Spiritual Practice – Releasing Anger

Election seasons can bring up a lot of difficult emotions. What do we do with our anger? My first thought is: Along with Dilbert, we all need to take a break from social media!

Strong “negative” emotions were not allowed in my family when I was a child; anger, grief, and sadness were all suppressed. As I’ve aged, I’ve learned these feelings are not negative emotions; they are just emotions. They are as much a part of me as happiness, joy, and delight. But, learning to be comfortable with them has taken longer.

I love how the ancient scriptures do not condemn these feelings. Psalm 4:4 teaches,

“When you are angry, do not sin.”

It doesn’t say don’t be angry, but when you are angry, don’t hurt anyone or yourself with your anger.

What do we do then, when we are angry? I’ve written before about the Welcoming Prayer. It’s always a good place to start. When any uncomfortable emotions come, welcome them and sit with them. Acknowledge them as part of you and ask what they are trying to tell you. If we listen, we can learn what is bugging us. If we suppress those feelings, we will most likely have physical difficulties like stomach aches or headaches. Suppressed emotions don’t magically go away; they just come out in different ways, hurting our own bodies or hurting those we love.

How do we release the anger from our bodies? When I was a mom of young kids, working, and going to graduate school, I felt anger and frustration as I tried to juggle all of my responsibilities. I call it my Alanis Morrissette decade, as I loved her angry Jagged Little Pill album. I’d crank it up and do some angry vacuuming to release my anger, or I’d go for a run and pound my rage into the pavement.

When my son was little, he had a lot of anger, mostly because he didn’t have the words he needed to tell us what bugged him. I taught him to pile up pillows and hit them with a plastic bat. When he outgrew that, we got him a punching bag, and when he was angry, he’d wail on that. Once he hit it so hard, he knocked it off the hook. Can you see why we need ways to get the anger out of our bodies? If that anger had been directed at a person, it would not have gone well.

My daughter Stephanie made this mosaic

In Cindy Bunch’s book, Be Kind to Yourself: Releasing Frustrations and Embracing Joy, she introduces the idea of releasing anger by smashing things. She suggests waiting until no children are around so as not to scare them, and then dash plates onto the cement to break them. She used this idea after her divorce when she was grieving. She says that when you are done smashing, you can either sweep up the broken pieces and throw them away or use them to make a mosaic, showing how you can make something beautiful out of your grief.

Some people garden, taking their anger out on those pesky weeds, others exercise, scream in the car, or weep in the shower. Of course, once you have words for your anger, it’s always good to talk to someone about what’s bugging you. A friend, a pastor, a spiritual director, or a therapist can be a big help. I’d love to know how you release anger. What have you found helpful? What works or doesn’t work for you?

Photo of lion by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Photo of runner by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Spiritual Practice – Making an Altar

Six months into the pandemic things are getting difficult. Civil unrest around seeking justice for people of color continues and America can’t seem to get a foothold on this virus. Massive numbers of people are dying and sick. Today, I may have forgotten to put on pants. Thankfully, I don’t really go anywhere these days. Anyway, I thought it would be a good time to focus on something positive.

In the Old Testament people were always stopping to build altars, or memorial stones, to mark important events in their lives with God. I’ve been reading the coolest little book by my friend Cindy Bunch. She and I went through our spiritual direction program together. Her book is called, “Be Kind to Yourself: Releasing Frustrations and Embracing Joy.” In it she has a ton of very accessible spiritual practices.

The one I want to highlight is making an altar. I’ve never tried this, although Cindy makes alters all the time to celebrate or mark significant events. They are temporary things that she takes a picture of to remember each event. She may leave them up for an hour or for weeks; she may make them indoors or outdoors. She marks what she  calls “moments of grace.”

“You could pick up items on a walk, arrange them outside, use the altar for prayer and meditation, and then walk away from it as a way to reinforce the moment but not hold on to it. You can, of course, take a picture to preserve the memory and return to those moments of grace.”

I decided to make an altar representing what is getting me through the pandemic. First, I thought of books. I’ve been reading Robin Hobb’s Assassin series (I’m on book 13) and it is so engaging, I just love it. So, I put a stack of those on a chair. Then I added a paint by number kit I sent for. It’s ridiculously hard but I’m enjoying it in small bits. Of course, the Black Lives Matter protests are ever on my mind and I’m committed to learning and listening, so I added two books I’m reading with my book club. And I added a candle to represent my spiritual practices, which I am enjoying most every morning. Without these I would probably not be surviving at all.

If you’d like to give this practice a try, I’d love to see a picture of what is helping you get through this pandemic. And I’d highly recommend Cindy’s book as it is a very important time to Be Kind to Yourself! Otherwise you might just leave home without your pants.

Photo of altar rocks by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Second pic is mine