Thursday, June 10, 2010

A matter of perspective

Can we influence the way we see things? When arriving in Jakarta after spending a few weeks in Amsterdam, I realized how quickly I sometimes jump from a negative to a positive perspective and vice versa. Often I am able to influence that by thinking positive thoughts like a maniac. But that doesn't work when I'm in a really bad mood. The moments where I’m in the worst mood is probably after I’ve traveled for more than twelve hours. Even though by appearance I just look my own happy self, negative thoughts swirl around in my head like tornadoes.

When I see the world like that, everybody seems annoying and ugly, on purpose. They do it especially to annoy me. The Dutch stewardesses speak too loud complaining about their pursers. I get angry at the Asians that get up too quickly after landing to open the luggage bins. "They do it even before the seat belt sign is switched off!" I growl to myself. They push me out of the plane. They do it just to annoy me. In the long queue at the passport control, I try hard not to listen to the woman behind me. She’s on the phone and says “Ya saaaay… tapi saaay…” every other sentence (Say is short for sayang which means sweetie). A guy stands behind me at the baggage belt and makes a sound as if he’s trying to retrieve a chicken bone from his throat. Not once, but twenty times in a row. I tell myself he's not doing this just to annoy me. Still, I move away from him. When I get my bag, I quickly walk outside.

And then, suddenly, everything changes. I feel the compressing Jakartan heat that immediately makes my skin sticky. I hear the honking of cars all stuck at the airport’s parking lot and people yelling “Hello miss, taksi, miss?”. I see palm trees and the sky which is all red and black and purple. A woman carries a tray of Bintang beer. She trips and she screams “Ya Allaaaah”. We chuckle together. I'm seeing things from a positive side again. What happened to change my mood? I realize that all those annoying and ugly people were also tired after their flights and that they were not that ugly after all. Next time when I'm in my worst mood, I'll try harder to remember that.

The Dalai Lama teaches us compassion and my own guru Stephen Covey talks about being aware of your own perspective on things. We shape the way we see the world. But how to rise above your own fleeting emotions and practice this?

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