I am occasionally asked, “How can Zen help to manage my anger?” I answer, “Do not generate a single angry thought.” You must distance yourself from such emotions. This is the only way to dispel anger. Remember that when you generate an angry thought, you hurt your body. Not only do you hurt yourself, but you also hurt your relationships. From morning to night, we have countless thoughts. Many of them are unconscious, and each of them has the power to affect one’s physical body, relationship and reality. So, treat yourself and others well by letting go of negative emotions, because they do more than hurt. They cause harm, which you must then seek to undo.
The concept of treating oneself well can be explained with an example: Imagine there is someone seated next to you. You tell yourself, “This person is an idiot. I hate this person when I see him. This person is a slob.” Who is the person next to you? You might not even know him. Who is generating the thought at that moment? You are. So, you are the one who is doing harm. You are the one who feels hatred. The hatred and negative thoughts in our minds can only weigh us down. The unnecessary burden is hard on the mind, just as it is hard on the body. So remember, every single thought that occurs in your mind can affect you. You are the one who will be hurt by the negativity of such thinking. However, if your thoughts are positive and uplifting, they will have a positive effect on your mind and body.
Zen teaches us that we define everything according to our habitual thought patterns. The manner in which you define reality shows what kind of person you are. A well-known Zen story goes like this: A renowned poet and his Zen master boarded the same boat. When they both sat down, the Zen master asked his poet student, “How do you like the view?” The student answered, “Yes, it is a wonderful view.” Then the student asked the Zen master, “What do I look like?” The Zen master replied, “You look like a Buddha.” The poet was very pleased and felt very happy. Later, the Zen master asked the student, “What do I look like?” The student answered, “You look like shit.” The student felt proud because he assumed that he had won a debate with the Zen master. After he went back home, a family member told him that he had completely lost the game. The reason is simple: No matter what you tell people, you only represent who you are. You are what you say to people. To liken another person to shit means there is a lot of shit in your mind. Remember, no matter what types of thoughts pop into your unique mind, you are the one who will harvest the results. So, treat yourself well, and treat others as you would like to be treated. The problem, or the difficulty, has nothing to do with science, nor has it anything to do with medicine. It is your habit that will cause trouble.
Remember that every single thought will affect your physical body, life and relationships, so you have to cultivate positive thoughts. This is the reality, despite whatever your experience or habits might have taught you. It is, however, a goal you can accomplish. You have the power, and you have the tools. Who wants to have happiness? You do. Who wants to have joy? You do. How can you create happiness and joy? You are the only one who can do so! Each of us possesses a mind that can generate a thought, no matter what kind of thought it is. The thought comes first, followed by the action and then the result. Who is the one who will live with the result? It is you. So, the cultivation of positive thought is a must. If you want happiness and joy, there is no other way. When you realize this, you will also realize that you are strong enough to master the challenge.