TOWARDS PEACE OF MIND

I have been thinking that life as well as the people I meet in life should be fair. A frustrating aspect of life is not being able to understand other peoples behavior. I used to focus on other peoples seemingly irrational behavior, their comments, actions, mean-spirited acts, selfish behavior, and get myself extremely frustrated. It seemed that other people made me miserable. Definitely every individual is different. Every person has his attributes, virtues and contributes in his or her own way. When that way does not match exactly to mine, I consider other people do weird things. However, I am the one getting upset. So, I am the one who needs to change.

Realizing this, I have learned to be less bothered by the actions of others. When someone is acting the way I do not like, I distance myself from the behavior to ‘look beyond it’ and to look for an innocence in it with a basis in diversity.

Prior to providing a solution to a problem I like to study it in depth. Many a times people have pressured me to hurry up. Often their technique for getting me to hurry along is obnoxious, even insulting. If I just focus on the words they use, the tone of their voices and the urgency of their messages surely I get annoyed, even angry, thus making me unable to concentrate on the actual problem to be solved. If I remember the urgency I feel when I am in a hurry to do something, it allows me to discover the innocence in their behavior. Underneath even the most annoying behavior I do see a totally frustrated person crying out for compassion.

Compassion is a sympathetic feeling. It includes willingness to put myself in someone elses shoes to take the focus off myself and to imagine what it is like to be in someone elses condition with a simultaneous feeling of love for that person. This is a recognition of the other persons problems, pains, frustrations to be every bit as real as my own. The intention in compassion is to open my heart to others. Next comes action: What I do about it! I can offer my time, genuine services to ease out the burden. Mother Teresa reminds us that We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love.  This is what my mother did in her own way and even after she has gone for a long time, she is still remembered.

I have noticed we tend to spend a lot of time complaining about what is wrong with life. the fact is life is not fair and also it will not be. Surrendering to this fact has kept me from feeling sorry for myself. It encourages me to do the best I can with what I have. It is not lifes job to make everything perfect. it is my own challenge. The fact that life is not fair does not mean that I should not do everything in my power to improve my own life. To the contrary, suggests that I should.

I notice that without patience life is extremely frustrating. The more patient I am the more accepting I will be of what is. Becoming more patient involves opening my heart to the present moment, even if I do not like it. We have a cat called Shadow. On many occasions, he has walked into my study-room, jumped on my notebook where I was writing, interrupted my work, my train of thought, which can be disruptive.  What I have learned to do is to see the innocence in his behavior rather than just focusing on the potential implications of his interruptions. When I am working in the yard, he comes from almost nowhere and stands close to me. I have to stop whatever I was doing and caress him. I remind myself why he is coming to see me because he loves me, not because he is conspiring to ruin my work. When I remember to see this innocence I immediately bring forth a feeling of patience and my attention is brought back to the present moment. Any irritation that may have been building up is eliminated, and I am reminded again of how fortunate I am to have such a loving pet like Shadow. From my experience with Shadow I have found that if I look really deep enough I can almost see the innocence in other people as well.

My ego mistakenly believed that if I point out how someone is wrong I must be right and therefore I will feel better.  However, when I paid special attention to how I feel after I put someone else down, I noticed that I feel worse than before the put-down.  It is impossible to feel better at the expense of someone else. The compassionate part of me for my own peace of mind propelled me to have my goal to build people up, to make them feel better, to share their joy. I make cautious attempts to resist my temptation of correcting others and ask myself, What do I want from this interaction? Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy? Many a times the two are mutually exclusive. Usually it is just my ego creeping in a habit of wanting to be or needing to be right. Being right is defending my position. It takes an enormous amount of energy and often alienates me from people in my life.

Needing to be right means needing someone else to be wrong. This encourages others to become defensive and puts pressure on me to keep defending. I do spend a great deal of energy and time to prove that I am right and/or others are wrong. I used to believe that it is somehow my job to show others how their positions, statements and points of view are incorrect and that I in doing so the person I am correcting is going to appreciate it. I am totally wrong. We all want our positions to be respected and understood. Being listened to and heard is one of the greatest desires of the human heart. Those who learn to listen are the most loved and respected. Those who are in the habit of correcting others are often resented and avoided.

BHARTIS COMMENTARY

Like most of us, Bal Thanedar is struggling to discover which modes of action will be effective in changing the multitude of situations we face in life for the better. He has discovered that this can in no way be achieved by letting the ego get in the way because the ego is inherently self-protective and self-righteous. Egotistic thinking is essentially dualistic and divisive: I can only be considered right if I prove that someone else is wrong. Egotistic thinking cannot abide the other being equally right, or interestingly different, because the ego feeds on a sense of its own superiority, i.e. I am great only if others are small and insignificant.

What a paltry and sad position this is, for it will inevitably poison all our relationships with others because it rules out compassion and acceptance of diverse ways of thinking. Love and patient understanding are the motivating forces that can truly propel the emergence of human actions that can ameliorate every situation because at the heart of compassionate thinking is the feeling that life is and should be a win-win situation in which my good fortune is never at the expense of anyone elses, but only serves to raise up all ships, not just my own.

There is a certain innocence in this which Bal observes in his cat Shadow. This innocence characterizes all compassionate actions, for Shadow only wants to be seen and heard purring softly and contentedly, to give and receive love and attention, which, if we are honest, is exactly what we humans truly desire if we can only get the ego out of the way.

Yes, there is a certain naivety in compassionate action which is based on the premise of love and mutuality. The ego considers such thinking to be foolish and heedless of self-regard. The ego is based on calculation and self-righteousness and requires someone to be put down and defeated, not loved as an equal.

Being in love is impossible without naivety, for it requires us to let go and abandon ourselves to the other. The nature of love opens us and leaves us exposed as nothing else can. However, without the courage to love naively and unconditionally, we cannot truly make sense of our intrinsic interdependence which is the basis of all uplifting social interaction. Mother Teresas small acts of compassion in the Calcutta slums among the outcaste and the dying were born out of great love which by its very nature is naive and risk-taking, expecting nothing in return, and yet receiving everything.

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