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Anger, Mind, and Body

As a beginning student of Jin Shin Jyutsu, I heard a lot about holding our fingers. The ring finger helped with sadness, the thumb – with worry, and the index – with fear. The hardest for me was to accept that holding my middle finger would help me with anger. Apart from the suspicious simplicity of that advice, I had more reasons to resist it.

When I felt angry, I didn’t want to stop being angry

“What do you mean, hold your finger and calm down?” I’d ask helpful well-wishers. “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, and it most certainly makes no sense,” I frequently railed against the offending issue. The thing about anger is that once it flares up, we feel justified to hold on to it. It is almost as if it were a badge of honor. Or, the best motivation to get on with our work – save the planet, feed the hungry, defend the downtrodden.

It also didn’t help that I knew the cause of our anger is always in the mind. And using the body to affect the mind is like putting the cart in front of the horse. It was simply the wrong direction in which the Creation flows. After all, wasn’t our mind the most powerful tool we had? And wasn’t it all about the mind as the esoteric traditions all claim? Shouldn’t I focus on healing my mind first and then let the body follow?

Exercise and breathing do not resolve anger but mitigate its effects

I finally understood what all those techniques were aiming to do. They were not there to force changes in the mind. They were there to mitigate the effects on our bodies while the anger raged. Somewhere sometime in the past, a wise and compassionate soul must have given us the means to alleviate our self-inflicted suffering.

Indeed, I can easily see the merit of this new view. Whenever I felt intense anger before, the churning in my stomach prevented me from eating any food. Now, I hold my middle finger and the body feels light and detached from the turmoil in the mind. In the words of Sadhguru, I am keeping my Karma from affecting me:

When you are psychologically distraught, it is particularly important to hold your body consciously, because your karmic substance is trying to shape your body according to its distortions.This explains the enormous care brought into the practice of asanas and pranayama in yoga.

Karma, A Yogi’s Guide to Crafting Your Destiny by Sadhguru, Harmony Books, 2021, p. 131

There is not much sense in suppressing anger while it rages. Or, beat myself over feeling it. If words were enough, we would have already become enlightened by now, wouldn’t we? So, nowadays, I merely wait until anger abates. In the meantime, there are a few things that I do to keep anger from affecting my body.

Preventing anger from affecting the body

Holding Fingers

Hold your middle finger – gently, without pressure or stress. Just wrap the fingers of one hand around the middle finger of the other hand. Hold for 5, 10, or more minutes. And if in doing that, you stopped yourself from waiving that finger at others, congratulate yourself. You are practically a peace worker now! 🙂

1:2 Breathing

Bring your attention to your breathing. Inhale to the count of four, exhale to the count of eight. If it is too much, shorten the length of the inhaling and exhaling intervals but keep the ratio of 1:2.

Helping Others

It’s incredible how quickly we abandon our concerns when someone else needs our help. Over and over, at the college where I teach physics, a distressed student would come for help. And as soon as I would help them, calmness and contentment would settle down. I forget the anger, the resentment, the fear, and anything else that bothered me just minutes before.

Regardless of what you choose to do, don’t forget it’s just effects. Our mind will continue to get angry until we resolve the actual cause for anger. That, of course, requires sustained spiritual practice, varies from person to person, and calls for entirely separate post dedicated to it alone.

Want to learn which finger helps what? Here is an old post on how to help with daily situations. I also maintain a separate site with in-depth JSJ information. For my two-part introductory sequence of the art of JSJ, click here

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