Two warriors and anger

Transforming anger has been a life long pursuit for me. Today I’d like to share a story that I heard from my yoga teacher about twenty-five years ago. I still find it inspiring. Now it’s quite likely that I’m not remembering it accurately. The story originated from spiritual scripture but I haven’t been able to find it. If you know this story I’d love to hear from you.

I went to my teacher because I really wanted to change my anger response to my mother. Now looking back on it I realize that youth often responds with impatience and irritation to parents, as the fluctuating hormones in the body have such a powerful influence. At that time I was so upset with myself to observe those unpleasant emotions arising in me and even though I was trying so hard in the moment I couldn’t shift to a more loving space inside myself. Of course in other times I could feel great love and admiration for my mother and I just couldn’t stand these horrible emotions contaminating our relationship.

Now I was not expecting a story from him. I thought he would give me some yoga postures to practice. Well come to think of it, he gave me an inner posture :).

This story is about two ancient warriors who adhered to an extraordinary code of conduct. They were both born in, and trained under this tradition, so they both followed the same guidelines of honor. One day they were engaged in fierce battle against each other. The fighting had been going on for hours as each tried to get the better of the other. Suddenly with one powerful thrust one warrior was able to fling away the sword of the other. Now one combatant was on the ground, defenseless and the other one held him captive with his sword at the ready to take his head off. The tension was high. Would this be the moment a life would be lost?

After a long moment, the warrior on the ground spat into the face of his opponent who was standing over him. The one with the sword then walked away. What happened here? What explains this behavior of the swordsman who was almost victorious? Why did he walk away when he seemed to have everything on his side and he was on the brink of success?

The explanation lies in their code of conduct. Even though their life was spent on the battle field, they were not allowed to kill in anger. When that swordsman felt the spittle hit his face anger arose in him. In that moment he was not able to master that anger and so to keep his honor intact he walked away.

An amazing story don’t you think? You can see why it has stayed fresh in my memory all these years. I see the choice open to me to walk away from a situation if I cannot control my anger, but also to see the price that I pay in walking away. So there is tremendous motivation in me to try to deal with this very powerful emotion.

I hope you too found the story thought provoking.



3 Responses to Two warriors and anger

  1. Pingback: Life lessons from two warriors « Chanmadhavi's Blog

  2. Marlene says:

    I recently commented on this blog that, when confronted by anger, I sometimes found it useful to retreat in order to be silent for a while, to give both myself and the other person a chance to calm down and come back to centre, and to self-reflect before determining how best to proceed moving forward.

    Then I saw a television program this week where a world-renowned researcher on marriage and relationships, Dr. John Gottman, discussed the four negative patterns in relationships he calls “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” They are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Gottman says stonewalling is also know as the silent treatment and he continues by saying, “The stonewaller is really trying to calm down and not make it worse, but when you’re faced with somebody who’s silent like that, you escalate. So, it’s a very disruptive pattern.” I had believed that silence could calm things down, but now I am trying to shift my thinking about this strategy as it had not really occurred to me that the silence could actually escalate an issue. And when I contemplate it, I realize I don’t like it when somebody gives me the silent treatment, my imagination can get the better of me while I wait it out, and I can see how it could prolong the time it could take to come to a resolution.

    I found it interesting that another one of the four negative patterns Gottman identified as being damaging to relationships is the pattern Madhavi said she found most ingrained in her, and one I find I also use sometimes, which is defensiveness.

    So I am asking myself, “Why do I continue to use self-defeating patterns that I know don’t work? Is it because I don’t recall better strategies in the moment I experience anger?”

    I did find the story you presented in your post today very thought provoking, Madhavi. It has caused me to pause and reconsider this subject yet again…to consider that if I cannot control my anger in the moment it arises and I choose to walk away, that there could be a price to pay even in walking away! So it appears I would be better off if I could learn to deal with anger the moment it arises in me. This brings me back to, “How can I best control the powerful emotion of anger so that it does disturb me in the first place?” So I am now trying to piece together some of the good strategies already outlined on this blog.

    I liked Henk’s recent suggestion that we ask for help from within and to recognize that support is always there from beings all around us. He also suggested we remain calm and very focused, using breathing as an aid. And I liked Nathalie’s idea of sending peace to the situation whenever tension exists.

    If I continue to be aware that my negative emotions affect the space, it brings me to the realization that the other person is also being affected by my negative emotions since we are sharing the same space. If I can bring love and compassion and forgiveness into the space right away, not only am I creating a better inner environment for myself, I am also creating a better environment for the other person to think, feel, speak and act in, as they would feel a different energy in the space. And I like the idea of having a plan in place for how I would ideally want to deal with the situation when it arises, and then rehearsing it in advance by practicing in a neutral environment. As Madhavi said, if we have a plan in place then we’re more likely to be able to recall some aspect of that plan when we need it and be better able to deal with the situation.

    I also liked Madhavi’s idea of observing oneself so one can see more in the situation, such as the effect it has on one’s own body, the effect it has on the other person’s body, the driving force and power of emotion, the contracted pattern of thinking, etc. And then remembering how if I allow anger to rise up in me I will be in the same place as the other person and how uncomfortable a space that can be. And also how observing myself can enable me to remember we are all one in spirit and to choose a more expansive, embracing mode where I can relate to the other person as myself. It puts the power of response in my hands.

    Since it is not an easy thing to deal with full-blown anger the moment it arises, and knowing that it would be ideal to have plan in place before a situation involving anger actually occurs, any more tips or suggestions you can offer to add to the arsenal would be most welcomed!

    • Chan Madhavi says:

      Hi Marlene
      You inspired me to keep the theme going. I hope in today’s post you find some gems!

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