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A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger
Anger directly affects us all. Road rage. Domestic violence. Habitually angry TV and radio commentators. Modern societies worldwide are awash in anger, and many modern humans are constantly on the verge of snapping.
Leonard Scheff, an American trial attorney, once used anger to fuel his court persona -- until he came to realize just how destructive anger is. Scheff's intense study of Buddhism and Zen meditative practice changed his life -- and can illuminate a self-help path for you to change your life.
Your transformation can begin with a simple parable:
Imagine you are circling a crowded parking lot when, just as you spot a space, another driver races ahead and takes it. Easy to imagine the rage.
But now imagine that instead of another driver, a cow has lumbered into that parking space and settled down. The anger dissolves into bemusement.
What really changed? You.
You're hitting your hand with a hammer. If you stop you'll feel better.
Overcoming anger is meaningfully different from "managing" anger. This Zen approach to anger has little in common with approaches to anger "management" popularized by many self-help books. Managing anger is like putting a mean dog on a leash: he can still bite you or other people. Transforming anger is making the dog into a friendly pet.
The Cow in the Parking Lot teaches how to harness the powerful but entirely negative energy of anger and change it into positive and compassionate emotions, giving you the strength to love others and live at peace with yourself.
Based upon the teachings of the Dalai Lama and other important Buddhist teachers from the Buddha to the present, the processes, tools and practical exercises Scheff and co-author Susan Edmiston present will help you discover inner resources that allow you to replace the distress and negativity of anger with the comfort, tranquility and joy of patience, tolerance and compassion.
Derived from the successful anger transformation program Scheff created and teaches, The Cow in the Parking Lot teaches that anger arises from an unmet demand, and illuminates the sources of the four most common types of anger:
Important and Reasonable You want love from your partner
Reasonable but Unimportant You didn’t get that seat in the restaurant window
Irrational You want respect from a stranger
Impossible You want someone to fix everything wrong in your life
Scheff and Edmiston show how -- once we identify our real unmet demands -- we can dissolve anger and how, once we understand our "buttons," we can change what happens when they’re pushed.
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Scheff and Edmiston understand that the transformation of anger into positive emotions is an effective way to create permanent, life-long, change. They teach that approaches that only attempt to "manage" anger leave the sources of anger untouched, and leave people in the position of always "restraining the beast."
When anger is transformed you learn to choose not to be angry or, if you continue to experience anger, how to transform the negativity of anger into the positive experience of compassion.
Using simple Buddhist principles and presenting them in a way that is easy for non-Buddhists to understand and put into practice, Scheff and Edmiston have created a self-help book that uses your own experiences with anger and thus helps readers change their perspective, step by step, so that they can replace the anger in their lives with a newfound happiness.
The book asserts that only you can make yourself angry. Why choose anger when you could choose happiness and serenity? Scheff and Edmiston show us how to laugh at our misguided choice of anger over tranquility -- a powerful early step in changing the experience of anger and angry behavior.
As you finish reading The Cow in the Parking Lot -- and continue to observe and practice the self-help exercises dilligently -- a beautiful new and elegantly simple reality presents itself: it doesn't matter who gets that parking space. You may even learn to wish the brash interloper well and hope he is happy with his conquest!
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