By Karnamrita Das
While I love to write and am doing my best to speak more, regardless of how inspiring or insightful I may, or may not, be, if it doesn’t inspire you, or I, to take practical action, the benefit will be very brief. Have you ever been to a seminar, workshop, or class, or read a book, where you felt very inspired, only to have it fade because you didn’t put into practice what you heard? I know I have!
Many people know what their problems are, but are unwilling, or don’t believe it is possible for them, to do the difficult work of change and transformation. Or there may be too much secondary gain for staying the same, regardless of their unhappiness or dissatisfaction. We may wear our past wounds like a badge of honor, hoping to get sympathy strokes from other, as in “woe, is me.” Some call this “wound-ology.” Being creatures of habit the thought of change, even positive, beneficial change, is challenging for most people, even if they are currently miserable, and think they “should” change—maybe tomorrow, or that faraway place in the ocean, “Someday Isle.”
What we currently have, or are as a person, is a known reality, but if we change our situation or environment, that is unknown, and takes a leap of faith to embrace. However, we should know that leading a successful life in either the material or spiritual realm requires us to change for the better. As it is said, there isn’t much different between a rut and a grave—only two sides.
There is a quote I have heard in different ways from various sources that I like. This one is attributed to Gandhi: “Keep your words positive, because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive, because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive, because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.”
The road to destiny begins with our thinking, which determines our focus. What we focus on grows in power and we attract more of what we are fixated on, positive or negative, desirable or undesirable. All real, lasting change begins within, and then moves into our practical life. The Gita teaches us that our mind is our best friend or worst enemy. If we analysis our lives, we will see how this is true, and that our minds keep us down, and prevent us from changing. We have given them that much power and listen to minds negative perspective. Never the less, it is possible, and essential, to change our minds focus and our perpetual negative self-talk.
Our lives are the outcome of this chain outlined by Gandhi. We may not like the results we see and feel in our lives. While we may bemoan our “lot in life,” we are often not willing to take responsibility for what we have created. Sometimes we feel trapped and that there is no way out, yet largely we keep ourselves stuck in this perception by dwelling on our problems and thinking that there is no solution other than to tolerate our lives or grin and bear it.
Of course some things we can’t change, and acceptance and surrender are in order. Never the less, we can endeavor to make the best of whatever we must endure, remembering part of the serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
If we are not happy, then we have to begin by examining how we think. First, do we think we are unworthy of happiness? Do our thoughts show we focus on the negative and yet complain about our life, spouse, family, work or lack of accomplishment? While I have experienced that my spiritual practices have greatly benefited me in discovering my tendency for negative thinking, we can also use spiritual philosophy to beat ourselves up and tell ourselves how bad we are, being so far from the very high ideal of pure devotion.
Thus, as I have often shared, we need to do the difficult work of introspection guided by the bhakti scriptures and those who live by spiritual ideals, and see practically that we can change our thinking and change our lives one step at time—thoughts, talk, actions, habits, values. We want to take the time to observe ourselves, not as a critic, but with compassion like a angelic detective looking over our shoulder to help us. We can ask ourselves what we are our values, and if our habits, actions, talk, and thoughts support them. If they don’t, that is part of our life work, and the road to our happiness. Ideally we will live in integrity with what we most value.
We don’t want to live by excuses why we can’t live our values, or remain stuck in the same old, same old. If you are stuck in dissatisfaction and mediocrity, seek help, while praying for the strength to change and to believe that it’s not only possible, but an absolute necessity. We must endeavor to change for the better and realize our highest potential. This is the work of bhakti. Armed with yoga be a spiritual warrior, not a material worrier. Remember to practice gratitude, and help others by practicing kindness. Let us find a new perspective to find a new life.