I grew up in a hot-blooded, short-tempered, angry, southern Italian family. I learned to fight with my brothers at a young age. We yelled and screamed and fought with each other or with anyone else who crossed our path over the smallest things. Any excuse to vent the powerful destructive feeling of rage that steamed inside us. I have worked with my brothers almost every day for the past 12 years in our family-owned business, but I didn't know my anger was a problem until I met Sharon.

Sharon was my fiancée. We dated for six years. Sharon was a kind person. She never swore or raised her voice. Sharon used to look out for my best interest. She cared for me. I can remember how Sharon liked to have fun, how she laughed all the time.

I also remember when I would come home after a fight with my family. I would look for any reason to fight with Sharon. My abusive, evil, hurtful words would spit out of my mouth right at her.

Day after day I vowed to Sharon I would stop getting so angry. But as soon as Sharon did something I didn't agree with, or as soon as she didn't agree with something I did, that powerful and uncontrollable feeling of rage would build inside me again and I would lash out. I couldn't stop my anger and unhappiness and Sharon finally left me.

My discontent, unhappy and angry life became progressively worse. I became a victim of my own agitated mind. I blamed society and my family for all my unhappiness. Thoughts of blame, self-loathing and negativity stormed in my head in a whirlwind of confusion. I became a slave to my addictions. However, it didn't matter how much marijuana I smoked or how much alcohol I drank, or who I slept with, or how much money I made, or how many trips I took, or what books I read, or what psychologist I went to see. I couldn't stop my dissatisfaction with life or my anger.

I wanted answers but I didn't know where to turn, so I decided to call upon my mom, who I knew practiced Falun Dafa (Falun Gong) for some support. I had witnessed fantastic changes in her attitude toward life since she started practicing Falun Dafa. I told her how I felt. How I was so confused and tired of going around in the same vicious circles of negativity over and over again, and that I needed help. My mom smiled and gave me a copy of Zhuan Falun. With all her love and compassion she said very simply to me, "Start to read this book. All of your answers are in this book."

I followed my mom's advice. I started to read the book and do the exercises. I vowed I would dedicate myself to read a little of the book each day. and also do the full set of the exercises at least twice a week for the next six months.

Zhuan Falun is the hardest book I ever tried to read. It pushed all of my buttons. As soon as I started to read thoughts of judgement and doubt filled my head. I judged and criticized what I read. I doubted the teaching. I found all kinds of things in the book I didn't agree with, all sorts of things that went against my beliefs or didn't understand. The more I tried to figure it out with my intellectual mind the more lost I became. It made no sense to me. However, I was determined to stay true to my six-month goal, so whenever I came across something I didn't understand or didn't agree with I just put those things aside and continued to read with an open mind.

As soon as I began the exercises I felt so tired and so lazy. My mind wandered to thousands of thoughts and desires and away from the exercises. I got so restless when I sat for the sitting exercise. The music would start to play. I crossed my legs. I closed my eyes. I felt calm. I sat for a while. Then, I would spring up and walk into the kitchen to check my phone messages.

When I finished, I sat again ready to start. The music started to play. I crossed my legs. I closed my eyes. I felt calm. I sat for a while. Then I would spring up again and run into the kitchen to drink some water.

I finally made up my mind I would sit for the full hour. The music started to play. I crossed my legs. I closed my eyes. I sat for a while. My mind raced full of thoughts and pictures and desires. The pain in my legs became so intense I had to stop. I felt defeated. I then realized I had no self-control.

But three-quarters of the way through the book I felt the power of Zhuan Falun. I became aware of character traits in myself that I had never seen before. I realized I grew up a very insecure, dissatisfied and selfish person. I was never happy with who I was or what I had. I always wanted more. I judged and criticized everyone I met. I looked at people as objects for my own needs. What benefit could they possibly give to me? Were they good enough? Were they smart enough? Were they attractive enough? Could they make me any money?

My life purpose was to strive and stress to succeed for more money, for bigger and better things, to compete and struggle for my own personal interest and to win at any cost. I constantly tried to win the approval of others as I lived my life according to their expectations while my relationships ended up in conflict as I harshly judged and criticized those who didn't live up to my approval or expectations.

I complained about my life and fought with people because I had learned to see others as competitors or as only an audience for my own words and actions. I had mastered the art of controlling and manipulating people for my own emotional needs and selfish desires.

Falun Dafa brought all of my deep-rooted mental and physical defilements up to the surface and right in my face. It made me aware of who I was and how I lived.

The basic teaching of Falun Dafa is simple: Keep upgrading myself by living in accordance of the universal characteristics of Zhen Shan Ren -- truthfulness, compassion and forbearance -- which Falun Dafa teaches are the true characteristics of the entire universe and of every human being. Don't fight with others. View others through the eyes of kindness and compassion. Diminish your attachments. Work hard but don't compete and stress for personal interest. Accept and understand others for who they are and look within to cultivate myself and live a peaceful life. As a practitioner, one must follow the characteristics of the universe instead of the standard of ordinary people. If you can follow these characteristics then you are a good person.

When I first heard these words they sounded so peaceful. This was the answer I had looked for all my life! I was going to live by these guidelines! With this new information I felt like a new person. A kind person, a compassionate person, a tolerant person.

The next day I walked into my office with my new attitude. Within 5 minutes my brother said something that pushed my buttons. I flew into a rage and yelled and screamed as loud as I could. I left in a rage and slammed the door behind me. I boiled in negativity all the way home. I walked into my living room. The first thing I saw was Zhuan Falun on the coffee table. I sat stunned. "I understand the teachings! I know these teachings are the real truth, the real answer to my peace and happiness! Why can't I do it? Why do I slip back into my old negative and abusive patterns?"

And then a story came to me. A story I witnessed some years ago of a young boy who throughout his short life had been badly abused by his mother. He had cigarette burns all over his body, along with several fractures in various stages of healing. He also suffered from malnutrition.

In this story a police matron is very gently and very cautiously holding this little boy as the mother is being handcuffed and arrested for child abuse. As the police matron starts to take the child from the room the child begins to lean over the police matron's shoulder, and reaches out to his mother. He screams, "Mommy, Mommy!" He screams out to the torturer, wanting desperately to go back.

I wondered why this child would want to go back to such a hell. Then I realized this negativity was all this boy had ever known. This abuse was his only familiar. He had no concept of what truth was or what kindness was or what compassion was.

I now understood that I, like that little boy, had become so familiar with my patterns of negativity that the simple and pure traits of kindness, compassion, selflessness actually felt foreign to me. All my life I had chosen the wrong paths. I kept choosing to react to my impulses of anger, greed, lust, and selfishness. I realized my unclean, restless, uncontrollable mind kept me in my old familiar negative patterns. I knew if I wanted to build these new traits of kindness, compassion and forbearance into my life I would need support and I would need a guide. Falun Dafa has given me the support and guidance to create new choices in my life.

I thought, it's easy to look out into this world and want to stop the violence and the hate and the pain that surrounds us every day of our lives. It's easy to blame our society. It's easy to blame others. However, how often do I look at myself and take responsibility for how I act and how I treat people in my everyday life?

Falun Dafa has taught me the only way I can truly make a difference in this world is to acknowledge my own shortcomings and choose to learn to cultivate my mind and live my life with higher morals and higher virtues so I can make the right choices.

As I continue to read Zhuan Falun over and over, I find the teachings incorporate themselves into my everyday life. My old powerful patterns of negativity and fear are slowly decreasing as new patterns of kindness and compassion and forbearance become my new familiar.

My strong determination to read Zhuan Falun has become my new habit. In the morning I read a section of a chapter. And at bedtime I read another section. As I continue to read Zhuan Falun over and over everyday, new lessons appear before my eyes and those things I didn't understand in the beginning are starting to make sense to me now.

My mom and I practice the exercises together on Wednesdays and Sundays. When I start to feel the demon of pain and discomfort try to stop me during the sitting exercise, I sometimes open my eyes to look at my mom.

I see her as she sits. Her legs crossed in double lotus. My mom always has a smile on her face when she sits. However, I can tell at times she suffers in intense pain. Her eyebrows tense up. Her head drops and her body buckles over. But my mom never quits. She straightens up and perseveres through the intense pain until the end. My mom has built strong determination.

I ask her why she goes through this pain. She said to me, "Who else can do it? I see so many people lost in their old patterns of karma. I feel sad for them. I wish everyone could understand the truth and peace of Falun Dafa and help themselves, but who else can do it? I feel sad for all the practitioners in China who are being beaten and killed and imprisoned just because they want to practice this peaceful teaching. I think of them when I feel I want to quit. This intense pain I feel is nothing compared to what they go through. I do it because I can. I do it to become as pure as I can so I can spread the peace of Falun Dafa into my world so maybe someone else might want to learn. This is all I can hope for. "

My mom is my inspiration. She inspires me to persevere through my own hard times and build my determination to also succeed. I now find the pain has become my friend. It keeps me focused and alert. I also find when I persevere through the pain I build strong forbearance, endurance and acceptance in my everyday life. Now when my brothers try to fight with me I say nothing. My trials and tribulations seem less intense. My mind is less agitated and more peaceful and my desire to react with anger is gone.

A friend and fellow practitioner once said to me, "It's like Falun Dafa has given me a new skin, and now when I start to criticize or fight with others I feel like I slip back into my old skin and it feels sticky and gross."

Sometimes I still slip back into my old skin. When I am weak and my demons of greed and lust and selfishness become too strong and devious I feel Master Li looking over me. He tells me this is a test. He reminds me I have a choice. He reminds me how strong and pure I feel when I stay true to the law and not react to these demons. He also reminds me how defeated and painful I feel when I give in. He tells me to stay on the right path. He also tells me, in the end it is up to me. I am the master of my own salvation. It is my choice whether I give in to these demons and drown in my own negativity or build my strength as a practitioner and persevere through this test. At times it is a huge struggle, but I always feel stronger and more pure when I choose to follow the law of the universe.

Sometimes it is my emotional trials and tribulations in life that become too big. As I suffer in my pain and discomfort I call my mom for support. My mom reminds me, as a practitioner I am following the law of the universe. Nothing can harm me. Everything that happens to me is good. "This is how it feels to release karma. Go through the suffering. Consciously endure it. You are becoming purer." My mom congratulates me and reminds me to read Zhuan Falun over and over.

I am so glad I didn't throw this teaching away in the beginning just because I didn't understand or agree with some of the things I read, or because I couldn't put up with a little pain. I'm so glad I put those things aside and continued to read and do the exercises with an open mind.

I am forever thankful for the awareness and wisdom and peace Falun Dafa has helped me build in my life. In less than two years Falun Dafa has empowered me to break the chains of illusion, ignorance and fear that has controlled my life and dominated my family for many generations.

As a practitioner, my new life goal is to bring the characteristics of Zhen Shan Ren (truthfulness, compassion and forbearance) into every relationship I have. With Falun Dafa as my guide I feel fantastic strength because I know my life has a great purpose. I also feel fantastic peace because I now know my future children will learn to live in this new realm of peace and happiness and for this I am forever grateful.

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