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Musings: How to Keep Cool in an Emotional Heatwave

May 2018 was one of the hottest months ever recorded in our history.  Many places had soaring temperatures, from the Midwest to the northern plains, more than 1,900 heatwave records were broken or tied according to  I am sure many are feeling the discomfort of the summer heat often coupled with high humidity.  Thanks to the advent of air conditioning we are able to relax and remain cool in our homes, workplaces, and places we seek entertainment. But AC only cools us from environmental temperatures…

How do we handle an emotional heatwave?  Even though most of my readers have done important personal development work, we are all at the mercy of outside forces.  Many people’s biggest challenge even if they may be a grounded, innately positive, and peaceful person, is that people around them can get really heated in anger and reaction it’s very hard to stay in the moment and be non-reactive.  Many of us have people with anger issues around with unchecked stress meters and witness the transfer of negative energy from person to person.

upset person

So how does one handle the heat of someone else’s anger?  We all must learn to manage our emotions and anger is one of the most difficult emotions to get a handle on—especially when you are in the line of fire or insults.  The natural reaction is to respond back with a retort or a negative comment.  One thing I have learned in my work is that if you find you are feeling anger it is best NOT to respond as your response is often going to be negative and something you likely later regret.  When you are angry your ability to think is compromised and the negative reaction juices become active.

One person that has done seminal work on anger—more than anyone I know—is Thich Nhat Hanh, affectionately known in spiritual circles as TNH.  TNH is a renowned Vietnamese Buddhist monk that has authored several books and articles and if you have not read him I strongly suggest that you look him up. One of my favorite books of his is called Being Peace.  I recall reading in that book many years ago that he advises, “If you wake up angry – please stay in bed and do not put your feet on mother earth because mother earth absorbs and amplifies your anger energy.”


“When we get angry, we suffer.  If you really understand that, you also will be able to understand that when the other person is angry, it means that she is suffering.  When someone insults you or behaves violently towards you, you have to be intelligent enough to see that the person suffers from his own violence and anger.  But we tend to forget.  We think that we are the only one that suffers, and the other person is our oppressor.  This is enough to make anger arise and to strengthen our desire to punish.  We want to punish the other person because we suffer.  Then, we have anger in us; we have violence in us, just as they do.  When we see that our suffering and anger are no different from their suffering and anger, we will behave more compassionately.  So, understanding the other is understanding yourself, and understanding yourself is understanding the other person.  Everything must begin with you.” 

– Thich Nhat Hanh

I had the immense honor and pleasure to introduce TNH at one of his Dharma talks in San Diego, which was attended by over 3,000 people.  He is a humble, wise man that can talk for an hour about how to eat an orange and have you completely mesmerized.  As a result of me introducing him at this event, I had the honor of a one-on-one hour and a half meeting with him at his peaceful California monastery in Deer Valley, Escondido. When I asked him, “What would you like me to tell the audience about you?”  He said, tell your story.  His humility was very becoming and he never gave me any of his accolades or credentials though I know he has many.  I ended up introducing him by telling my story through the lenses of his teachings.

Towards the end of our conversation, I asked him, “Your holiness, can I ask you a personal question?”

He said, “You are welcome to ask me anything you wish.”

So, I asked him, “You have done the most seminal work on anger than anyone in the world and I was wondering if you get angry?”

He said, “No, not really.”

So, I followed up with the questions, “You never get angry?”

His response was the same, “No, not really.”

Having a persistent nature, I followed up with, “Have you ever been angry?”

His response was, “Ok, I see why you are asking that question. Yes, I have been angry and you are probably wondering what I did when I was angry.”

My response, “Yes, your holiness, that was precisely my query.”

Thich Nhat Hanh said with a soft smile, “I say – hello, old friend, I see you are back. I offer him the best seat in my lounge and serve my best tea and cookies. In other words, I espouse my anger with understanding.  It is important not to react or resist the anger emotion. Because what you resist persists and will amplify. However, if you espouse it and breathe deeply it will subside. Breathe more deeply if you need to.”


“Anger is like a howling baby, suffering, and crying. The baby needs his mother to embrace him. You are the mother for your baby, your anger. The moment you begin to practice breathing mindfully in and out, you have the energy of a mother, to cradle and embrace the baby. Just embracing your anger, just breathing in and breathing out, that is good enough. The baby will feel relief right away.” – Thich Nhat Hanh



In my own personal life, I have also been close to some angry people and have suffered in those moments of hurtful comments, insults, and actions.  Over the years I have learned that these were actually blessings.  As you become spiritually enlightened, you understand that everything that happens to you—you attract.  Why? Because that is the way the universe molds you as we journey towards nirvana or enlightenment.  Of course, it is not easy, and it takes serious discipline, patience, and deep spiritual work.  It is, however, doable.  Of course, TNH has achieved this supreme spiritual status and effectively manages and controls his anger and other negative emotions.  We must all conquer these negative emotions to find peace and happiness.

Personally, as a teacher of nonviolence, forgiveness, and meditation, I find that I do not get angry as often as I used to.  When I do get angry, I am able to manage those emotions and return to the peaceful center within me which is always cool, collected, calm, and centered. While I have not yet reached the heights of TNH – I find that practicing my muscle of empathy, compassion, forgiveness, and love does trump anger and other negative emotions. Now, I have more days of peace, happiness and living in the flow of life.

cool off water image

Here is a final sage advice from TNH:

“According to the Buddha’s teachings, the most basic condition for happiness is freedom. Here we do not mean political freedom, but freedom from the mental formations of anger, despair, jealousy, and delusion. These mental formations are described by the Buddha as poisons. As long as these poisons are still in our heart, happiness

cannot be possible.” 



My very best wishes to all of you staying physically cool through the summer—and more importantly learning from TNH how to air-condition your anger and other negative emotions.

Peace and many blessings,

Azim Khamisa

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Azim Khamisa

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