Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by Monkey Mind » Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:33 pm

Yes, a regular practice in the Goenka vipassana tradition have helped me significantly reduce anger-related behaviors. But I have to practice daily. If I skip it for 2 or 3 days, I start to get irritable again. And anger itself is not reduced by my practice, I still have anger, but anger-outbursts and behavior born from irritability are significantly reduced.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by Cilla » Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:30 am

I think you are a) depressed and thus in need of medication. Anger or irritation is often a symptom of depression instead of tears. A psychologist told me this. She'd seen both cases often enough. I myself am more the type to show irritablity than teariness when depressed.

b) attitude change helps undercut the anger response to disturbing stimulii. I see how with my attitude towards my cat means that i don't get angry with him while i would with people. I have unconditional love for my cat. I know he is not able to communicate all his needs easily and so he will do things that might bug me. But because he is both a lot weaker than me and can't express himself in a more adult way (;-))
, its enough for me to know what he wants and to try to address is so that he won't do the things that bug me like jump on me when he's hungry and scratch me as i'm walking along. I describe this as being close to how it is with your toddler. When you allow yourself to get angry with her, its as though you don't actually accept that she can't do anything else because she's such a tiny little undeveloped creature. You need to develop more compassion for her. I suggest reading up on the compassion aspects in buddhism so that it can help you internalise this attitude towards everyone but most especially your child and your wife. Maybe that's not the best example but really working on developing compassion would be the attitude you are looking to have instead of contempt or whatever it is you currently have for your family and others. Certainly i believe an expression of anger in most cases reflects and underlying attitude of lack of respect for others.

c)I think for meditation to help you have to be working on mindfulness all the time. you have to practice daily. And you have to have enough time in your life to be able to develop a 24 hour consciousness of what you are doing. So i think you should really try to apply yourself to this task by a) meditating several times a day and b) reading books on buddhism and trying to follow the eightfold path assiduously especially the parts about right thought and right speech. Some time ago before i knew much about buddhism but had come upon the eightfold path, i had a little daily reminder and diary thingy and a list which i'd use every day to help me establish mindfulness on these things. It included Right thought, right speech and right effort. You will to make time for all this which might be more difficult for you than for me because i don't have so many demands on my time but i find reading books really helps with any sort of development of focus while the internet really does not help at all. Tv does not help either. So tv and the internet are more for some relaxation than for anything else and i'm trying to do it less so that i can make more time for reading, meditation, and work and other good things.

With regard to my formula for right thought, right speech adn right effort, the right thought was not to think negatively about anything or anyone, including myself. When i caught myself thinking in a negative way i would turn my thoughts towards a more positive view and i would i also try to see the negative thing from a different perspective. I know that this is not strictly buddhist but its what i was doing at the time and it worked for me on many occasions. When i stopped my daily reminders habit, i reverted to my bad habits. Its hard when things happen quickly but if you have time to think ahead (such as if you thinking angry thoughts as you are driving along in the car hten you have time to change it all over) , then this is a way to avoid getting angry that works. The right speech was usually handled by having been able to manage my thoughts in the first instance. And right effort was something else altogether but now i realise that right effort means effort to meditate and follow the right speech, thought etc. So i would strongly recommend doing this too. Keep a diary and at the top of the page, have these daily reminders there for you to see. Open it in the morning and remind yourself that today you are applying yourself to right thought, right speech and right effort.

d) anger is also a habit. You respond in a habitual way to triggers. Realising this and trying to change that habit like you would any other also helps with the problem. Remember too that the habit will not be resolved overnight. Its not like quitting smoking or alcohol when you can just abstain. (i'm not suggesting that these habits are resolved overnight) Anger is a much more difficult habit to correct because it comes from within and you can satisfy its urge from within. You don't have to go to the shop to buy some anger for example. That's why i think it takes a such a lot of mindfulness to correct it. I just cracked up at my father about an hour ago. And i feel bad about it. I even feel worse than usual because i am trying to work on my own anger. But all we can do i think is to let go our defeats/failures and try to more in tune with ourselves for the next time. You can also anticipate when something might trigger yoru anger and try to deal with it in advance. Avoid being over tired because that's also a thing that can lead to more anger.

Maybe you could think through all the occasions that have happened recently and reflect that none of them warranted your anger. I mean if you are still feeing that your anger was justifie but maybe you don't. Maybe you just can't help it and regret it afterwards because you know it wasn't justified. I understand that. It happens so quickly. That's precisely a habitual response. But in that case, maybe coming up with a little safety valve would be a good idea. I could try this out myself too. Because you have more situations than i have to deal with you might actually be able to change your habit faster because of more practice. The sort of thing i mean might be instead of voicing your anger aloud, as soon as you feel your blood rising, get straight up out of your chair, stride out to the front gate, walk down the street, keep going until you cool off. Don't come back until your mood has passed. Use mindfulness and concentration meditation while you are out to cool down. While you are out, check out a different perspective so that you no longer actually feel anger towards the other person. That's where the attitude change comes in afterwards.

My father's bugging me a lot at the moment because he's a pretty grumpy sort. He can never express dislike of something without being grumpy about it. He has to fill the dislike with hot emotion. There was a time when i might have got annoyed with his grumpiness but now i am learning to let it go most of the time. IN those days i would maybe argue with him or lose my temper back. But now Sometimes i just say to him, why can't you just dislike something without being so angry about it too. But also a lot of the time, i just let it go because i know its him and not me. That doesn't mean i am totally fine with his grumpiness but it means I do'nt take it on so much.

Also one last point. I'm using a book called MIndfulness in Plain English. Its excellent. I highly recommend you get it and use it in your daily practice.

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by Ben » Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:34 am

Cilla wrote:I think you are a) depressed and thus in need of medication.
Very far off the mark in my humble opinion.
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by pegembara » Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:55 am

One of the most important skill is patience and forbearance.

Stay with your emotion and know that all emotions are impermanent. Anger only lasts a moment. You know this when you count to 90 and the emotion dissolve.

Feel the anger and say to yourself there is anger but this anger is not mine. If it were mine I could easily get rid of it! Since it wasn't mine all I can do is to patiently watch it come and go by itself.

You remember something or someone that makes you angry. This anger eats at you like a cancer. You feel the heated sensations and your heartbeat going faster. You see how this is hurting you. This negative emotions hurt you 1st instead of whom your anger is directed against. It is impossible to be angry at someone without hurting yourself 1st.

Anger is sometimes thought better to be released by lashing out but actually the lashing out only worsens the situation for you and the person involved. The antidote is to have compassion for yourself. Say to yourself, "By being angry, I am hurting myself the most, then I hurt my loved ones too. Anger is impermanent, unpleasant and not mine." Count to 90 and the hurt is gone.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by pegembara » Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:04 am

When an unpleasant emotion such as anger arises, don't get upset or try to suppress it. Nor should you try to look for a "better" object. The emotion is the truth of what is happening in the present, so just know it.

If an emotion is strong you should label it with a mental note. For example, if you realize you're feeling angry, label the feeling "anger, anger" for one or two moments. If you're depressed, note "depression"; if anxious, note, "anxiety." Do the same with pleasant emotions: if you feel joyful, note "joy"; if peaceful, note "peace." You get the picture.

The insight meditation method entails a middle path between 1) suppressing an emotion and 2) indulging it by: "letting it out," trying to feel it more deeply, or thinking about it further. Whether an emotion is pleasant or unpleasant, the vipassana technique is simply to know it with impartial awareness, neither liking it nor wanting to make it go away.

Don't judge the emotion or your self. For instance, if you're suddenly livid, don't criticize yourself for getting angry. Instead, disengage the mind from any involvement in the anger and just watch it, as if you were watching it happen to someone on television, or as if you were a scientist examining a specimen under a microscope. Instead of "becoming" the emotion you mentally pull back from it, then turn your awareness around and observe it. The emotion then becomes another object of your attention. Now instead of being caught up in it you're looking at it from the outside.

Having noted the emotion for one or two moments, let go of it and bring your attention back to the primary meditation object. Over time this method weakens anger, depression, etc., since you are not "feeding" them with your thoughts and reactions. If you simply recognize the presence of these emotions when they appear but don't get hooked by them— that is, don't get upset or intrigued by them— they'll eventually fade out .

When in the grip of a negative emotion we tend to believe it will never end. But in training the mind to know emotion as it is, we come to see its impermanence. Then we realize that even strong grief, anger or fear can last only a moment before passing away. True, it might come back; but even so it passes away again instantly. When you leave an emotion alone and become an impartial observer, it has no power to control you or cause more suffering. The key is to be mindful as soon as it appears so you don't get hooked.

An emotion of any kind is not your self or the property of self. The sadness, anger, peace, etc., is only an impersonal phenomenon, a kind of mental weather that arises in the mind according to certain causes and then passes away.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by danieLion » Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:30 am

daverupa wrote:I'll stress this just once more: CBT =/= DBT. It might be worth investigating. The DBT module on Distress Tolerance, for example, was invaluable, and a continuing anapanasati practice can only strengthen wholesome results.
Absolutely. OP, do you know if there are any DBT therapists in your area?

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by PeterB » Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:40 am

Ben wrote:
Cilla wrote:I think you are a) depressed and thus in need of medication.
Very far off the mark in my humble opinion.
Quite so Ben, I wish I could diagnose people over the internet and come up with tailor made would make my life much easier..

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by ground » Fri Oct 14, 2011 4:27 pm

TMingyur wrote:Focus on metta and compassion practice ... gather whatever material you can to train in metta and compassion.
there is no management of anger other than to get rid of it. Are you able to focus anger exclusively on itself?
Anger is the worst of all afflictive emotions, the worst enemy that destroys all merit at the root and leads to great harm and suffering.
To continue ...

when there is a stirring of anger immediately emulate the corpse that you're going to be sooner or later. A corpse empty of thought and feelings of like or dislike, like a block of wood.
See the stupidity of being angry with other beings that will share your being a corpse sooner or later too.
Since this emulation will not last long arise from it with a thought that causes compassion. Train such kind of compassionate thoughts, make them a habit.
Also recall that untamed anger may entail the experience of being a "hell being" among "hell beings". Endless suffering.

kind regards

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by Monkey » Fri Oct 14, 2011 4:59 pm

Goenkaji speaks in his discourses that Vipassana will help you when you practice it in the right way. Don't expect this to happen within a single course though. If it took you 20 years to build up these irriational thought patterns, then it might take you another 20 years to get rid of them. Practice daily and you'll see results. If you're angry for 2 hours in a row, then it might be 1 hour and 55 minutes with daily practice. You won 5 minutes of your life. If you're angry 10 times a day, it might be 9 times a day with daily practice. These small steps will get you to your goal :).

Whenever I find myself angry, I try to focus on the physical sensations that go along with it. Say I've had an argument with someone which upset me, then it's not going to help me when I keep thinking of this person. I only get more angry if I think of that person. Instead of taking that person as the object of my focus, I'll take the physical sensations that go along with them. I try to watch them without judging them. They are bound to pass away after some time.

Sometimes I can be so angry that I can't even do that. I then try to change this emotion. I try to think happy thoughts, things that make me happy. That might be thinking about all the good qualities that the person I'm angry with has. All the good memories I have om that person.

Good luck with it mate :)!

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by MAV » Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:12 pm

Thank you all for your thoughtful replies. I am grateful for the time and effort you put into crafting them. I have already begun browsing online material from some of the earlier suggestions -- DBT for example -- and I look forward to doing the same with some of the more recent ones too. All in all, I am feeling much more hopeful about my ability to mitigate my anger habit than I did yesterday.

Once again, I am very grateful for your help.


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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by befriend » Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:59 pm

pattanumodana, (rejoicing in anothers merit.) trying to curb your anger is a source of merit in itself. also what if you took a VOW not tell yell at someone. do it for youself in the morning look at a buddha statue and put your hand on your heart or something, and vow to not to hurt others verbally. one of the precepts is RIGHT SPEECH. good luck! metta, befriend.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by nameless » Sat Oct 15, 2011 5:28 am

I think something worth keeping in mind is that anger is a form of aversion: one doesn't like things happening in a certain way, hence one gets angry.

Which has certain implications:
My conceit: If I get angry when things don't go my way, the underlying assumption is often that my way is the best way, or things SHOULD go my way, and everything who thinks or does otherwise should be punished. Which is a ridiculous assumption if one thinks about it, but often it feels justified because it goes unsaid.

The futility of trying to cure aversion with aversion: If one thinks of anger as a 'bad' thing, and tries to get rid of it, it is trying to cure aversion with aversion, which produces more aversion. Anger is not 'bad'. It is simply part of human nature, all of us get angry. Of course, neither is it 'good'. If we start simple and look at it from a non-Buddhist perspective, there is no problem with feeling angry, the problem lies with acting out that anger in destructive ways. So perhaps you could start by
- Acknowledging and accepting your anger, and reminding yourself not to act it out in destructive ways
- Recognizing that it is a habit, and know, as someone has mentioned, that habits can be changed, but not as quickly as one might hope, but that is ok
- Being mindful. We are conditioned to be angry because it gives us what seems to be short term pleasure (the rush of emotions, or the avoidance of the discomfort of not being able to be angry, we might get the attention we have been craving, people might be more willing to do what you demand, for example). But there are long term drawbacks, and if you are mindful, the short term pleasure is really a lot of discomfort (observe your body, how uncomfortable it is when anger makes you hot, makes your heart and lungs work harder, the tension in your muscles etc.).

Of course from the Buddhist perspective, anger is a defilement, and you might want to work on it more later, when it is more under control.
This might be good to read, at least the introduction if nothing else.

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by wizi » Sat Oct 15, 2011 6:18 pm

Hi Mav, it's tough to be a parent for the first time. I believe many of us in this tech-generation have a very self-centered existence where instant gratification is the norm. When we become parents for the first time, it can be quite an existential crisis that we are now supposed to be second to another human being, our child. I have had quite a lot of discussion on this with new moms and dads, and one of my friend also felt like you, the need to do the vipassana style retreat to deal with her anger issues. The anger issues have always been there but they no doubt scare her more now that she's a mom. She is panicking why she can't find that TLC within herself to give to her child.

Well, she did her vipassana retreat and her husband was very kind to take time off from work to take care of their toddler. The retreat felt good but her anger issues weren't abated, and each time her kid throws a tantrum, she'd blow her top too. Having said that, her daily practice helped to crack the code of anger. She's become more aware after each episode that her anger covers a prior emotion, an underlying feeling that was there even before the anger feelings arose. They were either an unmet physical or emotional need. And that identification is a big step to helping her to sort of nip the anger in the bud.

Well, a toddler's tantrum and anger has the same sort of code that needs cracking by her parents. For the kid, her anger and tantrum is related to unmet physical and emotional needs, that are more basic perhaps like the pain of an empty stomach, the irritation of a soiled diaper, the deprivation of a toy or the need for cuddling can all make her cry out for help.

I am sure you are worried about the way you blow up in front of your kid, that's why you are seeking some kinda help in anger-management. I am also concerned you could be looking for a miracle cure. Well, a 10 day silent meditation retreat is not going to be that 'miracle' cure. But in the depths of such an intensive silent contemplative practice, you may come to face your own impermanent existence, and realise how your child will someday have to live without you around to protect her. This realization can produce an overwhelming and profound effect on you. You may face an immense panic, fear, anger etc.. emotions that are all physiological and real. You eventually come to accept that the only way to swim out of this overwhelming emotion is to cultivate the state of "Equanimity" that Buddha (and Goenka in his retreats) has always striven to teach. And that experience towards attaining Equanimity in the face of deep emotional turbulence can gradually help you to deal with all the other hostile emotions that underly your anger. I must say you will need to maintain a daily practice. But that tool can gradually dissapate if you get slack in your daily practice. I would recommend you try out the Vipassana retreat if only for you to personally experience your deepest underlying emotional storm in your mind and body, and strive as ardently as you can to attain the state of Equanimity that gives inner peace and emanates love, compassion and kindness (metta meditation).

Why did the Zen meditation practice not work out?

There's also a really good book which I can recommend to you that gives a pretty good step-by-step guideline for raising responsible, productive and happy kids. The chapter on anger and tantrum is very revealing on how we as parents need to understand in order to help our kids grow with full self-esteem.

It's titled Your Child's Self-Esteem by Dorothy Briggs. There are chapters in there which when u read them, u may realise what your own parents failed to do with you and as a result, you could be as emotionally immature as a toddler sometimes! This is a fact that you have recognised about yourself from your therapies no doubt, but it's such an important step to self-acceptance and transformation! Good luck in your endeavour Mav! Please keep us informed how you progress and give your daughter and her mummy a warm hug! :thumbsup:
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by cooran » Sat Oct 15, 2011 7:19 pm

Hello Mav, all,

Defusing the anger bomb
What can you do when things are about to blow? Here’s some advance on working with anger – or any other strong emotion – with mindfulness
The 1997 movie The Peacemaker is mostly a routine and forgettable thriller. In fact, it is really pretty bad, but there are two things I remember about it. The first is the pairing of George Clooney and Nicole Kidman; and second there’s a scene right at the end that has stuck in my mind as an image for how mindfulness can help in a crisis.
There’s a bomb in the UN building that’s going to blow in a few seconds. Nicole Kidman knows how to defuse these things, but she’s panicking. George Clooney – a suave 007-type – takes hold of her shoulders, tells her to take a breath and asks her what she sees. She blinks, describes the type of bomb she’s looking at, and all of a sudden she knows what to do. The expertise and experience which the panic had obscured are available again. Snip, snip, snip … the clock is ticking. There are seconds left. Snip again … and we’re safe.

I’ve never had to defuse a real bomb but I’ve had my moments with metaphorical ones: the times when you feel you are about to blow. That’s when we need emotional bomb disposal skills, and find we can’t access them. We all know the theory: it’s good to keep your head in a crisis; yelling at people pisses them off and doesn’t achieve what we want; patience and tolerance are important qualities … But when it comes to the heat of the moment we are like Nicole Kidman in a panic and our good intentions vanish. The gall rises, the clock ticks … kaboom!

The key is remembering, or rather, remembering to remember. Usually, our focus is on the unacceptable thing that has just happened that has provoked our anger and things go wrong when we just act on that without pausing to notice what’s really happening or consider our response. Paying attention to our responses can eventually become a habit, but to start with we need simple things we can do in the moment. Firstly, it helps to place your attention on something that has a calming effect. That’s where the breath comes in. The generations of mums who told their children to take a breath and count to ten knew what they were doing. For most people, the breath – especially the out breath – tends to be calming and reassuring (though maybe not if you suffer from asthma, for example). Paying attention to the breath in this way also takes our attention away from the thoughts that are screaming in our heads, giving us the all-important distance we need.

In that space it’s possible to remember mindfulness. Like someone defusing a real bomb, you need to stop rather than just acting out the emotion that’s in you. The difference is that you don’t need to snap the leads to inner explosives. We aren’t very good at doing two things at the same time, so it’s hard to both feel angry and at the same time to stand back from our anger, observing and exploring it. Just paying attention to feelings of anger tends to diffuse them.

But mindfulness isn’t just a calming device: it means exploring what’s happening in all its dimensions. So, take a breath to create some space and then ask yourself: what am I looking at? You will probably notice that a whole array of sensations come together to comprise the experience we call ‘anger. There are feelings: irritation, distress, the urgent need to defend oneself. There are thoughts: ‘This isn’t acceptable’, ‘I’m not standing for this!’ ‘Just who do they think I am?’ There are feelings of anger and perhaps frustration and upset just beneath them. And if you stop for a moment you may notice that there are also intense bodily sensations: tightness in the stomach that keeps bubbling up into an impulse to move and act. Pay some attention and there’s a whole volcano down there! Then there’s the situation itself. What has just happened and what it means to me. There’s what the other person said, and what I bring to it myself.

It is helpful to distinguish feelings, thoughts and sensations because they express different needs. The thoughts about the situation may be true and they may be untrue – they probably need some reflection. But even when they are accurate, it helps to separate them from the feelings underlying them. When you need to make a point to someone, it can undermine you if you are feeling upset and haven’t fully acknowledged that. So acknowledge to yourself the painfulness of what has happened, breathe with them and give them some space.

Whatever we are feeling, our emotions often manifest in the body, which is why our stomachs churn when we are upset, our shoulders tighten when we are stressed and our jaws clench when we feel determined. Those are typical responses, at any rate, and each of us experiences emotions in our own ways. Not everyone experiences emotions in this way, but if you do you have a remarkable ally in bringing awareness to what you feel. Our emotions express the impact of things that are important to us, and it isn’t enough to decide consciously to push them down. Noticing the bodily manifestation of those feelings is an excellent way of paying them attention without identifying with them or being bowled along by them.

These are essential bomb-disposal skills that we all need. Mindfulness doesn’t mean that you don’t speak out, but it might help you say the important thing that will really get through to the other person. It also doesn’t mean that you don’t get upset, though it might mean that you develop a wider perspective on those feelings. Above all, it means that when difficult things happen we have access to all the wisdom and understanding we have developed in our lives and the skills to apply it, whatever is happening. ... anger-bomb" onclick=";return false;

with metta
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---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Post by chownah » Sun Oct 16, 2011 4:07 am

I've thought about this a bit and I really think that meditation to create vipassana is probably not your best choice. Vipassana requires a calm, focused, and directed mind....the anger which you describe is almost assuredly a show stopper if pursueing least that is what I think. I am certainly not an expert on vipassana as such so do not take my comments as definitive...maybe just do a bit of study and then see what you think about this idea. If you want to pursue some form of meditation to help with anger I think that you need some form of calming or serenity meditation...maybe metta meditation or just plain breath concentration.

My view is that vipassana is something that is used to eliminate even controlled anger completely through insight which is a very "advanced" sort of thing whereas calming meditation is what is better for reducing uncontrolled anger to a more reasonable level....
If someone here thinks I'm seriously wrong about this then I hope they post and explain.
Last edited by chownah on Sun Oct 16, 2011 4:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

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