Anger and Social Activism

After to talking to friends, followers, yoga students and digging into my own anguish amidst the outcome of our election, I felt the great need to dust off this interview and share it with you.

It’s powerful. 

Ram Das, a spiritual teacher and author of the highly acclaimed book “Be Here Now” interviews Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and peace activist. In this interview TNH speaks about holding your anger as a mother holds her child. Hold it delicately. Feel it. Be in it. Also know that social action charged by anger and/or fear creates MORE anger and/or fear. We all process the power to transform these lower level emotions into radical, powerful, strategic results that cultivate loving and lasting change.

The interview is quite long (there is a link at the bottom of this email) so I took the time to transcribe the part about anger and social activism. Enjoy and feel free to share.



Ram Das & Thich Nhat Hanh Interview


Ram Das: You spoke the other day about holding anger and emotions like that in a tender way. Could you speak a little bit more about that?

TNH: (I was speaking of) holding anger like a mother holds her baby. Because loving kindness is us, but anger is also us. So it is one part of us taking good care of another part. Anger is a kind of energy that comes from ourselves and loving kindness or mindfulness is another kind of energy. Every time the energy of anger is there, we should invite the energy of mindfulness to be there in order to take care of our anger.


Ram Das: And the vehicle to that could be just three breaths?

Yes, mindful breathing. We notice mindfulness by continuous breathing.


Ram Das: If you are continuously breathing mindfully then you wouldn’t experience that other energy as solid, like anger??

TNH: When you breath mindfully you are not ignoring anger, in fact, you are mindful also of your anger, you are practically taking care of your anger. Breathing in “I know that I am angry” breathing out “I am taking good care of my anger” therefore the practice is called mindfulness of anger, mindfulness of breathing, and breathing in order to be aware of your anger and to embrace your anger with the energy of mindfulness and if you continue like that for some time there will be a transformation in the heart of the anger. It’s like the sunshine with the flower, in the morning the flowers are not open yet, but the sunshine continues to visit and to shine upon the flower and the sunshine is not only circulating around the flower it is penetrating deeply into the flower and if the sunshine continues like that for a few hours then the flower has to open herself to the sunshine. Our anger is a kind of flower that needs the care of the sunshine; namely mindfulness.


Ram Das: Many people who are activists, who's heart hurts namely because of the act of injustice, or pain to the environment, often say to me that the attempt to be mindful of ones anger or hold it tenderly will dissipate the energy of the anger that they use for social action. Would you talk about that issue?

TNH: The energy of anger may be a source of energy but when you use your anger energy there may be danger because when you are angry you are not lucid, because when you are angry you may say things or you may do things that can be very destructive, that’s why it is better to use other forms of energy like compassion or the energy of understanding. The energy of anger can be transformed into the energy of understanding and compassion. We don’t have to throw away anything, we need only to know how to transform one form of energy into another.




My wish for the world is that as we navigate through times where I’m feeling a deep separation of our country, we can transform our anger and our perceived differences into high level vibrations that shift the energy of the planet in a positive way.


I would love to hear your thoughts.


Loving You,



Link to Interview: