Have you noticed how deeply convinced you are sometimes that you are the primary mover and shaker of all? It’s what life does to us. We have jobs, kids, lovers. We think, somehow, without us, everything will drop into a sinkhole. We tell ourselves a funny story: if I don’t do it… well, the universe will crumble. Into a sinkhole.
But have you ever noticed that even your best efforts on behalf of everyone all the time doesn’t yield consistent results? Have you noticed that sometimes the results are just darn unsatisfactory? Have you noticed how you even start to build resentment—little by little—because no one sees how incredibly hard you work?
And still… you persist.
A wonderful teaching of yoga offers this reminder: your effort is required AND so is your acceptance of whatever results eventuate. You can find this teaching in a few prime locations.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna advises a conflicted Arjuna that his qualms about going to war against his family members are projections of himself. He asks Arjuna to see more clearly the forces at work before him. Sure, it’s a crappy situation, but Arjuna must look beyond his personal concerns to realize the crisis before him. It isn’t just about bloodshed, justice and death. Arjuna comes to understand that the real battle is the one within. To find peace, he must direct his inquiry beyond the risk to flesh in battle and learn the import of his purpose as a warrior.
It’s a beautiful metaphor. The arising of our doubts and fears signals to us the presence of obstacles. Who put those there? Guess. What you see as a crisis is a mirror inviting you toward self-discovery. We like to pretend like it’s the world out there to blame. Or the person in that car at fault. Or the other country, other community, other neighborhood provoking all the bad, all the horror, all the shit on all the walls. But these are judgments with a source within. As in, this kind of thinking is you forgetting it’s you. It’s always been you. As Rumi put it, ‘If you have not seen the Devil, go look in the mirror.’
Likewise, in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, we are advised that the transformative system of Yoga requires both our consistent effort and our patient acceptance. We engage. We do what we must. And then we remember that our attachment to the outcome will totally lead us to suffering. Come what may. So instead of attaching, what if we decide to honor whatever comes.
Think about it: if you work hard but your plan doesn’t work, you’re bummed. You put in your effort so where are your gains? Oh… we suffer. And if you work so hard and your plan does work, how long does that happiness last? Only as long as it takes your next plan to fail. As it surely will. (And should. Otherwise, how would you ever learn a thing?)
As you go about your day, see how it feels to engage with the world deeply while reminding yourself that struggles and distraction, celebration and defeat are all experiences to take you toward yourself. Make every effort to share your skills, your intellect and your heart and then observe with equanimity the evolving form of your world. It will always leave you in wonder if you stop thinking it should be otherwise.
Love. Wonder. Love.