The Power of Attitude
Why is attitude so important? Why does it even matter? As long as we ultimately do or say the right thing, who cares what the attitude is? The answer is, God does.
Suppose you tell your son or daughter to empty the dishwasher. They grumble and complain, and slam cabinets and rattle dishes. Their brow is furrowed and they’re mumbling under their breath the whole time. When they’re done, they storm past you and say: “There… the stupid dishwasher is empty!” Is your response to thank them for a job well done? Or is your reaction more likely to warn them to change their attitude?
Now we see more clearly why attitude is important. And it is for God, too. In fact, it is more important to God than it is to us. Our attitude is much deeper than just a few thoughts we might think or not think. Our attitude comes out of the core of our being. It represents our disposition, our outlook, our very character. What is within will come to the fore, as our attitude always manifests itself in actions or reactions. We don’t have a bad attitude just because we had a bad day. The reason is simply that we have a bad attitude.
We all have attitudes – sometimes good, sometimes not so good, and other times just plain nasty. Nine times out of ten, when we begin to feel that things in life are just too difficult, the problem is not with the world or with others, but with ourselves. The problem is that our attitude has become negative. If we change our negative attitudes to positive ones, then we can change our world.
It’s an interesting fact that when asked the reason for their success many wealthy business-men put it down to their attitude. The inventor Thomas Jefferson said:
Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
If we want to live a happier, healthier life then we need to develop and maintain a positive attitude. People who have a positive attitude are significantly less likely to show signs of aging, they are less likely to become frail and are more likely to be stronger and healthier than those who have a negative attitude. If we have a doom and gloom attitude at the very least our negative attitude is making us weaker.
The Master always tells us to be positive. So what impact does our attitude have on our spiritual lives? For one thing, our attitude to meditation is a determining factor in the way our meditation will unfold. When we sit in meditation we are training ourselves to operate from a perspective of accepting, letting go and being free. It is an attitude of obedience to a power we have accepted as greater than ‘me’. It would be detrimental for us to bring yesterday’s perceived meditation failures into today’s meditation. Our attitude in meditation should be to present ourselves to the inner Master, naked of purpose and agendas, with no expectations of results or inner visions. We should put aside all worries and desires, and release all preconceptions.
With single-minded and gentle attention to simran or to the Sound we are to become receptive to the way of the Shabd. In time the patience, devotion, acceptance and surrender that we acquire in meditation will be transferred to our daily life. Attitude is the point of view we apply to life.
For a disciple the challenge is to cultivate an attitude of mind wherein we attend to all things of the world with a light heart, as a matter of duty, and no more. Met with a positive attitude, this world can become a source of joy, inspiring us to see the divine will in everything and to worship the Lord through his creation. A positive attitude gives us the ability to accept our condition and the inspiration to renew our commitment to meditation. With the right attitude we look for the positive in everything and learn to identify ourselves with the Shabd that is in us, and is in all life forms. But most importantly, when doing meditation we keep focused on the effort. Then whatever happens, we remain in balance and unaffected by the storms that are an inescapable part of the experience of being human.
Meditation helps our attitude by giving us the perspective to see the big dramas of life as small or insignificant, rather than as gigantic unsolvable problems. It transfigures us – it is a gradual change on the inside that produces a total transformation on the outside – so that we become what God always intended us to be.
When the sculptor Michaelangelo was questioned about how he made the statue of David – one of the greatest works of art ever produced, he said:
In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.
Now let’s apply this to the spiritual life. All of us are works-in-progress. We’re not finished, not glorified, not perfected, not completed. We’re all under construction. While the hammering and sawing continue, it’s hard to imagine what the final result will be. But if we are steadfast in our meditation, God never stops working on us and our attitudes. He chips away at our attitudes and transforms the blocks of marble that we are into the beautiful creations he has always envisioned.
One of the bad attitudes that we human beings are slaves to is an attitude of entitlement and expectation. On an external level we expect the Master to create circumstances where we can have his darshan, we expect to get as close to him as we possibly can, we expect his drishti, we expect his love, we expect his grace. When we go to the Dera we expect comfortable accommodation, we expect to be seated in front, we expect the sevadars to treat us with respect and love, we expect question and answer sessions with the Master, we expect the Master not to miss a day of satsang when we are there. Then on an internal level, as soon as we are initiated, we expect to hear the sound and see the light and have all the experiences that the books talk about – perhaps even on the first day we sit for meditation! We do not have an attitude of gratitude, we only have an attitude of entitlement.
Then along comes our Master, and he turns this base metal of no value into gold. Shabd is the most precious thing the Master has to give away and he reserves it for his devotees. If he gave one drop of this Shabd to Kal, all our accounts would be paid for. Yet we, his devotees, believe that we are entitled to his grace, we are entitled to his love and we don’t even have to put in the two and a half hours of effort that he asks of us. We forget about the huge load that he has forgiven and is not even asking us to account for. We don’t deserve any of this. An attitude of gratitude for what the Master does for us will only begin when the sense of entitlement ends.
In The Science of the Soul Maharaj Jagat Singh Ji explains how changing our attitude to life and adjusting to situations will bring us closer to happiness. It will make us better able to deal with the paradoxes of life – those difficult ups and downs we encounter:
Let him accomplish things in his own way rather than in the way that you desire. Try to adjust yourself to all that he does and you will never be unhappy.
All the Masters talk about adjusting our attitudes to accept happily everything that the Lord sends our way and to accept it as his will.
A change in attitude is not enough unless it’s backed up by effort. What we are trying to accomplish on the path of Sant Mat is not easy. It requires a lot of effort. Controlling the mind and senses is the most difficult thing on earth to achieve. But we can make it less complicated, or very difficult – it depends on us. It is less complicated if we adapt the rest of our activities to it, if we make it our life’s work. But if we try somehow to squeeze Sant Mat into a lifestyle that’s not compatible with it, we run into trouble. Then we become frustrated and discouraged. It is hard work, but we should never see ourselves as failures and give up, rather we should pray to the Master to help us in adopting a positive attitude, so that we can go through our karmas and our destiny with love, humility and acceptance.
How can I say enough about the generosity of saints?
They are the ones who keep me ever vigilant.
How can I repay them for the blessings they bestow?
Even the offering of my life is not enough.
Their every utterance is made to help us;
They spare no pains to make us understand.
As the mother cow fondly cherishes her calf,
So do the saints forever protect me, says Tuka,
Tukaram: The Ceaseless Song of Devotion