The Angry Monk: Zen practice stirs up energy and emotion, and it can be downright ugly

Zen practice stirs up energy and emotion, and it can be downright ugly

A lot of pissed-off people wind up at our monastery. This place has a tractor beam like the Death Star in Star Wars that pulls in everyone within a thousand-mile radius with four-letter words on the tips of their tongues. Her marriage tanked, he’s got an itch in his brain he just can’t scratch, she’s 45 and smells of cabbage and lives in a small studio apartment and nobody ever calls her back. They all wind up here, sold on the promise that Buddhism can alleviate suffering.

I said “they” all wind up here, but I guess I mean “we.” I recently had one of those moments when, upon the much-anticipated departure of an enemy who, as a Buddhist, I could never quite admit was an enemy, I found myself peering around the zendo and thinking, “Wow, there are no assholes living here anymore.” Whereupon came a sinking feeling: “Wait a minute, there’s always at least one. So if I’m looking around the zendo and I can’t find him—guess who the asshole is!”

Zen practice is good for angry people. The form is tight. It squeezes that deep red heart-pulp, pushing up emotions from way down inside you. A lot of stuff comes up when you do this practice. Zen gets your juices flowing. And with these juices come seeds—the seeds of your behavior, your character, your anger, all flushed out into the open for you to see.

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