive?

Apr 20

David Beale, a long time spiritual friend from Perth, Australia, has a brilliant and penetrating mind. Years ago, he offered a wonderful analogy for understanding forgiveness:

The yin-yang, though symbolic, does sum up the harmony that averages to nothing when taken over a wide enough viewpoint. …. A hurricane that goes in both directions may in sequential time do lots of damage yet the net average is No Wind ….

David went on to note that to forgive, we must have a sense of both:

  1. It does not matter because it can and does add up to nothing; and
  2. In this physical life, we have an obligation to change both ourselves and the elements of disorder so that they balance and no longer bother us, “allowing us to enjoy our temporal existence with minimal disruption and maximum joy …. we are individuals growing in a limited environment so as to better enjoy a less limited environment. Forgiveness is part of the less-limited environment. (Emphasis supplied.)

In short, there is no need for forgiveness and yet every need for forgiveness. What in the world do I mean by that paradoxical statement?

In what sense is there no need for forgiveness?

Each of us physical human beings births onto this planet with limited perspectives, limited bodies, physical needs for food, water, and shelter, and emotional needs for love and belonging. Baby Mary cries because she is hungry or cold or has a bubble of air in her belly. Her perspective is limited to her own immediate needs. She doesn’t understand that Mommy may be exhausted from cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, and caring for her brothers and sisters. She knows nothing about the sixteen hours per day that Daddy spends in a coal mine to provide a few dollars to buy rice and beans. Maybe she doesn’t even know she is hungry or cold or needs to burp. She just knows she hurts. She cries because that is all she knows how to do. She has done the best she knows how with the limited resources she has. Mommy is doing the best she knows how. So is Daddy. There is no need to forgive any of them, even though they live in desperate poverty and pain. They are all doing the best they can with the resources they have.

In what sense is there every need for forgiveness?

As Mary matures through youth and adulthood, the pain continues to gnaw at her gut. Now she notices that not everyone is hungry or cold or without shelter. As she becomes aware of her external world, her pain turns to anger. She may resent those who have more food and better shelter. She may blame her parents for their lack of education or the fact that they haven’t always been able to respond to her needs. She may come to hate other children whose parents can afford to buy them nice clothes. Her boyfriend may leave her for another woman, betraying her trust. Her internal pain and external anger may generalize to labeling all men liars and cheats, even though she has had personal experiences with only one or a few. Worst of all, she may hate herself because she feels powerless.

Pain and anger are simply different forms of the same energy. Pain is negative energy directed inward. Anger is negative energy directed outward. It doesn’t really matter where the negative energy is directed. The challenge for each and every one of us is how to release the negative energy and transform it into positive energy, or at least into neutral, detached awareness.

Mary’s adult condition is the human condition that Buddhists call “suffering.” Suffering is not necessary and can be released. At this point in Mary’s life, there is every need to release suffering. There is every need for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of many spiritual tools we’ve been given to transform our pain and anger into deep, personal, inner peace.

Why forgive? Certainly not because the other person deserves it. In their own misery, desperation, and low self-esteem, they may have done horrible, ugly things that felt like knives through our hearts. Perhaps they lied because they were ashamed to tell the truth. Perhaps they murdered. Perhaps they committed adultery or stole our physical possessions. Perhaps they were simply not present in their relationships with us.

Their actions were certainly not functional. We do need to pay attention to how others treat us and conduct themselves in their relationships with us. If we don’t notice what others do and how it makes us feel, we haven’t learned the relationship lessons we were intended to learn.

However, we never change the relationship by changing the other person. We change the relationship by changing ourselves.

Why then forgive? We forgive for ourselves. We forgive because forgiveness releases our own pain and anger, changes our relationship dynamics, and allows us to move forward in freedom and joy.

Holding onto pain, anger, and blame destroys each and every one of us. It makes us sick. It keeps us stuck. Anyone stuck in this negative energy and unable to let it go will eventually kill themselves as well as all the loving relationships that surround them and could support them. Being stuck in negative energy condemns you to a life lived in hell (using Christian words) or a life of suffering (using Buddhist words).

So why do we forgive? We forgive to shift our own energy from hell to heaven (Christian terminology). We forgive to release our own suffering (Buddhist terminology).

First, we forgive ourselves, knowing that we did the best we could with the resources we had. Then, we forgive others, knowing they did the same. Forgiveness does not mean staying in abusive, dysfunctional relationships. If we learn the lessons our pain and anger have taught us, we move out of abusive, dysfunctional relationships and seek out relationships that support us. When the abuser no longer has a victim, the abuse stops.

Thought Energy, Intentions, and Synchronicities

Dec 10

“Drive safely,” my son Bill said as I was getting ready to leave our family get-together in Saint Marys, Georgia. He was the third family member who had said that to me.

I replied with a bit of irritation, “I am a safe driver.” Then, noticing my own abruptness and recognizing that Bill’s intentions were good, I added, “But I appreciate your thought. There are an awful lot of people on the road who don’t pay attention to their driving. Please hold the thought that the people who aren’t careful drivers stay out of my path.”

About 20 minutes out of Saint Marys, an unexpected question suddenly popped into my mind. Had I remembered to pack the power cord for my computer or had I left it plugged in at the motel? At first, I wasn’t going to stop, but then I figured it was better to check than to arrive home after a five-hour drive, only to discover I didn’t have it.

I pulled over to the side of the road, popped the trunk, got out and unzipped my suitcase and computer case. Sure enough, the cord was right where it should have been. Two minutes later, I was back on the road.

The drive was uneventful until I got to I-75 just below Ocala. Suddenly, all traffic in all three lanes came to a dead halt. Nothing moved for almost two hours.

I couldn’t see a thing. One motorist who had gotten out of his car reported that helicopters were dropping down to the roadway ahead of us. Another said that there had been a three-vehicle crash, and lifelines were pulling people from demolished vehicles.

When traffic finally began moving again, about two miles down the road I passed what was left of the wreck: one totally trashed vehicle, a pickup truck, a camper, and belongings strewn all over the side of the road. At the next rest stop, a woman said that according to OnStar, someone had been killed.

Two minutes. Two miles. Except for my stop to check for my computer cord, I could well have been in that accident with one of those less than careful drivers.

Did this chain of events have anything to do with my parting conversation with Bill?  Where did the thought about my computer cord come from and why did I unexpectedly stop for two minutes along the way?  Are our thoughts and intentions simply instantaneous energy exchanges that manifest desired results in unexpected ways?

I don’t ever expect to know the answer to those questions, but this strange series of apparently unrelated thoughts and events surely produced a strange synchronicity that may have saved my life.

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.


Jun 21

I was nine when my father cried

head cradled on mother’s shoulder

his father’s casket surrounded with flowers and hushed voices.


I did not know the old man

a stern German who shared little of himself

but my father cried.


Then when my father died,

remembered by his music and the Navy hymn

my own tears flowed – for my father, my sons, myself


so many words unspoken

so many hugs unshared

so many possibilities entombed …


© 2009 Janet Smith Warfield All rights reserved


To my Oldest Son Bill on His 48th Birthday

Jun 12

Dear Bill,

I remember how excited I was when I discovered I was pregnant. My first child. Would you be a boy or girl?

Well, I had that one all figured out. I was going to have two boys and then two girls. You fit into my plans, as did your younger brother Steve. Your youngest brother Russ didn’t. It was time to reconsider.

You did cause me a bit of morning sickness, but after our first trimester of pregnancy, that stopped. In our ninth month, it was hard for me to bend over and move. You, on the other hand, were moving around all the time, even in the middle of the night. You’re still moving, aren’t you?

I was very careful with my diet. I did everything the doctor told me and gained only 20 pounds. I wanted to give you all the support I could.

I couldn’t wait for you to make your appearance on this planet, both for your sake and mine. You accommodated my wishes and arrived ten days early. Even though you were early, you were large – eight pounds, twelve ounces.

Your birth was not easy – on you, me, or my gynecologist. My water broke around 3 a.m. You didn’t make your appearance until around nine that evening, after eighteen hours of labor for both of us. You were born head first, but didn’t have enough room in my womb to turn around and be born in the normal position. Shortly afterwards, you had difficulty breathing. The pediatrician placed you in an isolette. I developed a kidney infection. We remained in the hospital for nine days.

I can’t tell you how mesmerized I was when the doctor placed you (this perfect little baby) on my belly. Five beautiful little fingers on each hand, five beautiful little toes on each foot. (I counted them.) Even then you were active. We looked at each other in amazement.

From the moment I brought you home, I adored you. I adored all my sons. They all seemed like such beautiful little miracles. I sang to you every night before you went to sleep. When you were old enough to understand, I read stories. After supper, the whole family sat at the dining room table and played Parcheesi, Monopoly, fish or crazy eights.

You rebelled against toilet training, but then you’ve always been a bit of a rebel.

When you were little, I can remember taking you on amusement rides in Ocean City, New Jersey. You were always more interested in how the ride worked than you were in the thrill. You raked leaves in the fall, jumped in them with your brothers, and got asthma. You were never much interested in my garden, but you did occasionally pop strawberries, raspberries, peas, and blueberries into your mouth.

You climbed trees and explored the woods near our Vineland, New Jersey home with your best friend, Mike Hemighaus. I was glad you and Mike found each other. He and his family were a positive influence in your early years.

We often spent weekends at Union Lake in Millville. Your father raced his Sunfish while I sat on the beach with you boys. Occasionally, your father would take all of us out on the lake in his largest sailboat. He taught you a lot about sailing.

We frequently spent summers at your father’s grandparents’ home on Penobscot Bay, Maine. It was easiest for your father and me to drive at night. You slept most of the way so we didn’t have to listen to “When are we going to get there?” When you were awake, we played games – finding signs with every letter of the alphabet, looking for license plates from every state in the union, playing I See Something Red, and of course, singing.

That Maine water was frigid, but you boys never seemed to mind. You jumped off the rock at the side of the house and explored the beach at low tide. Occasionally, we’d take boat trips to Spectacle Island or car trips to Bar Harbor.

You were always a good student. In high school, you joined the chorus. I got goose pimples listening to you.

When you decided to go to the Naval Academy, I was both proud and uneasy. What would the Academy do to my son? At the end of Plebe Summer, I found out. In just six weeks, you had transformed from a wet-behind-the-ears kid to a man. I remember hearing about a few escapades that were not repeated and getting stuck with a Naval Academy yacht (was it the Cinnabar?) on a sandbar in Delaware Bay.

Upon graduation, I could not understand why you chose the submarine service. Being stuck in a submarine for weeks on end seemed claustrophobic to me. “Submariners are the cream of the crop,” you explained. Even then, you valued excellence.

I remember the day you took us out on a Dependants’ Cruise from Norfolk Harbor. Because you were navigating, we got to stand with you in the conning tower. How fascinating to sail over the Bay Bridge Tunnel and out to the continental shelf, watch the dolphins through the periscope playing in the bow wave, and listen to them on the sonar.

I think you and Carol Anne had already decided to marry when you first introduced us. I remember thinking how pretty she was. A few years later, Sydney and Chan made their debuts onto the planet.

So here you are, twenty years later, two submarine commands under your belt, decorated with medals, and having visited Tokyo, Guam, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrein, Italy, Switzerland, France, and many other places you can’t talk about. You, Carol Anne, Syd and Chan have lived in Virginia Beach, Annapolis, Aiea, Hawaii, and Saint Marys, Georgia. You have navigated the North Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Adriatic Sea, and many other bodies of water you can’t talk about. You have also successfully navigated a world of character-building experiences (as you would say) and developed substantial wisdom.

Now, as you, Carol Anne, Syd and Chan look forward to a new and very different life, I want you to know I love you and wish you well on your journey.

Happy 48th Birthday, Bill. I am honored to be your mother.

© 2009 Janet Smith Warfield All rights reserved