Poet and peace advocate Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who has lived in exile in France for the past 30 years. Through his more than 20 books and his frequent retreats, this widely respected spiritual teacher has tutored people from all religious traditions about the art of living mindfully in the present moment, practicing compassion, and achieving peace in personal relationships and societal structures.
In this extremely wise and practical volume, Nhat Hanh introduces spiritual practices we can use to deal with a major toxin in our world anger. This poison destroys the quality of marriages, family life, urban living, and international affairs. The food we eat, the media we experience, and rampant personal and societal violence are all its triggers.
What can we do to handle this raging fire in our daily lives? We can embrace the howling baby of our anger with tenderness: "My dear anger, I know you are there, I am taking good care of you." Using other images, this Buddhist teacher advises us to see our rage as potatoes that need to be cooked or as garbage that needs to be changed into nourishing compost.
Nhat Hanh challenges us to stem the tide of anger by healing our wounded inner child and by stopping any cycle of anger we've received from our families. We can ask those closest to us not to water the seeds of rage within us but instead to compassionately listen to us when we boil over. Again and again, the author emphasizes that compassion is the best antidote for anger. But it requires patience.
When we are angry at others, we can try practicing nonviolence. The Buddha suggested an even more radical approach giving a gift to someone who has enraged us. Another spiritual practice is to sign a peace treaty with our partners and other members of our family. After all, the real enemy is not the other person but the violence, ignorance, and injustice inside us.
The traditional Buddhist practices of meditation, mindful breathing, and mindful walking are also recommended. Here is a beautiful technique that anyone could use in daily life as a practice to stem the rise of anger. "In old times, servants of kings and queens always had to have a mirror, because whenever anyone was presented to the emperor, they had to be perfect in their appearance. So for the sake of formal etiquette, people would carry a pouch with a small mirror inside. Try it. Carry a mirror with you and look at it to see what state you are in. After you have breathed in and out a few times, smiling at yourself, the tension will be gone, and you will obtain some relief."