Here are some things I have learned about reducing pain and suffering, learned from Buddhist teachers, from friends, and from personal mindfulness practice.
Holding Pain in Your Hand
When I feel pain -- fear, shame, guilt, stress -- I used to feel it strongly in my chest. It can feel intense -- "knives in" -- as if my ribs are turning in to my heart.
A technique I've learned is to visualize this pain as something you can hold in your hand, like a rock. When you are suffering, you can look at the imagined rock in your hand, looking closely at it, and saying - "I see you, pain. I see you, suffering. I am holding you in my hand. You are not in my heart. You can not kill me. Some day soon, I am going to be strong enough to throw you away, but for now, I see you."
Removing the pain from your heart removes its power.
Evolution of Rage
Here are three stages of evolution for me and road rage:
- Stage 1. Fury. I wanted to yell at the other driver, flip them off, or sometimes, race ahead to cut them off. I was stuck in this stage for many years.
- Stage 2. Still angry, but, realizing that anger hurts myself, I realize that the person who cut me off is an angry person, and their anger will get taken care of by someone else so I don't have to do it myself. I then became stuck in this stage for a few years.
- Stage 3. This is where I am at today. When someone crosses me, I realize that if I had their chemistry, childhood, and the day they just had, I would have cut me off as well. I smile now, and try to love the other person. :)
Somewhat related, see also trust models, as both of these concepts deal with how you respond to injury from others.
I was once driving my friend Lucy to Logan Airport in Boston. We were driving in intense, stop-and-go traffic on Memorial Drive in Cambridge. Luckily, we had left my house an hour early, so there was virtually no chance of missing her flight.
Lucy was amazed that the intense traffic did not phase me at all, and that I stayed cheerful.
I had read from Thich Nhat Hanh that when you see the tail lights of the car in front of you, that it should remind you of the smiling eyes of Buddha, and that you have the great priviledge of breathing, right then and there.
Getting angry in traffic does not get you there any faster, so why waste emotion being angry? Just always try to leave early, so that traffic will have no power over you. And smile. :)
Anger is a Choice
"Being angry at someone else is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."
I view anger as self-harm. I imagine anger as creating a cancerous tumor in my body.
If someone upsets you, you would not hit yourself in the head with a hammer, so why do you get angry? It is doing the same thing.
When you realize this, that anger is a choice, and causes self-harm, anger then loses its power over you, and you can make it disappear.
"The past is history, the future is a mystery, and the present moment is a gift."
Suffering is caused by thinking about what has happened to you in the past, or what might happen to you in the future.
There is no psychological pain in the present moment.
Sometimes when you are feeling dark, you should give yourself a gift, force your face muscles to smile, and decide to put off worrying until tomorrow.
For more info about getting rid of anger, a great book is Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh.