Excerpts from How to Fight
Where the Fight Begins
When someone says something unkind to you, you may want to retaliate right away. That is where the fight begins. This habitual way of reacting creates a well-worn pathway in your brain. When you travel a neural pathway over and over again, it becomes a habit. Very often that pathway leads to anger, fear, or craving. One millisecond is enough for you to arrive at the same destination: anger and a desire to punish the person who has dared to make you suffer. The mind and the brain are plastic in nature. You can change your mind, your brain, and the way you think and feel. With practice, you can create new neural pathways that lead to understanding, compassion, love, and forgiveness. Mindfulness and insight can intervene, redirecting you down a new neural pathway.
When Your House Is On Fire
Usually when we are angry with someone we are more interested in fighting with them than in taking care of our own feelings. It’s like someone whose house is on fire running after the person who has set fire to their house instead of going home to put out the flames. If we don’t go home to take care of our anger, our whole house will burn down. But if we can pause for a moment, we have a chance to acknowledge our anger, embrace it and look deeply to see its true roots. If we can take care of our own anger instead of focusing on the other person, we will get immediate relief. If we can pause, we see that our anger or fear may have been born from a wrong perception or may have its roots in the large seeds of anger or fear within us. When we realize this, it frees us from anger and fear. Practice embracing and looking deeply to see the real roots of your anger. When insight is born, you will be free.
Feeding Our Suffering
The Buddha said, “Nothing can survive without food”—not even love. Without nourishment, your love will die. You can learn ways to nourish your love every day, so that your love can continue to thrive. What kind of food are you feeding your love? When you produce loving thoughts, speech, and actions, these nourish your love and help it grow strong. Suffering also requires food to survive. If you continue to suffer, it’s because you feed your suffering every day. Thoughts, conversations, films, books, magazines, and the Internet are sensory foods that we consume. If we don’t carefully choose what we consume, these things can water the seeds of anger, fear, violence, and discrimination within us. If you stop feeding your suffering, it will also die.
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