This is a multi-part series inspired by a recent three week adventure I had in Costa Rica. It will explore themes of connection, leadership, and roaming the earth with a big, juicy, open heart.
#2: Shitty Anger
We were stopped at a souvenir shop, one of those places that is conveniently located on the way to some interesting tourist attraction - today’s attraction being a walk we were going to do around the Arenal volcano. Of course here in Costa Rica the shop looked very different than the omiyage (souvenir) shops we are used to in Japan: completely open to the outdoors, rougher around the edges, and fresh coconuts! A critical difference from when I’ve seen tour groups stop at places like this in any country was that for some reason there was no line in front of the women’s restroom, but six men in front of me for the only men’s room. If I didn’t come up with a plan B, there was going to be a messy situation.
Rewind to a few hours earlier that day before breakfast, and you would have found me and one of my coaching colleagues screaming. Not at each other, but at the river valley around us. Me picking up rocks and throwing them as hard as I could with the intention to shatter them, him punching the water furiously to the point of breaking his watch. We screamed about our relationship issues, our hatred of how some things were going in our lives, our disgust for all the external forces that seemed determined to work against us. We were practicing anger.
The larger context of what was going on is that it had been four full days since I had had a good crap, and I was starting to get worried. I was very focused on the physical reasons why this could be - all the starchy foods we had been getting in the wonderful meals we were eating at the retreat, and I had tried everything: papaya, papaya juice, prunes, natural laxative pills, and some ‘special juice’ concoction our wonderful host had made up just for
this purpose. No luck.
It had occurred to me the day before that there may be something else at play. I’m learning more about the connection between our physical and energetic experiences and wondered if I was holding some kind of energy that was blocking the way my body normally functions. Like perhaps the anger I felt about some issues that had come up in my marriage since leaving Japan for the trip to Costa Rica. I was very aware of the anger (read: hurt) I had been experiencing, but I certainly couldn’t express it fully in front of my colleagues at the coaching retreat I was attending - they might get to see the monster that lives inside me!
So when one of my male colleagues expressed some of his own frustration and anger (and his similar fear of what might happen if he really released it) in one of our working sessions, I invited him on an anger practice date the next morning. He accepted. Neither of us had ever done this, so we just improvised. And while we thought we had distanced ourselves far enough from the ecolodge to not disturb people, we learned later that that was definitely not the case.
Was there actually a connection between releasing the anger in the morning and the fact that I was now in a line for the bathroom at the souvenir shop with an urge I hadn’t had in four days? Suffice to say that was not on my mind at the time at all, and sparing you the details, a combination of recently revived Spanish fluency and pura vida hospitality got me where I needed to go just in time. And everything flowed smoothly for the rest of my adventure in Costa Rica.
Since then, I’ve been paying more attention to anger, my anger. How it shows up, and the shame and desire to hide it that often accompanies it. How, even though we literally live in a perfect place to take on more anger practice - a river with lots of rocks in front of our house, and no neighbors to hear my screams - I hesitate. What if my family hears me and it scares them? Or worse, if I admitted to them that there is an anger that resides in me that at times I feel I have to release in such a practice?
The universe, in her infinite generosity provided me with an opportunity to get into just that with my family this past weekend. Our older son is 15, and we have noticed a marked increase in his level of aggression and anger in his communication recently, particularly towards his younger brother (who would never admit how much much he idolizes his big brother, or how much it hurts him to be the target of his anger). This gave my wife and I a chance to share with him what we were noticing and see what he might want to practice differently. And it gave me a chance to admit where I am at in my own journey with anger.
And so we are practicing. Practicing noticing, practicing sharing, practicing honoring anger as one of our many emotions that we can make choices about how and when to express.
I’m a stand for men learning to notice, practice and bring love to all of the complicated emotions we experience - however messy that can be.
Keyaki is a group where men in Japan practice that together. Skip and I would love to have you join if you are interested. No guarantees it will make you regular, but it probably won't hurt.