Why Does Meditation Make Me Angry

IMG_7795-001A meditation audio course participant asks:
“Hi Roger, I’m finding when I meditate I get really angry. I remember things that have happened and I get angry and I don’t know what to do. Can you help me.”

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This is a very interesting question, and very common to a lot of people when they first come to meditation.

When I began to meditate I had a similar problem, made worse by my misapprehension that the meditation experience was suppose to be tranquil – blissful. After all, that was what I’d heard. It was what I’d read about. So I meditated with these expectations in mind.

But meditation for me wasn’t calm or tranquil … not at all.

The opposite in fact. My meditation was usually an exercise in extreme suffering – my breath would shorten and become painfully tight, my body would go stiff as a board and my mind would become a swirling mess of uncontrollable thinking. Either that or I’d fall into weird unconscious states, waking with the alarm feeling disoriented and sluggish.

And when I meditated with a group I’d look around at other people sitting calmly around me as I tied myself in knots, struggling to stay awake, and I thought it was only me who was so apparently hopeless at meditation. But later I found my experience was common – the only difference being other people were better at sitting still than I was.

But every so often, me or some other person would arise from meditation with a big smile, having had a rare pleasant experience loosely resembling tranquility, and we’d think we were ‘getting there’.

“Now that was meditation,” we’d think, and we’d tell each other about our ‘incredible’ experience.

But next time, as we began a new meditation and the old suffering began again, we’d be bitterly disappointed.

Problem was, the expectations most of us had in our heads were supported by all the bad meditation teachers, who spoke loftily about ‘calm’ an ‘being at one with oneself’ – so the search for bliss went on. And the more anxious and frazzled I felt, the harder I tried to create calm, and bliss, applying the meditation method like a strait jacket, or a hammer, trying to bludgeon myself into this mysterious tranquility I was supposed to be experiencing.

And so it went – a ridiculous chasing of an illusion in my head, in which I created suffering out of the simple act of sitting still.

…………………………………………………………………………

It wasn’t until I traveled to Thailand and practiced under my first teacher, Acharn Thawee, that I realized what the problem was. I’d come to practice for a month, expecting this length of time and intensity would finally break the wall of suffering that stood between me and what I thought meditation was supposed to be.

Acharn Thawee left the teaching of first timers to his assistant, Phra Manfred, a stern German monk who, in the first interview, told me ‘you must work hard! This is not a holiday camp!” He took me to a tiny little concrete hut at the back of the monastery by a mosquito ridden pond, handed me the key and told me not to come out for the first week.

“I don’t want to see you walking around or talking!” he said, “Try to meditate for at least ten hours a day, so stay in your hut!”

So I did. With the daily meal left at the door, I stayed in that hot little concrete box, sitting on a wooden bench, trying desperately to apply meditation to my sweating, aching, anxious self. With the expectation of the bliss and tranquility I would get, I worked hard.

I thought,’Now, finally, everything I’ve read about will happen!’.

But the harder I worked at meditation, the more my mind and body resisted. And with the hours of meditation I was doing, and the intensity, the suffering was worse! After a week I felt like a twisted ball of tortured muscle and anxiety.

And then I cracked. I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like I was going mad. So I decided I had to give up and leave, so left the hut and made my way to Phra Manfred’s hut, where I found him sitting on his veranda reading a paper. Looking up, he invited me to sit with him.

I told him I wanted to leave and he shrugged.

“Yes, most people want to leave at this point,” he said.

“This point?”

He nodded. “Yes, this first stage is the hardest. All the unresolved mess of the mind come up in the silence of meditation and makes you a little mad for a while.”

“You mean what I’m experiencing is normal?”

He laughed and said, “Of course it is normal.”

Then he gave me a quizzical look, saying, “What did you think would happen?”

“I don’t know” I said, then thought about it. “Well, I thought I might have advanced a little … become a little more calm at least …”

“You thought you would be filled with light!” he said jokingly.

“No … just more calm, that’s all.”

“You came here wanting bliss and now you are disappointed?”

“Well, yes,” I said abashedly. “Isn’t that what meditation is about?”

“No!” he said. “That is what people think it is about! And they are wrong.”

“But that’s what I’ve read …”

“Know yourself!” he exclaimed. “That is what meditation is about. All the things you want, calm, tranquility, peace … these things can only come when your mind is clear and pure. And this kind of freedom can only come from knowing.”

Then he explained it to me, all the things I so desperately needed to hear – about how true calm and tranquility can only come when all the mess of acquired garbage we have collected in our lives has been known, accepted and let go of.

“This is Vipassana,” he said. “To know the truth of mind and body and what you have become … to accept it, and let it go. So, if pain arises, know it as it is … accept it and let it go. If anxiety arises, or anger arises, or anything … know it, accept it and let it go.”

“But how do I let it go?” I said. “Most of the time the thinking and pain is so strong I get lost and even forget I’m meditating.”

“So just keep going as best you can,” he said. “Sit still and use the methods to be as still as you can while the storm is there and nature will do the rest. Things that are out of balance in your mind and body will naturally pass away if you be still.”

“Just sit still?”

“Yes.” he said. “The beginning stage is the hardest, because the most coarse impurities arise first. So the beginning is the most intense. Think of yourself like a glass water. When it was first poured the water was clear. But life added mud and impurities and the glass was shaken and stirred by things that happened. So now the water has become dirty. And you forget how clear you were in the beginning. So now you meditate. You sit still. And what happens?”

“It rises to the top?”

“Yes, without the stirring and shaking of living the water goes still. The mud and impurities rise to the top. This is what is happening now. So go back to you kute (hut) and just keep going … keep working.”

The relief I felt was profound because finally someone had explained what was happening when I meditate – the process. The bubble of expectations was finally popped and I could finally accept the pain and anxiety, and work with it because it made sense.

So I went back to my hut and began meditating anew. And the more I sat with the mess that arise, the more I began to understand the true nature of what I was feeling.

It wasn’t just vague physical pain and mental anxiety I felt – it was rage.

What I felt, which was creating the storms of thinking and pain was an incandescent and incredibly violent rage that seemed so deep it sometimes felt as if that was all there was of me. I WAS rage and I had no idea why.

It seemed existential – with no one story to it. It could have been derived from anything: my father, my mother, all the stuff of my life, even life itself. The rage seemed to scoop up every misdeed and perceived slight I’d ever experienced into itself, blowing everything into a murderous and barely containable energy that manifested in the mind and body as profound anxiety and pain.

But I kept meditating – feeling the rage in my body and watching it magnify whatever memory or story that came to mind – spinning the most benign events into trauma and tragedy. As each gust of rage arose I did my best to accept it as sensations in my body, and discard the disguise of whatever story it told. And I began to notice letting go would happen naturally – I would see the sensations and feelings arise and pass away more quickly, only to arise again with new stories when the process would start again.

And Phra Manred kept reminding me, “It’s just energy, and it’s always strongest at the beginning. And the longer you meditate, the more subtle it gets. Like a banana palm, the outer layers that were hard and rough pass away, and the layers going to the center get softer and softer, until you get to the center and realize there is nothing there – just the layers. So it is with us. We retain layers and layers of the waste products of life … some pleasant, some not so pleasant. And when we meditate, these layers arise and pass away until eventually, we are clean.”

For a week or two I sat with this huge sunburst of rage spinning and pulsing inside me, until finally it began to abate.  And I began to experience, for the first time in my life, the delicate and unruffled awareness of tranquility.

……………………………………

So what is the point of this story?

Well, the point is, every day of our life leaves its residue of unresolved tension, whether mental or physical. It’s inevitable.  Most of the time we don’t notice this residue, it’s so small – a twinge of regret, anger at somebody, envy or sadness. We live past all this stuff because we just don’t have the time to process it. Life is too furious, too fast.

So the tensions that have been created in the body and the stories of those moments of anger are forgotten. Only the metabolic energy; the anxiety of  those moments; are retained – particularly if the causal events are repeated.

Over time this residue of living builds up because, as I said, we never take time to know what is building up in us, and we’re too wel behaved to allow its catharsis.  All we know is, as we age, we become more anxious and our body begins to stiffen and our mind becomes less flexible – we notice we’re becoming more restless, bored, jaded, tired or depressed.

We figure it’s just old age but it’s not. It’s the accumulation of un-expressed energy we have retained from the friction of our life. And the energy expresses itself as profound rage or sadness, which we expend a lot of energy to keep at bay. To keep it contained. We use muscular energy to contain it in the body, and we block it out in the mind with work or drugs, or with positive thinking – or we simply forget it.

Studies have shown that this kind of unresolved energy increases the risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack, lead to hardened arteries, cause liver and kidney damage as well as chronic anxiety and depression.

And, like a hydra, it has many heads – it uses our life history to try to express itself – any story that comes to hand, of self righteousness or fear, or hurt. Because it’s always covertly trying to act itself out, to be known.

But it is not rage at all – neither is it sadness. It’s simply energy. Old, orphaned energy left over from the friction of a life. With the story our mind gives to it, apparent rage exists as excitement in the body – pure and simple.

And it’s this energy which arises in meditation – as rage or sadness. So it is very important to allow it to happen – accept it, while at the same time, ignoring the story it is using to express itself as best as you can.

If you can ignore the story, while acknowledging, accepting and feeling the sensations as simply uncomfortable energy in the body, it will pass away, and you’ll be free of it.

Feel the energy in the body because that is the ONLY truth of this phenomenon.

Any story it uses, however convincing, is only an illusion.

 

Without a story to keep it going, the rage evaporates – because after all, it was only a hormonal reaction in the body. As the hormones are processed by the liver and kidneys, the sensations pass away. And what remains?

Relief. Calm.

Until existential rage arises again.

So we deal with it again, using mindfulness and care – and we see that each time it arises it is a fraction less intense. And gradually, we see the periods of calm and relief becoming more. And we see our body loosen, and our mind become less reactive.

And life begins to open up as our perceptions change. The story of our life changes and freedom slowly appears.

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56 thoughts on “Why Does Meditation Make Me Angry

  1. Thanks Roger. What you’ve expressed here is something not discussed in many book on meditation practice. Any exploration of human emotion in uncovering the self is vital to our understanding of psychological freedom.

    • Absolutely …from my point of view, it’s the key, the central purpose of meditation.
      Hope you’re well …

      • Amanda on said:

        Hello im currently learning meditation and im finding it very hard from reading your story i think i need to go to a place like you.do you know how to find one?im in qqueensland in australia.at the moment im trying to observe thoughts but i get distracted wether it be noise or sometjing tickling my face etc and i get really angry with myself.it is getting worse it seems like all i am is anger throughout the day at alot of things.i dont think i was ever like this before but i am determined to heal myself as i call it.do you have any ideas suggestions that can help me.my email is amandamccauley28@gmail.com
        I will greatly appreciate it.

      • Amanda, I’m so sorry its taken so long to reply to your question. It’s my fault – I miss filed your email and have only just noticed I never replied. It is unfortunate that Acharn Thawee, my first teacher, is dead – because I have not met any teacher in Thailand to replace him over the years since – not who I would recommend anyway.
        BUT, there is a place in Sri Lanka which I do strongly recommend, and a teacher, (who I hope is still there) . The meditation centre is called ‘Kanduboda Meditation Centre’ and the teacher is the Venerable Pemasiri – a truly wonderful man, and extremely experienced meditator.

        The other meditation center I’d recommend is right next to it and I’m told it is very good – it’s called Kanduboda Siyane Meditation Center. I think the best Vipassana instruction these days is to be found in Sri Lanka. All the great teachers in Thailand are dying out, and the new teachers are not as wise as they were.

        Having said that, I STRONGLY recommend you complete a couple of ten day retreats with the Goenka Vipassana organisation at one of their centres in Australia – that will give you the experience and grounding you need to complete a longer retreat overseas should you choose.

        The links to all these places are beneath the text – just click on the titles.
        I hope this has been helpful.

  2. Brilliant article. Thank you, this is so helpful to me.

  3. I started meditating recently. Today was my fourth time actually, about 20 minutes long. I was fine afterwards, calm, like I had been the 3 times before. I decided to go running afterwards. I got home and tried studying thinking the meditation plus running would have calmed me down enough to do so. I noticed right away I was super angry, agitated, rage filled against my girlfriend, extreme anxiety, paranoid, it felt uncontrollable- I couldn’t focus- and I’m always under control- I’ve never had anxiety or feelings like this ever. I’ve had anxiety before but it always passes and never to this extreme. It lasted about an hour and then slowly started tapering off. I’m still suffering from anxiety even as I right this. I’m scared to try meditating again. You see I started meditating in the first place because I thought it would help with my anxiety and depression from fibromylagia. I’m 24, relatively active but I started getting depression and anxiety when my fibro symptoms developed. Never tried meditating before this but the first 3 times I felt genuinely calm after, I felt actually really good. This last time freaked me out. And having googled it, I’ve read they say people with severe depression might not want to try meditation. You see I wasn’t actually angry when I meditated- it was only after that this happened- I don’t if running with music caused it?. I’m wondering if I’m doing something wrong or if this is wrong for me. All I do when I meditate is count my breaths to fifty and then start over and do about 3 times total. Then I sit and try and block out everything/supress any thoughts that come/quiet the mind so to speak. I don’t know… I don’t want to stop but if the meditation is causing it then I’ll have to there’s no way I can go another day and have that happen. what do you think Roger?

    • Hi Will,
      Your question is an interesting one, and worth me doing a post on. So if I could, I’d like to quote your question and make it the basis oof my next post, which I will get to by the end of the week. Thanks …Roger

  4. Okay thanks Roger

  5. Lee Eldridge on said:

    This has helped me a lot, Roger. Thank you for a very insightful piece on anger arising during meditation. Cheers, Lee.

  6. Pingback: Forget the story, it’s just energy | the madman speaks

  7. Tara on said:

    Very good article. Your explanation makes a lot of sense. Thankyou

    • Thanks Tara …
      …it’s interesting that every day, without fail, two blog posts score at the top – ‘Why Does Meditation Make Me Cry?’ and this one.
      Cheers
      Roger

  8. I attended a M Meditation course in London last year. It was an 8 week course, and after it was finished, I continued with the meditation daily in my home. Five weeks after the course, I noticed I would be feeling angry, things from the past, the present and the imagined future kept cropping up. I phoned and emailed my teacher, but no response. I sent more emails and still no response. In the end I stopped meditating as it didn’t make any sense that I should be experiencing this negativity – so many things that I’m angry about. Interestingly enough, some weeks ago in the British The Guardian, there was an article about this and how quite a few people do experience this but for some reason, it is not covered in courses. It’s left out. This produced a huge response as experienced meditators believe that meditation is not about relaxation but about inquiry and observation? I am happy that I’v come across your article. Very much needed in a time of doubt.

    • Hi there ….will respond soon …

    • I’m glad I could help. It’s a huge problem, so-called ‘meditation teachers’ who themselves have not practiced to enough depth to truly understand the psycho-physical dynamics of what they’re teaching. They blather on about calm and relaxation, quite ignoring the fact that a human being is a construct of layers and layers of habits that have been formed by their life history, so it’s ridiculous to imagine that all of this is going to magically disappear in the face of imagined calm.
      I’d like to emphasize, the stillness we’re creating in meditation, though it implies emptiness, is not empty at all. It’s full of ‘what-we’are’ arising into the space the meditation methods are creating – the stillness is not ‘nothing happening’ – but rather a mindful suspension of judgement and reaction, as the compressed layers of self arise into the space, and pass through, never to return. In this, we are passive witnesses in meditation, to mind and body cleaning and adjusting themselves in the space that we’ve given them when we meditate – something that is not able to happen in any other part of our lives.
      This witnessing the rising and passing away of ‘stuff’ is very important – and also important is our attitude to it. When we experience gusts of thinking or emotion or physical discomfort during meditation, it is important to greet it enthusiastically – as another part of the mass of inherent imbalances with us adjusting. Meditate as if it was a journey, an adventure in the wildlands of self as it truly is.
      I strongly recommend you download the free pdf of my book ‘Love&Imagination’ and read it.
      And please, don’t give up on meditation. Even when it feels like nothing’s happening, or it’s all wrong, the mere act of sitting still is incredibly beneficial.
      Take care,
      Roger

      • Hi Roger
        I appreciate you taking the time to give a full response. I will continue with it and do as you say, and see what happens. I’ve just recently taken up Iyengar Yoga and definitely felt great benefits to my body. Combined with meditation I’m confident I will progress. Take care.

  9. Natalia on said:

    Enjoyed this read, really helped me and clarified the experiences I have Been feeling, I feel like I can breathe again. So I can’t give up as I am determined for those feelings to diminish, i know everyone is different but how long can it take?i just don’t want it to go on for years or anything to that length of time.

    • Sounds good Natalia – just one comment.
      One of the biggest problems we have with feelings and emotions we don’t like, is that we don’t like them. We hate being sad, angry, frustrated, and so on. And that resistance, and wishing-it-would-go-away ironically is what highlights these uncomfortable states and holds them in place.
      Why?
      Because our reaction creates an attempt to contract around the feelings, close them in and shut them down. And this in turn creates physical tension, and a hormonal reaction which then feeds back into the feeling that’s already there. For that reason we get angry about being angry, sad about being sad, and so on.
      We mistakenly assume that our life should be free of anger, sadness, depression and so on – that they are somehow wrong. But that is a false assumption – these feelings happen for good reason, and as such, are as valid as happiness, excitement and elation.
      So from my point of view, acceptance is the key.
      Complete, unconditional acceptance.
      Acceptance creates the right environment for the feelings to pass away. Resistance holds them in place.
      And why does acceptance work?
      Well, for a start, there is no psych/physical resistance being created around the feeling to hold it in place.
      Also, acceptance gives us the chance to acknowledge WHY the feeling is there, and feeling properly, and learn from it – which also helps the feeling to fade away.
      Wonderful to hear from you,
      Roger

  10. Iyengar yoga is a wonderful addition to a life, and with certain kinds of people, much more effective than meditation. Whatever works.
    All the best

  11. Hallie on said:

    Thanks for this post. I started meditating as a teenager and always came out laughing and happy. I haven’t regularly meditated in about 10 years and now that I’m in my 30s I have started up again. Actually, I’m trying to start but I always stop because I feel incredibly paranoid, anxious, and depressed. This post has helped ease my mind a bit.

    • Hi Hallie,
      I’m glad my post was helpful. One thing that might help though is, try to remember that before you have your IDEA of what you feel, you feel what you feel – as sensations in the body. And it is those sensations that are the truth of what you feel. So whether you’re meditating or going about your day, whenever you feel anxious, or angry, or sad or even paranoid … remember that it’s the sensations in your body that are the truth – not the thoughts the feeling is throwing up in the mind. And try to pierce through the thinking to those sensations and focus on them.
      The more intensely you can focus on the sensations, the faster the condition will pass away – simply because it is the thoughts that are sustaining it – not the bare sensations. The more you can convert your life into sensations, the more intuitive and fluid you will become.
      All the best
      Roger

      • So much of what I read speaks of this felt sense and importance of the raw sensations and I have tried for a long time to feel them but I just don’t feel anything except random sensations such as itching and twitching. Because if this inability to feel the sensations I am left feeling very doubtful. I feel it’s not working or I’m doing something wrong.

      • Hi Billy … perhaps you are putting the cart before the horse. I’m not suggesting you search for sensations … styick with what you’ve got, and allw the sensations to arise on their own. It should be a process of noticing … not looking for. That’s why we use the breath – among many things, it is a starting point to rest the attention, to keep it from meddling, searching, thinking, reacting and so on. So the first stage of meditation, and building an awareness of the sensations as I described it, is to practice paying attention to the breath.
        Once you have developed a relationship between attention and breath, you’ll find sensations will naturally begin to appear … on their own. And you’ll become more aware of your body.
        But even if no sensations are perceivable, then that’s as it should be … as I said, it’s a process of noticing – not looking.
        However … if an emotion is present, then all I’m saying is you have a choice between two parts – the story in your head, or the feeling of the emotion in your body. And the choice to try making is, pay attention to the raw feeling, as it is in the body – and try to ignore the story in your head.
        Actually … it’s difficult to reply when I know so little – so perhaps send me an email and we can connect and chat … because it’s an interesting problem you have.
        Cheers Roger

  12. Desi on said:

    This article made me cry, I am so grateful you share your experience. You’ve helped me realize what I need to do and hopefully I will finally release all the negativity. Not for me, but for my daughter. Since I’ve started meditating I get angry more often and this is not what I want for my baby to see. I’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression for 3 years and now I know why and how to really fix myself. Thank you. This was one of the most profound experiences I’ve had reading your article!

  13. Olivier Gamache on said:

    What a relief !
    After three years of meditation and dangerous anger edging, and outbursts, you are the one to finaly provide a suitable answer to all this emotionnal rollercoaster of mine.

    Since I read your article, I have searched energy release techniques and experienced two of them, and I would like to share and verify these with you.
    The point here is to make sure that the effectiveness of these techniques is not that of a temporary “placebo” effect.

    First technique: When the rage arises, visualise it as an ectoplasm, flowing out of you body, then visualise a violet flame, and throw that energy into the flame. That would appear to have something to do with the crown chakra. It seems to amplify the emotion exponentially: be it rage, sadness (even to the point of droping tears), panic, or even unidentified emotions. After it has calmed, it is usualy followed by laughter and euforia.

    Second technique: After meditation, simply sit, stretch the legs (or arms) until electricity runs through them. Depending on the amount of energy that has to be released, the sensation varies from “it tickles” to “it burns and my extremities contract themselves”. Somethimes, the emotion can also be felt (and cried out), but most of the time there’s nothing but a pure physical manifestation in the streched-out member. Laughter and euforia can also follow.

    So what do you think of these techniques, Roger ?

    • Hi Olivier,
      I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to your comment … it got lost in a pile of emails and I am not terribly organised sometimes.
      You mention a number of techniques for dealing with anger, and I find I cannot really comment on them because I have not had personal experience using them myself. And I prefer to only comment on things I have personal experience with.
      I suppose my only comment would be, if it works, do it until it doesn’t, and then look again for what works.
      In my own practice, I try to keep things simple – and meditation is as simple as it can get. One thing I have noticed though, is when there is any excited or anxious state in the mind and body, like anger or fear,as I meditate, I notice the mind automatically seeks out catharsis of some kind – and if I allow it to do that, while remaining detached and watching, it has a little tantrum and the imagination goes wild, and that seems to prick the bubble, so to speak, and the energy of the anxiety, whatever it is, dissipates.
      So I suppose the key word here is ‘catharsis’.
      Sorry I don’t have more to offer …
      I’m glad my post was helpful,
      Roger

  14. Dear Roger,

    thank you so much for that post.

    I have been meditating on and off for years but never really taking it that seriously.

    A couple of weeks ago I started getting discipllined about it.. working my way up to 1-2x 30 minute sessions a day.

    Last week after a session I started getting really sad. I sobbed uncontrollably… after that I felt amazing. The colours looked brighter and just walking down the street the sky and everything looked so beautiful. It was amazing.

    Then during the last couple of days I started getting tremors and getting really antsy. Today was the first day where I had to cut a session short after 20 minutes… I just felt so agitated.

    Then within minutes I started this intense rage coming up. I screamed into my pillow and boxed my bed and everything… then I went to the gym and just beat up a punching bag until I had no power left.

    Now Im back home and feeling a bit more calm. But I can still feel the tension inside too. So I guess I will keep meditating later tonight.

    First of all I want to thank you for the great article. Because when you google about meditaton and rage you find all kind of esoteric, wishy washy bullshit. Your article was the first that made sense to me.

    Second I have a question:

    Sometimes during meditation I get tremors… or my body starts shaking and jerking…

    Im pretty sure its more rage/energy coming up.

    should you try to avoid that and just sit still? or should you give yourself to the movements and just jerk around? lol

    Another thing some people are scaremongering about kundalini psychosis and stuff like that. Is this a legit danger?

    I am a bit worried the meditation might interfere with my work life… because these intense energies can leave you a bit affected and shaken up. But I guess at the end of the day I want freedom more so Ill continue down this path.

    Thanks again for your great work!

    Best
    P

    • Hi Paul … I’m so sorry I never replied to your comment!!! It got lost under a pile of emails, which shoved it onto a previous page and I didn’t find it till I started pruning my inbox.
      You said, “… during the last couple of days I started getting tremors and getting really antsy. Today was the first day where I had to cut a session short after 20 minutes… I just felt so agitated. Then within minutes I started this intense rage coming up. I screamed into my pillow and boxed my bed and everything… then I went to the gym and just beat up a punching bag until I had no power left. Now I’m back home and feeling a bit more calm. But I can still feel the tension inside too. So I guess I will keep meditating later tonight.”

      All good. However you blow off this excess energy is fine, so long as you don’t hurt anyone or yourself, and so long as you don’t ascribe a story to it. It’s not about anyone or anything – though the mind will dredge up all kinds of shit to pin it to, because the mind hates things that don’t have a reason. So keep ignoring the story and ALWAYS focus on the sensations of the emotion – the raw power of it in your body. The more you can simply feel it, AS IT IS, the more easily it gets processed, because it doesn’t have the mind revving you up with new stories of ‘why I’m so angry’

      Next you asked: “Sometimes during meditation I get tremors… or my body starts shaking and jerking …Im pretty sure its more rage/energy coming up.
      Should you try to avoid that and just sit still? or should you give yourself to the movements and just jerk around?”

      Allow the body to move as it will – to resist it would only lead to wondering why, and what’s going on and so forth. So long as you’re aware of what is happening, allow it to happen – if tears come, let them fall. If jerking comes, let it happen. If sounds arise, let them come. It’s just orphaned energy from a backlog of stress in a life we’re physiologically too ancient to handle without getting upset, yet our culture requires us to keep a lid on it. Hence all the depression and anxiety all over the place.

      You also mention you’re afraid meditation might affect your worklife. Um … look, these blowoffs, should calm down after a while, and the recovery should eventually become instant. I sometimes find tears arising when I meditate – I don’t know why, and I don’t give a damn. Just let the tears come and the energy that created them instantly disappears …try not to take these outbursts too seriously. In fact, it’s always good to laugh at yourself and what’s happening, because really, it’s ridiculous the way we live, and all the ways it affects us.

      All the best Paul

      • Dear Roger,

        thank you so much for your reply.

        Since the last time I posted, I have been meditating twice every day.

        Quite frankly, Im a mess.

        Ive been feeling depressed as hell lately and had backpain (100% a symptom of emotional tension).

        Also today I snapped and SCREAMED at my father when he was giving me a hard time over some nonsense. Afterwards I broke down crying and had to take a long walk.

        I feel a bit better now and in hindsight I can laugh about it (but gonna have to make up with my dad).

        But what I wanna know is, how long can I expect this to go on?

        It is getting a bit annoying that I break down in tears or just lose my shit and scream at people.

        Another question are you available for skype consultations? I have so many questions! Im thinking a meditation teacher might be helpful and I really like your style.

        Best,
        Paul

      • Hi Paul, sounds like we do need to talk. Would be happy to do a session … I use video conferencing, so perhaps email me and we’ll set up a time
        My email address is: chaosinaction@gmail.com
        Let me know.
        Roger

  15. Thank you for this. I have been a part time mediator for some time but after taking MBSR it has changed what I used to experience. My story now seems very similar to yours where I am seeking the past states of bliss I used to experience, but I get rage and anger not so much during my meditation but for hours afterward. It would seem there is an internal agitation that is coming up and the meditation doesn’t end after the sitting, but is requiring me to be present to what is there so I can feel and try to release it with no expectations. With anger/frustration I feel this is the most challenging for me as it can affect my interactions with others and I would choose an open/heart filled connection but in this place it is hard to do. I will continue to work and unwind the years of story. Thank you again.

    • Hi Kent,
      I think it’s important when feeling strong emotion to keep reminding oneself that there are two parts to all emotions … There are the physical sensations of the emotion in the body, and there is the story of the emotion – that is its reason for being – the justification it uses for trying to provoke you to action.
      Of these two parts the story is the most destructive. The more we dwell on the story the more it’s likely to loop and keep provoking us to action.
      The Sensations however, are simple, and most likely to change in response to mindfulness.
      So when you’re feeling strong emotion it’s very good practice to keep diverting your attention AWAY from the story of the emotion and putting it on the sensations – the bare Sensations of what you’re feeling in your body. The more you can do this, the fast of the emotion will change and evaporate.
      In meditation Sensations are everything.

  16. Kwang Xin on said:

    This is just what I needed. Thank you. I try to make meditation into a daily practice but sometimes I find it really difficult because when you experience a certain level of calmness the first few times you tend to have your expectations up that it will continue to get better and better in a smooth line but that is not the case. Do you think I should just push through even though it makes me feel worse sometimes?

    • Hi Kwang Xin,
      Absolutely you should push through. Never stop.
      One of the Buddha’s core teachings was, to put it simply, ‘life is dukkha’ (dukkha loosely meaning ‘imperfect and constantly changing thereby causing suffering). Most people find this a bit depressing – to be told that life is suffering – but he was telling us something very important. And that is, the more you ACCEPT imperfection, change and suffering, the less stressful dukkha becomes. That is, suffering loses its sting.
      It sounds strange doesn’t it? And hard to accept. But if you look into suffering or all kinds, whether it’s physical pain or depression or anxiety, most of the suffering component comes from our attempts to deny it is happening and resist it – we tense up around pain, we deny we’re depressed, we tighten up around anxiety – and that just makes it WORSE!!
      So my point is, one of the core lessons of meditation is to create the ability to do the opposite of what we’re used to doing in the face of suffering – rather than run from it, or flinch or fear it, as we’re conditioned to do – accept it as simply life’s friction – it’s normal! It’s just the way of things.
      If we can do that – relax INTO what annoys us, or pains us – then, as I said, suffering loses its sting.
      So the first step is to let go of words like ‘worse’ or ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ – because these value judgments are a part of our resistance to what are, after all, simply different textures of life. Things are different, that’s all.
      Because things change. Pleasure turns to pain, pain turns to pleasure. Happiness turns to misery, and misery turns back into happiness. Happiness, pain, pleasure, misery – even these words inflame us. Far better to avoid focusing on them, and accept that the different states of comfort and discomfort in life, are simply life itself – just the waves of life, in all their different colors and textures, changing constantly. And you are like a surfer, riding those waves.
      Thank you for that question … I think I’ll post this in the blog.
      cheers
      Roger

  17. Danielle on said:

    This is the best thing I have ever read about meditation in my life. After my meditation this morning I felt completely hopeless like it would never work for me. Everything you said was happening to you is exactly how I feel now. I feel so much better knowing that I’m not alone in having these types of thoughts. Thank you so so much.

    • Thank you Danielle … meditation is an amazing skill and it will change your life if you keep practicing – but as with any skill, it’s inevitable you will experience some discomfort as you learn how to do it.
      With good reason.
      I mean, think about it. After a lifetime of the kinds of habits we’ve been conditioned with – of constant activity, multi tasking and thinking about everything, not to mention our addiction to entertainment and excitement as relaxation – how can anyone expect to suddenly stop, sit still, and do absolutely nothing without it making them bored or anxious in some way. As soon as we begin meditating, all those life habits begin kicking and screaming for us to get back on the treadmill – because that’s all we’ve ever known. Because that’s what habits do – they create discomfort if we try to go against them.
      For the modern urban human, being still is utterly foreign. Indeed, so uncomfortable does it make us, that most of us assiduously avoid it, filling up every space in our life with work, distractions, chatter or entertainment.
      BUT … like any skill, once we’ve gotten used to the set of habits that meditation is building, of being able to stop and be still whenever we want to, it becomes like an old shoe … you sit and slip into it easily, and it’s a lovely ability to have.
      I hope you persevere …
      cheers Roger

  18. Daniel on said:

    Hi Roger,

    I wanted to thank you for your article it was exactly what I needed! Recently I committed myself to mediate every day sometime 2-3 times depending on my schedule when I did this I began to notice sensations and phenomenons some explained and some that I’m still trying to figure out. That being said the last few months have been a rollercoaster for me and I’ve been noticing myself getting angry during my sessions even feeling rage which is not a normal emotion for me. So I decided to look into it and came across your article, so thank you.

    Another issue that I’m dealing with that has come with the anger is the loss of motivation, ambition, etc… do you know if this loss falls into the same category as the anger?

    • Thanks Daniel … I’m glad the post was helpful. And it’s good you’re meditating 2-3 times a day.
      It must be remembered however, that the more you meditate, the more intense are the effects of the processes that unfold out of meditation, and the faster your mind and body respond. In this, it’s like any other skill – sort of like muscle memory – your mind and body get to know the processes. Which means you will be experiencing more of the coarser reactions than say, someone who only meditates for 20 minutes a day. And if you can handle the discomfort of this initial stage, that’s good – because indeed it can be uncomfortable, as you are experiencing.
      But any discomfort should be accepted wholeheartedly and fearlessly. It’s just mind and body throwing off old tensions retained from your past. Once they’re gone, you’ll feel more calm. I cannot say how long that will take, but your mind and body will evolve through this stage.

      To make it all move faster, consider the following:
      1. Any emotion comes on two fronts – the thoughts, or story it elicits, and the physical feelings of the emotion. The story is garbage – any emotion pulls together propaganda to try and provoke you to action – as such, the story is the most dangerous part of an emotion, because it is designed to EXTEND the reaction. So, trying to unwind and emotion by grappling with the thoughts is like trying to pull yourself out of quicksand by your hair. Choose instead to focus on the physicality — the sensations of the emotion in your body.
      2. The only power you have when it comes to emotions, and indeed, life itself, is what you pay attention to. Whatever you pay attention to evolves in a way that is compatible with your will, and whatever you remove your attention from naturally deconstructs and fades away.
      SO … this means, if you keep removing your attention from the story (the most inflammatory aspect of emotions) the emotion is more likely to resolve itself.
      BUT … you can’t just leave your attention floating about – the thoughts are too compelling – like magnets, they will attract your attention back. so you place it on the next most compelling feature of the emotion – the sensations of how you feel.
      And what you do there is, instead of tensing up AGAINST the feelings, (which is what we tend to do, in the mistaken belief that we can stop feeling by contracting) purposely do the opposite – relax around them. Let go of the breathing in particular – let the OUT breaths fall out of your body. Relax the shoulders and face, and neck.
      You might find tears come – that’s good. You might also find you sigh deeply as you relax the muscles around the feeling. Also good.

      Now .. to your second issue – loss of motivation, ambition. This has not been my experience – if anything, meditation has made me more daring in what I choose to grapple with in my life.
      So I’m not sure if this can be connected to meditation practice other than, possibly, the direction you have been applying your ambitions and energy to may have been not in kind with your inner drive and purpose. Meditation slowly reveals the inner person – that is to say, it reveals what you ARE, which sometimes that turns out to be our of whack with what you have BECOME. And this can create a kind of transition space, in which you naturally lose interest in things you have habitually been devoted to – for a while anyway – until that space is naturally filled by discovering what you are actually interested in.
      Whatever is happening, nothing is set in stone in this life.
      Everything is in transition to somewhere else.
      Because the only universal law is, everything is changing.
      So try to relax into it, and change will take you where it will.
      That’s the adventure.
      All the best,
      Roger

  19. spotteddog12 on said:

    Loved your article on being angry during meditation. For the first 3 months of meditating I was calm, relaxed and people at work were even commenting on the change in me.
    Then, out of nowhere my sessions were horrible, I was tense,angry, frustrated. Thought it might be technique. Tried different techniques (although breathing is still breathing) all to no avail.
    One day at work, as soon as I arrived I totally “lost my s#=t”. Everything irritated me, people were avoiding me, even I wanted to avoid me.
    Then I came across your article. Made total sense. Meditation now makes sense. Thank you!

    • I’m glad you got something from it. I think it’s important to remember that, like the entire universe, we are not constant, or immutable – every part of us and our life is changing constantly, with things coming and going all the time, and anger is just one of them. The problems start when we fear one or other emotion or feeling – then our resistance to it makes it an issue, and gives it strength. The fear hardens one part of us to some things and, ironically, makes us vulnerable to them.
      A teacher of mine said, ‘Nothing is your enemy. Greet sadness, anger and all the things you don’t like as fellow travelers, and they will pass away quickly.’
      All the best, Roger

  20. Gus Latho on said:

    Wow, I am in awe reading this. Everything you wrote makes so much sense yet I never hear it from anyone else. All the meditations I try to do on my own, or the guided ones, invariably turn me into a storming ball of rage and then in consequence I get frustrated with the process. Hearing meditation teachers talk about “feel your body relax “and “becoming calm and tranquil”, like you, only served to pull me into the opposite direction and make me more angry. Reading this article just makes so much sense and I am very glad I stumbled upon your page. Makes me feel there is hope for those like me who struggle to even keep sitting and meditating for more than 5 minutes. Thanks you.

    • Hi Gus … thank you for thinking to write. You know, it’s very, very telling that on the daily statistics of which of my posts have been read the most each day, this post comes up on top … EVERY day! So you’re not alone.
      All the best to you … and never give up. Meditation is a slow process, somewhat like a forest growing in a desert … habits need to slowly readjust, and new neuronal networks need to form … and the emotions that arise are simply the natural effect of the friction of change happening within you.
      So the main rule is … just keep going … and the second rule is … accept everything as exactly what needs to be happening now …
      That releases you from the tension of wishing it was otherwise, or wondering if something is wrong.
      Nothing is ever wrong in meditation – and everything changes.
      All the best to you

  21. Amber Lundeen on said:

    Thank you. I started a new practice and I’ve been meditating for hours a day, coming out of it in a fog and today came out of it with intense anger! I feel exhausted, angry and depressed. I didn’t understand. Now I do. Now I can accept and release it.

  22. Alberto on said:

    Thanks for sharing. sometimes I become filled with rage in similar ways as described and it is very sad not find or understanding answer from books, teachers or net..
    Your answer make perfect sense: no shortcut, it is only energy, let it go..
    Thank you

    • I’m glad my post was helpful.
      Thing to remember is, emotions are conditioned things. Energy and patterns of sensations we have learnt to interpret in different ways. So the more you can remove the individual identities from each emotion, and see it as just what is is – as energy – the less power the emotion has over you. It’s just practice. Like anything …
      All the best
      Roger

  23. Sheetal Jagtap on said:

    Hi Roger
    Very simply u explain a complcated term..im fortunate that I read ur article..thnx for d clarity..I started meditation and yoga in April 18…after 1 month I started involentry rotation and involentry yoga asanas were happened with me ..I noticed that my walking become strange like any one else is there in my body so I ask whose there and the name smita and a cobra mark was there on notebook..it is involentry writting..some diagrams r drawn by me which I latter on know as kundalini diagrams and it indicates I m on 3rd stage of kundalini awkning..the whole thing was horrifing for me..the language i wrote on notebook was unknown to me ,my daughter suggest to use Google translator in which we r searching the meanings and the message appear there go and serch 888 number..after serching I found it is was anglic number ..then I feel the energy rise in my spine and and if I press my finger tip of both hand in namskar position it settle down..I’m getting afraid these things and dont know how to get out of this..plz help me if u can!

    • Hello Sheetal,
      Thank you for your comment on my post. I hope you found it helpful. Unfortunately, my own training, having been in Theravada monasteries in Thailand and Sri Lanka, did not cover the effects of kundalini or energy centers in the body, so I am unable to comment on these things. Vipassana has a very practical view when it comes to the esoteric – and that is, upon accepting that a phenomenon or event is actually happening, which senses did a it affect? Whichever senses are affected, accept the effect, contemplate it as it is, and the mind will eventually process it, and having processed it, it will naturally let it go. As the mind lets it go, so too does the body. How long this takes depends on too many factors to say, but it happens.
      Over thirty years of meditation practice, I have applied this to many things, from grief to damaged knees and bronchitis, and, as simple as it is, it it works. Body follows mind. If mind can resolve an issue, the body will also resolve it.
      All the best
      Roger

  24. So Roger, when a memory of trauma occurs during meditation and there is a feeling of rage over this, you say the trauma-thing is just a story and should be ignored? Seems so unhealthy to me!

  25. Maggie Conlin on said:

    I never heard it explained like this. I recently moved to a new city, and started going to the weekly meditation class. The same old story happened. Major irritation at everyone and every thing. I figured I would just stop going, because clearly, it wasn’t working for me. However, for whatever reason, I decided to just try again alone in my home. Sure enough, the rage started bubbling up. This time, I decided to do a google search on meditation & anger and found your article. Words can’t capture how grateful I am to have found this. I have been in and out of meditation-type circles most of my life, and I don’t remember anyone talking about the rage. Thank you; you’ve facilitated a breakthrough and I am very grateful.

  26. PCosta on said:

    This is one the best articles I’ve read about meditation and anger. I am very grateful to you. I’ve tried all different kinds of strategies on how to deal with the rage: writing the thoughts as they appear, noticing any changes in my body sensations, trying all different kinds of breathing…addressing the thoughts associated with the anger with my therapist, and on and on. All of this has helped more or less. The problem is that anger brings up a lot of other feelings such as, guilt,shame,sadness. My mind becomes unstoppable with swirling mad memories of all kinds. I experience anger as a liquid or a gas poison that quickly spreads out everywhere inside of me. It feels like an embodiment of all that is “wrong” with me and world at the same time. I like the way you’ve described the process of dealing with it.I think I am working towards feeling less overwhelmed by the rage itself. As I continue to feel the anger as just as energy and resist the appeal of the stories in your mind,it does become less compelling overtime. However, it seems that guilt,shame,remorse,prejudice,and regret,and fear are just lurking underneath the rage.Do you have suggestions on how to deal with the other emotions that comes up with the anger?
    PCosta

    • Hi there … I’m sorry it’s taken so long to rely to your comment … I’ve been travelling.
      I’m glad my post was helpful. With regard to your question, most emotions are the same – the mind creates the reaction in a flash and the body is flooded with whatever chemical cocktail it’s conditioned to release – and at that point you’re in a reactive loop. You recognize the sensations that are being generated in your body as being a particular emotion, and the mind immediately begins reinforcing the story to justify the emotion, and get you to take action – to attach or run if its fear or anger – the most simple emotions.
      But in the case of anxiety or depression – they come from complex internal stimulii, and have no obvious story, so the mind begins trawling through all the possibilities – building negative scenarios from your history, beliefs and so on. And the problem is, we take those stories seriously – and that is our mistake.
      Just because we think things, doesn’t mean they’re true.
      The mind is a liar and propagandist. So try not to take the thoughts and memories it makes too seriously.
      So when you’re in the grip of an emotion, accept that life is suffering as well as pleasure, and the discomfort of what you feel is simply another texture of living.
      The other thing is, if your attention is on the sensations, it’s not as intent on the thoughts – and it’s the thoughts that are most likely to keep the suffering going.
      Choose to focus on what the body is doing – because the body doesn’t lie. The body always tells the truth – it feels what it feels, and that’s all. Without extended thinking to keep the suffering going, the body will naturally metabolize the emotional reaction.
      So if you can keep letting go of the thoughts, and focusing your attention on the sensations in your body, the thoughts will eventually dissipate, because they’re not getting enough of your attention to stay coherent.

      I hope this helps … but it’s a big subject, and many other strategies, which I can’t cover in a short comment …so If it would help to talk, perhaps email me on chaosinaction@gmail.com, and we can arrange to Skype sometime.
      cheers Roger

  27. Pingback: Can’t sleep, though I have tried basic relaxation exercise | Meditation Makes Sense

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