There might be some people in your life right now—maybe you live with them, maybe you don’t—who you feel angry or frustrated with. That’s okay. 

In the past year, many of our relationships have been strained. A lot of us are working from home, kids are not in school, and we’re with partners, children, or roommates all the time. This can cause conflict and annoyance. Also, because it’s such a stressful moment—with social distancing and economic uncertainty—many of us simply feel more irritable and impatient, both with ourselves and with each other. 

When you’re upset with someone, you’re suffering from difficult feelings like anger and frustration. And it’s likely that the other person is suffering too. Kindness is a form of skillful meansupekkha in Pali or upaya in Sanskrit—to orient your thoughts, words, and actions to alleviate that suffering and to prevent causing more suffering. 

Kindness doesn’t mean just being nice or pretending like you care. Cultivating kindness means opening your heart, with patience and attention, to your painful feelings—and to other peoples’ painful feelings. So when you’re upset with someone else, it’s important to acknowledge it. Pay attention to it. Feel it in your body. You could even say to yourself, “I’m upset right now, I’m struggling.” 

Other people are who they are. They have their own feelings and views, and it’s not up to us to make them do or say what we want them to. Although someone else may have done something hurtful, you’re responsible for your feelings. Your feelings are your feelings, and only you can take care of them. 

Now, this doesn’t mean we let people harm us. If they’re dangerous or causing hurt, then we might choose to distance ourselves. But if they’re simply frustrating, or won’t listen to us, or we’re angry with them about a disagreement, then we can use our wisdom to understand that what they do and how they do it aren’t up to us. And we can do this by recognizing that just like us, they want to be happy and not suffer. 

All of us, even the worst among us, want to be happy—to have love, a peaceful mind, and contentment—even if we don’t know how to make that happen. So, when we’ve taken care of our feelings, our body, and our mind, then we can extend our kindness to the difficult person too. 

Extending our hearts, being patient, offering kindness—it doesn’t mean to forget or to just ignore how you’ve been treated or what happened with your friend or family member. What it does is help us see our own emotions and reactions clearly. Then we can see the situation clearly, so we have a choice in how we respond. Instead of reacting thoughtlessly, out of habit, we can use our wisdom and choose what we want to do. We might choose to talk to this person, or recognize our part in the problem. Whatever we choose will come from a clear and steady mind. 

Below is a meditation to cultivate kindness, both for yourself and for a person who has been frustrating, annoying, or upsetting to you. This can be practiced each day, maybe ten minutes in the morning or ten minutes before bed. Another time that it’s good to practice this is when you feel tempted to yell or criticize this person or complain about them to someone else. Before you do that, take a pause to do this meditation very briefly so that you don’t react out of anger, but choose how to act out of your clear mind and heart. 

PRACTICE 

Get still, get quiet, and take your time to settle into your seat. Take a few conscious breaths, inhaling and exhaling at your own pace. You can close your eyes, or if you’re sleepy, keep them open with a soft, unfocused gaze. Give yourself permission to relax, to be here at this moment. 

Bring your attention to your heart center, the center of your chest, with the intention to connect with yourself. You make this connection by imagining you’re looking in the mirror or imagining yourself as a child, or just getting a sense of your presence right here, with you. And say this phrase silently to yourself, as though you are giving it as a gift to you: 

May I be peaceful and happy. 

May I be peaceful and happy. 

May I be peaceful and happy.

You can let go of this connection with yourself and this phrase. Bring your attention back to the heart center, where you will connect with a difficult person, a person who is frustrating you. You can imagine them as a child or as you know them; just get a sense that they are here with you. And give them this phrase silently, as a gift of kindness: 

I release you from my demands and expectations of you.

I release you from my demands and expectations of you.

I release you from my demands and expectations of you.

You may get caught in anger or a story about them and swept away from this practice. That’s okay. Just notice what’s happening, and choose to begin again. Reconnect with the person and start over, repeating silently, “I release you from my demands and expectations of you.” 

You can keep this connection with this person, and now include yourself too. Silently give this gift to the two of you: 

May we be peaceful and happy.

May we be peaceful and happy.

May we be peaceful and happy.

Adapted from Kimberly Brown’s Dharma Talk, “In It Together: Kindness through Crisis

Get Daily Dharma in your email

Start your day with a fresh perspective

a photo of a Buddhist meditating
Explore timeless teachings through modern methods.

With Stephen Batchelor, Sharon Salzberg, Andrew Olendzki, and more

See Our Courses

Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.

This article is only for Subscribers!

Subscribe now to read this article and get immediate access to everything else.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Log in.