Q: I find myself dwelling on past trauma and injustice in my life and getting angry at how unfair life is. What can I do to calm my mind?

A: The philosophy of yoga begins with the firm conviction that no matter who we are, no matter what we have become, no matter what our past has been, there is always a chance to rise above the painful circumstances of our past. It may be hard, but it is not impossible. The most powerful way to do this is to recognize that what we consider to be injustice is part of divine providence. It is something that happened, and it was not under our control when it happened. But it was in the hands of divine providence.

Brooding on what we think was unjust does not take us anywhere. We get caught in thinking that it is completely all right to be mad at those who were involved in our whole messy situation of the past and who we feel could have managed the situation better but did not. Perhaps we think that getting angry is the way to heal and reconcile and come to some kind of resolution—that those involved should apologize or the world should apologize or someone should acknowledge that we have been a victim of such a past. People have been hoping for hundreds of years that this kind of acknowledgement—this kind of recognition from the external world—will help, should help, must help. But most of the time it doesn’t.

By holding and nourishing the virtue of gratitude in your heart, you can automatically overcome the negative tendencies that are distressing you deep inside.

It is only when we establish ourselves in our own inner buddhi (power of discernment) and have the conviction that in the realm of the Divine there is no injustice that things take on a whole different shape: one strand of divine grace is enough to nullify everything else that seems to be a misfortune. Even if a hundred horrible things have happened to you, identify one good thing in yourself and remind yourself of one good thing that has happened to you and be grateful for that.

As a wise sage once said, “Cultivate the skill to magnify a tiny, atom-size, positive quality and focus your mind on it. Recognize it, grab it, and through your own power of positivity, magnify it to the size of a whole mountain.” This one single capacity will help you nullify a mountain-size negativity. Also, be grateful to divine providence, who planted this seed of goodness in you. By holding and nourishing the virtue of gratitude in your heart, you can automatically overcome the negative tendencies that are distressing you deep inside. This is the way to overcome the toughest of all causes of inner disturbance.

In divine providence there is nothing like injustice.

Let me repeat this: Recognize that in divine providence there is nothing like injustice. If there is something undesirable that is happening in your life, there is also some goodness sitting right next to it. If you pay attention, you will find it and see it. Upon seeing it, be grateful to divine providence who gave you that opportunity. In the light of that realization, incinerate all the many unfortunate-sounding causes of inner disturbance in your life. That is how you will be able to nullify their effects in your mind and be able to restore your inner peace. On the firm ground of inner peace you will be able to plant the seed that will bear the fruit of joy and happiness.

Start with something super small, super little. Bring a qualitative change in the style of how you sit and talk and walk. Form a habit of carrying yourself in a positive manner. Bring a sense of softness, of gentleness. Bring the flavor of forgiveness, compassion, fortitude, and forbearance in the different gestures you make with your body while sitting, standing, walking, and talking. Just by bringing these fine, tiny, little changes, fine-tuning here and fine-tuning there, you will find that you are working indirectly with your mind.

It’s never too late. Start by recognizing how you are treating yourself through your thoughts, speech, and actions because of your inner unrest: “I’m not kind to myself or to those I love. I’ve been hurting myself by being angry and resentful.” We tend to take the anger we feel at ourselves out on those who are nearest and dearest to us. Perhaps you take it out on others by yelling or throwing things or hitting. Recognize that and begin to change slowly. It may take a long time, but it’s okay. Keep trying, and one day you will see the positive effect—slowly your mind will be filled with positive qualities and will be clear, calm, and joyful.

More in this Series

Inner Quest: Seeker’s Q&A