The Energy of Anger
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty p*ssed. There’s so much ignorance, greed, hate, and suffering. How can we treat each other like this?
I’m angry that I feel I don’t have enough time, and I’m not doing enough, and I still use a cell phone, even though I know about the mining of conflict minerals.
I’m angry at feeling powerless.
Anger brews inside of us, begging to be expressed physically. The constant shoving down of anger—the pretending—chips away at us, even if it is just a program running unnoticed in the background.
That’s how it used to be for me. But things are different now because I know a secret—and I’m dying to share it!
The Secret that Needs to be Shared
That anger we feel is a powerful fuel. If we knew how to direct that power and what fire to add the fuel to, that anger could be transformed into clarity, confidence, and compassion.
My secret is Tog Chöd, the Tibetan Wisdom Sword. It is a unique Tantric Buddhist method for transforming negative emotions, especially anger. This dance with a sword is dynamic, but at its core it is a mental training. The goal is to become free of self-limiting thoughts through focused attention and higher purpose.
The reason I call it a secret is because I am one of only three Tog Chöd teachers in all of North America, and the only one actively training new teachers. It’s taken off in Europe, but the seeds are just getting planted here.
It’s a ripe time because there is a lot for us Americans to be angry about. For our own health and the health of the planet, we should channel the power of that anger in a positive direction. That is why I am seeking passionately compassionate people to share this practice.
Don’t Reject, Transform
In early 2002 in Manali, India, I met my teacher, Tulku Lobsang Rinpoche. He introduced me to the Tantric Buddhist tradition. I was not looking for religion, but his potent presence and energy and profound teachings drew me in. Well, that’s putting it lightly. Meeting him completely shaped the direction of my life.
Fast forward 16 years and my life is devoted to sharing the Tibetan healing wisdom. I teach traditional Buddhist methods for using the body as a vehicle to transform the mind, including Lu Jong Tibetan Yoga and Tsa Lung Breathwork.
In the Tantric path of Buddhism (called Vajrayana or Tantrayana), nothing is rejected. Everything can be used as a tool for our transformation into a diamond-like being—luminescent, clear, and indestructible.
To aid our transformation, we use what we already have. We have a body and we have negative emotions (and sleep and sex and death, but those are topics for another day). Rather than pushing emotions away, we can skillfully employ them in our service.
Cutting Through the Noise—Enter Tog Chöd
Tog means “thought” and Chöd means “cut.” Executing the decisive movements of the sword, we become fully present, cultivating mindfulness. Thoughts—and our identification with them—reduce. We begin to experience spaciousness.
The forms themselves, which are rooted in the Kalachakra Tsa Lung exercises and Yama Monk Dances, cultivate a particular energetic quality in the body. But the true magic comes when the practice is infused with multiple layers of meaning and intent through prayer, mantra, and mindset. With the proper motivation, we can purify ourselves.
A Wrathful Being to Liberate Them All
Practicing Tog Chöd, I feel as though I am stepping into another version of myself. It is like putting on a costume. I become someone else, a spiritual warrior battling ignorance and liberating myself from oppression. The thing is, it feels more like who I really am.
During the practice, we draw on anger to motivate ourselves, to be more focused and alert. We direct its energy toward a clear goal—to unravel the knots in our mind and tap into our innate wisdom.
This is just like the approach of the wrathful deities in Tibetan thangkas. Sometimes the kind, gentle sage that tells us, “Oh no, that is not a good idea. You really shouldn’t do that,” isn’t enough to wake us up. Sometimes, what we really need is a wrathful sage whose sudden shout jars us out of our habitual trance. “Wake up! There is no enemy outside yourself! Battle those negative emotions! You only need to win with your own mind! Take action! Now!”
Of course, one needs to be intelligent when drawing on the energy of anger. One’s heart must be pure. We use anger as the temporary motivation, but the deep motivation is always compassion—for ourselves and others.
Change One, Change All
For now, Tog Chöd remains an oral tradition. The way to learn it is at a workshop, retreat, or teacher training. If that is not feasible, here are some tips for how you can use some of the Tantric principles informing this practice.
Affirm your belief in your pure nature and state your resolve to come closer to it for the good of yourself and all beings.
Assume a power pose, such as horse stance or a side lunge. Be very focused as you hold this pose or move mindfully between a few.
Visualize yourself as a pure, powerful being. (Put on your costume!)
Stomp and yell. This is not a temper tantrum. This should be a controlled, decisive act. Move forward and with each step stomp and declare, “Release my anger!” “Release my attachment!” “Release my ignorance!”
Sit and breathe. Rest in your natural awareness. Relax and try not to follow any thoughts that arise.
The key is to act. And the best action we can take is to change ourselves.
As we train the powers of our mind—focused attention, present moment awareness, nonthinking mind—we see that fleeting emotions and anxious thoughts are not who we really are. We are powerful beings who create our reality!
So let’s cut through the noise and experience the spaciousness of the mind. This is where we encounter our true nature, our wise guide. When we can make decisions from this place, we can confidently create the life—and world—that we want.