Mindfulness of Anger

Take three minutes and try this mindfulness practice for dealing with one of our strongest emotions.

Illustration by Michael Woloschinow

Anger—it has an awesome power. Just think back to the last time you really felt it. What words come to mind? Hot? Addictive? Adrenaline rush?

We’re not destined to respond to anger the same way every time we feel it. By tapping into the experience of anger, and bringing compassion to it, we can learn how to approach this dangerous, often explosive emotion in a healthier way.

Take about three minutes with each response. You may also lengthen that time if you want to try more intensity.

1. Find your seat and check in with your body. Sit in a comfortable yet alert position with your hands resting comfortably and your eyes gently closed. Check in with your body, and feel the places where it makes contact with the chair or cushion.

2. Take some deep breaths, completely filling the torso with air, then completely release the breath.

3. Think back to a time when you experienced anger, relatively recently. You don’t need to choose your worst episode. In fact, it’s wise to start with something smaller. Envision and experience what happened, allowing yourself to feel the anger again, right now. Allow the feeling to get as strong as possible within a zone of safety (e.g., not getting to the point where you want to get up and scream and jump around!).

4. Notice what arises. Other emotions, such as sadness or fear, may arise as you remember the episode. For now, see if you can stay with the feeling of anger.

5. Where in your body do you experience anger? Explore this feeling. You may be tempted to try to push it away. Instead, investigate how it feels, noticing gross and subtle sensations. As you notice a sensation, inquire whether it increases or decreases in intensity. Does it change or move? Is it warm or cool?

6. Practice bringing compassion to the anger. The feeling of anger is normal, part of being human. We all experience it at times. See if you can cradle your own anger like a mother cradling a newborn. What happens if you hold it in this way, with tenderness and care?

7. Say goodbye to the feeling. Slowly bring your attention back to the breath and stay with it for a while, letting your emotions settle into the spaciousness of your breath and awareness.

8. After you finish, reflect. Which sensations did you notice in your body? Did they change as you observed them? Were you able to bring compassion to the anger? How did you do that? What happened to the anger at that point?