This is, put simply, one of the best books on mindfulness that I have read.
In Daily Meditations for Calming Your Angry Mind: Mindfulness Practices to Free Yourself from Anger, Jeffrey Brantley and Wendy Millstine provide about forty mindfulness exercises to help people focus on their special need or challenge regarding anger. They help us use various meditations to move past anger and instead respond to things that upset us with calm and kindness.
Brantley and Millstine seem to work well together: their book reads seamlessly and avoids style changes that sometimes accompany books with co-authors. In the preface, both authors offer their personal story relating to anger issues. This lends credibility, and made me feel that they understand readers’ daily challenges.
In basic terms, anger is an emotion that can arise based upon our perceptions of an event. We all have experienced anger, to varying degrees and with varying frequency. However, we don’t all react in the same way. The same event may provoke serious anger in one person and barely a ripple in another. In fact, the same event may induce different reactions in the very same person when we are in different moods or have other stressors on our minds.
So, can we learn to handle situations that typically cause anger in us, and instead move past that anger? Brantley and Millstine say yes.
Mindfulness helps us take a closer look at everything around us. As we develop our mindfulness abilities through exercises and practice, the authors write, we increasingly become better at being aware of our sensory perceptions such as sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smell. This improved awareness also aids us in processing our experience.
Think of being acutely aware of your involvement in a run or walk, thinking about your breathing, how your body feels, and the sights and smells of your route. Contrast this with two familiar phrases: “being on autopilot” and “going through the motions.” You may have experienced this and recognize the difference. Brantley and Millstine offer numerous core meditations to improve our ability to be attentive and to practice kindness and compassion. They also emphasize our impermanence and interconnectedness.
I was surprised by something that the authors move into next: the anger we may harbor about our body. I hadn’t thought much about it before, but, as Brantley and Millstine point out, many of us have a longterm or subconscious anger (or disappointment or even disgust) with our physical self. Perhaps we are bald, and consider that an imperfection. Perhaps we have some physical disability from a disease or injury, or we hate the way we speak or think. (It doesn’t take long to add more examples to the list.)
Less surprising were the sections on anger in relationships or at work. Even if our anger in these arenas is not at a terribly high level, we can probably readily relate. Personally, I know I have room for improvement.
In terms of the types of meditations offered, I found some more to my liking or more comfortable than others. That said, I imagine that at different times the techniques will speak to me in different ways.
In the final chapter of the book, Brantley and Millstine shift their focus away from anger and toward “joy and peace in every moment.” Here, they provide more meditations, ones that are useful as we encounter other people in our day-to-day lives.
“If you want a happier, more peaceful, less angry life, you can find it,” Brantley and Millstine write. Indeed, their book seems to light the way.
Daily Meditations for Calming Your Angry Mind: Mindfulness Practices to Free Yourself from Anger
New Harbinger Publications, July 2015
Paperback, 224 pages