There are two questions I get asked a lot:
1. How do you maintain such a positive attitude?
2. How do you keep from getting angry?
Two words come to mind: Perspective and Practice.
Perspective is something I gained through life experience and hard work.
Several years ago I was at a bottom emotionally. Life was just too hard, or so I thought at the time. I wanted to die; I was tired of trying, tired of failing. But something made me get up and try again; this time, with the desperation of a drowning man. If I didn’t find something… well I just had to find something. With the help of others, and a fearless moral inventory of myself and my past, I realized I did not treat myself well. I would not have treated someone I loved that way. I got honest, trusted people who had similar experiences, and allowed them to love me until I learned to love myself.
Today, I wake each morning with an attitude of gratitude. I am truly grateful to be alive. I want to be alive today, and I remember the time in my life when I did not. My perspective of what is important in life today is vastly different than it was before my “aha” process. For me, it has always been a process, a process where hundreds of moments spawned from action result in a changed perspective. I view the world through a spiritual lens today, and not one of self propulsion or selfish needs and desires.
There is nothing anyone could ever say or do to me, which could be worse than what I’ve done or said to myself at some point in time.
Two ways I keep a healthy perspective on the universe and my place in it:
- Helping Others. Through support groups, I get a chance to be of service to others who struggle with the same problems I did. By helping others, I remember where I came from. It’s inevitable that the feeling of despair and pain I felt years ago will lesson as it gets further away. The fear of feeling that pain and despair again will only last for so long. By helping others, I’m reminded of where I came from and how I felt. This gives me a better perspective on how far I’ve come and how grateful I am.
- Spiritual Growth. Nothing is a guarantee and what I do today has an effect on my Spiritual Zen tomorrow. I must continue to grow spiritually or I risk falling back into my old ways of thinking, and for me that can be fatal.
The right perspective cultivates gratitude, and a grateful heart is seldom angry. Anger also keeps me out of the present moment where life happens.
“The more anger towards the past you carry in your heart, the less capable you are of loving in the present.”
– Barbara De Angelis quotes
Serenity and happiness are by-products of right living. And right living is an action. I must practice gratitude as an action. One way is by telling friends how much they mean to me or taking care of my material possessions as well as me. Eating right, getting enough sleep and exercise are all actions which help me practice gratitude for being alive. When I’m grateful, my attitude is positive.
“Your joy is the physical manifestation of gratitude.”
For me, everything comes down to action. When I wake each morning, I get down on my knees and ask for guidance. It’s an action; I don’t just think about it, I do it. I do the same thing before going to bed each night and give thanks. Even if I’m in bed already reading and I’m feeling lazy, I get out of bed and on my knees. I take action and as result, I feel better about myself.
By praying for others, I practice being unselfish. If I’m harboring resentment towards someone, I pray for them—every night—to have all the things I want in my life; peace, love, health, and happiness. Sometimes this takes weeks or months and it doesn’t feel sincere, but at some point my attitude towards them changes and the resentment fades.
So how does this translate into an ability to resist anger? I guess I’m not resisting anger so much as rechanneling it… OK, so I’m praying for others right? That’s an action and I practice it. Now let’s say someone cuts me off in traffic and I start to feel the anger rising inside me. By conditioning myself through prayer (practicing), I’m better equipped to think about someone else—like the person who just cut me off. Maybe they’re on the way to the hospital or just lost their job etc. The point is, I don’t know what they may be going through, but I can pray that they find peace. This is also where perspective comes back in; At some point in my life, I have probably done the same thing to someone that this person just did to me.
I heard someone say the other day, “Things happen in the world around me, not to me.” When I realize the world does not revolve around me, I take things less personal. As a result, I’m less susceptible to anger.
I practice each day to be the best “me” I can be. This allows me to be less effected by outside influences. As a result, I’m more positive and less angry.
photo credit: Thomas Hawk