Buddhist advice for children who are about to lose their temper + punch someone.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jul 30, 2010
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Buddhist Advice on What to do if You’re about to Lose it + Start a Fight.

I don’t know about you, but I lose my temper once every few months, if only for a few minutes. But when it’s over I’ve hurt someone’s feelings and acted like a big silly idiot.

So I found this advice helpful. It’s from Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa, who played a pivotal role in bringing Buddhism from Tibet to the West after the Chinese invasion. ~ ed.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche:

If you’re about to have a fight, just flash [the feeling you have when you meditate], and then hold steady.

The idea of wanting to have a fight begins to dissolve, and, in turn, because of that, one begins to develop what is known as compassion. You begin to have more trust in yourself, less destructiveness in yourself, and less pain. And because you have less pain, therefore you’re able to communicate that to other people.

Working with oneself that way, in turn, you begin to work with others.

That seems to be the basic point of why you have to practice meditation.

~ Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

(Click for source of above photos and another great talk, this one for parents, on The Shambhala Times).


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


17 Responses to “Buddhist advice for children who are about to lose their temper + punch someone.”

  1. yogajo says:

    What does he mean by just "flash"?

  2. Ronnie McCarthy says:

    I've heard the phrase "flash of anger"; I think he means to let the anger come over you, feel it, acknowledge it and then as fast as it erupts, it turns into compassion, or dissipates. Like when an enclosed flame gets a burst of oxygen, it flashes and then returns to normal. In the interim, we should not act on it, just be aware of it and it will pass. 🙂

  3. Greg Houston says:

    He’s referring to flashing on the view, which in it it’s most accessible form is simply flashing on openness. You’re creating a little gap; creating space for the anger to self-liberate and for wisdom to manifest in the situation.

    “That basic human quality of suddenly opening up is the best part of human instinct. You know what to do right away, on the spot -which is fantastic. That is what we call the dot, or basic goodness and unconditional instinct.”

    Flashing on openness basically cuts through attachment and aversion for a moment. It can briefly cut through thoughts such as crazy story lines we have got ourselves stuck in.

    Attachment and aversion are basically the opposite of openness. They solidify our perception of what is going on, create obscurations in space, and strengthen our dualistic sense of self and other. The more we can practice their opposite, flashing on openness, the more we can relax into space and allow situations to flow by unimpeded. The world takes on more of a dreamlike quality, not so solid and threatening, and since we are not so strongly self-invested in what we are perceiving, compassion can start to naturally arise along with wisdom in each moment.

    See the Lojong slogans, “Look at all experience as a dream.”, “Examine the nature of unborn awareness.”, and “In daily life, be a child of illusion.” With a lot more words, they are all pointing to the same thing Trungpa was getting at here with flashing on openness.

    If Waylon is correct, and the above was a teaching given to children, what really amazes me is Trungpa’s faith that children could practice flashing on openness. It’s an incredibly simple practice, but one that requires a certain degree of mindfulness.

  4. Joanne says:

    Thank you for explaining Greg, and you did it so well. Some things to ponder on.

  5. Greg Houston says:

    Waylon just posted the full teaching in another article here. Immediately before the instruction above, Trungpa briefly introduces the view of egolessness to the children. He then connects the view with everyday activity, with the instruction that when mindfulness suddenly arises, "look at yourself and try to be calm with some sense of not holding on to anything", and then hold steady.

    "Not holding on to anything" is openness. Calm is a quality of it. For a child or even a new practitioner, relating to the notion of "calm" is probably easier at first than to "not holding on to anything". Later, as a familiarity with openness increases, you can flash directly on openness and calm is included in that. In this way you bypass the possible obstacle of trying to calm the aggression or whatever afflictive emotion might be arising.

  6. Linda says:

    This reminds me of a story I'm sure my son has heard, which relates to very young children and tantrums: Waylon was just two and had never really had a tantrum. I was fixing spagetti and the sauce was boiling in the heavy cast iron pan, the noodles were boiling and I needed my two hands to drain them. Just then Waylon wanted to be picked up NOW. But I couldn't. So he raised his arms as if to throw himself down on the cold linoleum floor, but looking at the cold hard floor with arms still raised, he turned and waddled onto the hallway carpet, throwing himself on the softer surface! His father David and I burst out laughing, and Waylon never had another 2 year old tantrum. You could say he "flashed" basic sanity, seeing the linoleum and thinking of a kinder alternative, which also enabled his parents not to buy into his dramatic klesha.

  7. catlyn777 says:

    Funny story, Linda! =)

  8. […] Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-1987), whom I first quoted and wrote a little bio for here.  This is it: If you’re about to have a fight, just flash [the feeling you have when you meditate], and […]

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  11. […] of course, needless to say, make sure violence is a last resort—never excusable, no matter what others on the playground might say or […]

  12. […] mind, or temper? Just come back to the present, without blame. Leave the room if you have to. As Buddhism advises, if you’re angry, turn your self into a piece of wood—ie, do not act out your anger. Just leave. Anger is […]

  13. 4simpleliving says:

    When my daughter was young her ADD caused her much anger and frustration. I told her she was not allowed to act out towards other people/animals however she was allowed to throw her stuffed animals against the wall until she could get herself "in check". Rather than boiling over in a rage she learned to control herself and her emotions. That brief moment of pause and redirection is what can make the difference between acting and reacting.

  14. Linda V. Lewis says:

    Just remember. If one practices daily, it's easier to recall the full stop experience of shamatha, or mindfulness practice, mindful breath. One isn't then either expressing the anger nor suppressing it–you could say you are then aerating it and riding the anger rather than the anger riding you. Mixing anger with the breath makes it ride-able.
    Often people including children get off by expressing anger. They people the power of self-righteous which can become addictive. And such addiction creates many messes, destroying many friendships.
    But genuine power and mastery come from self-control, and riding the energy of whatever emotion arises.

  15. Linda V. Lewis says:

    Yes, you're right on.
    And VCTR did have tremendous faith in children to do this, as at Vidya School children from grade 1-12 meditated at least 5 minutes at the beginning and at the end of the day, the older students obviously meditating longer.
    So he saw this as entirely possible, not just from his Tibetan experience, but from witnessing the children of his many students.

  16. Sue says:

    I’m prone to anger when I feel taken for granted or advantage of….It is not an out burst as much as slow build up that once release won’t subside for a very long time. Another challange I have is there is alot of wisdom in the anger that may not have surrfaced with out it….so I have to learn to harness this great energy for the good of all concerned.