The other day I asked my brother, who turned his life around from one of negativity and anger into one of the most positive, happy, peaceful and spiritual that I know, how he managed to do that–what the secret of his happiness was. He emailed me a response that is so profound, beautiful and inspiring that I want to share it with everyone. Here it is–please read it in its entirey; it gets better and better:
The reward for forgiving others is that you can forgive yourself.
Getting angry is the opposite of gaining control.
Feeling guilty is a form of anger — at oneself. Better to forgive yourself.
People tend to make the same mistakes over and over, probably because they spend too much time thinking about their mistakes. I.e. we do what we think about. It's best to think only about the right way to do things.
Save perfection for things where perfection is really needed; getting by with a minimum of effort is often appropriate, and more enjoyable.
There are general rules for living — I have found some by trial and error. One can also read religious books — that can save a lot of time, if one understands what one is reading, but some people (like myself) like to learn by experience. If that's the case, expect a rough ride, and remember to pray a lot. An easier route, read The Sermon on the Mount until it permeates your consciousness.
Listen to great music; not what people tell you is great music, but music that really speaks to you, and gives you the hope and will to live with courage and understanding. I could list pieces I think are great, but everyone has different ideas. It's important to find what works for you.
Visual art is great if it makes me see things I need to see, gives me the ability to deal with problems, makes me feel good about life, and maybe even makes me smile.
To me, prayer is really more like meditation; not so much an asking for things, but an attempt to frame your life in a larger context, obtain understanding, and express gratitude, appreciation, and concern for life and people. We live by grace, not will.
The truth is a whisper; it doesn't need to shout.
Appearance is not reality, but the reality of what a person is thinking about will eventually appear.
Full throttle anger is a futile expression of an ego that is going to crash and burn.
I truly feel sorry for everyone; everyone sooner or later has problems, and everyone dies. Compassion follows naturally from these facts.
Most people want to do good things; usually they just don't know what to do.
Depression is a form of anger. It does not feel like anger because it is directed against oneself. When the self is angry at the self, you get depression. What causes anger against oneself? — loss of control over one's life. How does one lose control over one's life? — by being angry at life or other people, or oneself.
So, how can one regain control over ones life? You have to forgive people — and yourself. I mean really forgive them, not just say some words about it. The people don't have to be there; thinking about them will present them, in your minds eye. Most everyone does things they shouldn't have done, but they all have reasons for what they did. Look them in the eye, in your mind's eye, and say "I forgive you for being twisted." Seriously, or whatever else works. The important thing is to really deal with one's feelings towards that person or oneself, forgive, and move on. Forgiveness negates anger, and returns control to one's life. If a person is so angry and depressed that there is a desire to do harmful things, then the anger has won; it has crowded out everything else. At that point, one must rekindle the wish to do good things. Everyone has some memories of accomplishments and good times. Those memories can be revisited, amplified and imparted to new experiences. Since it is very difficult to have two mental states at one time, the memories of a past good experience can be used to shape current experiences. Deeply recalling the memories of the good experience enables one to reenter the emotional state of that prior time. Furthermore, one can construct personal symbols which come out of these remembered good experiences — the symbols will probably occur spontaneously; but, symbols can also be borrowed or sketched out on paper or on a computer screen. The ideal symbol of a healthful emotional state is closely identified with the emotional state, can be instantly and vividly recalled, triggering the desired healthful emotional state. This is sort of like creating your own personal, private mythology, available on demand. No one else can interfere with it. I have a rather large collection of personal symbols, and enjoy constructing new ones. May sound a little strange, but it does work, and can give a person a lot of control over how to deal with new events, new acquaintances, using the best of one's own emotional resources — which will give you a position of strength and courage, i.e. control. The alternative, for someone who is depressed, is keep dwelling on their worst experiences, and carrying those feelings of failure, frustration, loss of control and anger into everything they do — guaranteeing that more bad experiences, and more anger and depression will occur. That is a myth-making process too, but in the wrong direction, causing only the worst experiences to be magnified until they take over the psyche.
Keeping a positive outlook will cause more harmony and opportunity than depression. There is an infinite amount of things to enjoy in this world, and most people want to help. There are a lot of places to turn to — and a lot of really good people. Creativity in dealing with problems is more plentiful when someone can develop a health-and-strength-giving attitude. Meditation will help make a good memory vivid enough to really get its emotional impact, and will help trigger the thought of an appropriate symbol. Thinking about things over and over will drive a person crazy if the things are not pleasant. Thinking about pleasant and good things over and over is like going back to a refreshing spring — you never get tired of it. Kind of like the song Ripple by Hunter and Garcia (http://www.dead.net/song/ripple). People can transform themselves, and they can transform others. Whether it's for bad or good is up to the individual. It is easy to step off the deep end when someone inadvertently unleashes their demons from hell instead of angels from the heaven within — everyone contains both, or at least can plug into either one — it is a choice we have, once we understand the power of thought in one's life. Thinking about things is not just a secret that we have with ourselves, it is a powerful process that shapes what kind of life we will have and what kind of life we will help others have. Anger, fear, envy, despair, ingratitude, unkindness etc chisel out a monument that will finally be horrible to behold, and everyone will see it. Love, gratitude, respect, kindness, compassion, strength for doing right, courage, etc are more than words, they are mental states that are the first part of a process that we can use to shape a better and blessed life for ourselves and others. Each person chooses which way to go, with the choice of what to think about.