This is the 3rdlesson in the “Weathering a Storm” series. We explore the issue of “control”. It is very common for people to spend a good deal of their time either trying to control things that they cannot or being upset or angry because they cannot control someone, something, or some situation. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, this is not very smart and does not actually help us in our life.
By becoming fixated on that which we cannot control, we end up losing control of our life, by coming under the control of anger, disappointment, and mental disturbance. It is empowering to instead, make conscious choices to act on things I actually have control of, things like:
- My priorities in life
- What you eat, drink, or inhale
- What you talk about
- What you think about
- How you react to things (other people’s words and actions)
- How much effort you put into things (relationships, family, friends, social obligations)
- When and how you show gratitude
- How kind you are
- Who you hang out with
- Your words
- How open-minded you are
- How seriously you take life
- Whether you show empathy for the suffering of others
- Your willingness to help others
Some links to guided meditations I mention:
Aum namo bhagavate vasudevaya.
So, continuing with this series, Weathering a Storm:
So in the first lesson that we dealt with was the very wonderful old saying, “This too shall pass,” and then we went on in the second lesson was the Serenity Prayer, “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” So these two are just like the first layers in the foundation that we were talking about in preparing a new paradigm, a new framework for living, not only dealing with this current crisis that we face but something that can be applied to our life going forward.
So, what I want to talk about this evening is taking back my life. That’s quite a bold statement I guess, for some people, but I think what this current crisis definitely shows us is that we’re actually not totally in control of our life. There are actually so many things that we do not have any control over, we do not exercise control, we don’t have the power to control, and yet often these are the things that we are allowing to, in many ways, control our life and determine what it is that we are going to be doing, what is our focus, what is our purpose, where we feel that we are going in this life.
So it’s really very common for people to spend a real—a good deal of time either doing one of two things, either trying to control things which they cannot, or being really upset or even angry because they cannot control someone, or something, or some situation. So, if we focus on that one for a little bit…
I think as we go through the—we talk, things will become increasingly clear to us, and what we should be doing is meditating upon these ideas, thinking about them in relation to my own life. Don’t think about anybody else. Don’t focus on others. Think about our own personal life. If we are going to be brutally honest then it’s actually not very smart, and it does not actually help us in our life to do either of those two things: either trying to control things beyond our control, or then that kind of reaction that we have getting upset or getting angry. That really doesn’t help us at all, and it’s not smart to be to be focused there. What we need to do is be a little bit more reflective, and try to discern what are the areas of my life where I can make these clear choices, where I can make focused decisions to act on things that are within my control.
So I’ll give you just a couple of really, some people might think are a little bit silly, examples of how this applies in our life.
You know, we cannot control, for instance, when the sun comes up or when the sun sets, yet many people end up having an issue with this, maybe not directly but perhaps in indirectly. And if you think back to when you’re a kid, and you are so eager to play, and you’re out there running around with your friends, or whatever you’re doing, and you’re playing, then all of a sudden the sun starts going down, and it’s starting to get dark, and it becomes a bummer because now that’s going to severely interrupt your fun, and you’re gonna have to go home. Or when we get a little bit older people, you know, they might have a late night, like a seriously late night, and they may need some, you know, rest in the morning but then in the peak of summer the sun rises so early, and that interrupts our sleep and our desire to have more rest, and we’re gonna get bummed about that, pull the pillow over the head, and try to ignore it. If we really think about, in all the different layers in our life, how we react to things that are actually beyond our control.
So, the reality is, in the thing I talked about, the rising and setting of the sun, we should in fact deeply appreciate the rising and the setting of the sun. They’re wonderful and beautiful events. So—they’re also part of the natural rhythms of life, and we should appreciate and learn to work with them instead of becoming upset or bummed at these events or situations.
So, I know that this might be an overly simple example, but we too often are forgetful of these types of realities. And if we start looking at our own life, you know, the things that upset us in particular, and then ask myself the question, “Am I getting upset about something that’s within my control or outside of my control?”
So, one of the things I would do in the mindfulness and meditation courses that we give in the prison, I would actually have people list down, make a list of the things that we can actually control in our life and to, you know, take your time to do it, and I really suggest that this is something that you can do. Take advantage of this downtime that we have, you know, and be more focused on, as many people are, on the idea of self-improvement. So there’s no right or wrong things here. This is for the purpose of trying to develop a new way of looking at life, and it will help us to become relieved of the many things which cause stress or distress in in our life.
So, I mean, I’ll give you just a few examples off the top of my head of things that we might consider listing, you know. What are things that are within my control? Well one of them is, what are my priorities going to be in life? And when I think about that, I’m not talking about—I’m talking about trying to cons—you know, the necessity for us to make really good choices in life that produce really good outcomes is paramount, and when we do this we are increasing the amount of control that we’re exercising over our life, and the outcomes that we will experience from it.
Many people don’t realize that wherever we find ourselves today, more or less, it is the product or result of choices that we have made. Now we may have made these choices for different reasons and under different influences, but we have made choices, and we’ve engaged in actions, and there is consequence, there is a result to these things; and so the experiences that we have, I mean if our life is fundamentally unhappy ,you know, the reality is we’ve been making many choices that have produced this outcome. So this idea of listing down some items that are going to make it so that we can become more focused, or refocused, on what is really within our area of control, and seek to exercise more control over our decision-making and what sort of choices that we’re going to make.
So just some examples, like our priorities: What’s my priority in life? That’s, you know, these are huge things. We may have a hierarchy of priorities, and we should consider what they are and whether they are my personal choices and priorities, or whether they’re something where I’m just sort of like bending my will to suit someone else. What are my priorities? And establishing that hierarchy of priorities is within my control.
What you eat, what you drink, what you inhale: this is within your control. These are choices that you make. The kind of things that you are going to talk about, what you talk about, what you think about, these are choices that you can make. Rather than just, you know, opening up your eyes and ears and mind to whatever influences that are flooding in there and causing you to go down particular pathways of thought, and actions that will come from it, learning to take charge of that and consider, you know, what I think should be the result of choices that I’m consciously making.
Another area where we have control is in in the how we react to things, to situations, to other people, to words that might be spoken to us, or actions that are taken by others. How we react to that should be a domain of my control where I consciously decide to do something rather than being just, as we’ll talk about in the next talk, becoming overwhelmed by emotions, you know.
There will be this theme, and I’ll bring up often, we should never make a decision, we should never speak, we should never act in a state of heightened emotions, that it never turns out well. And so quite often we, you know, might be in a confrontational situation or somebody can say something or do something that we’re really unhappy about, that we don’t like, and then I become overly emotional because of that, and then I begin acting and speaking and making decisions that will produce bad outcome, sadness for me and for others, based on what somebody else is doing, and that’s something I have no control over. What I do have control over is how I take that, how I process that, and how I react to it.
Our words are something that we should be exercising control over; when and how we show gratitude—let me think about that one for a moment: When should we show gratitude, and how should we express that gratitude? This is something within the domain of our control. How much effort should I be putting into things, meaning relationships, or family, or friends, or social obligations? This should be actually a conscious decision that I make and something that I thoughtfully do.
A big one is how kind you are. You know, your expressing, or manifesting, showing kindness is a conscious decision that you can make, and it can radically impact others, just as the absence of kindness radically impacts others. So our display of kindness: whether we, you know, somebody—even just simple things—somebody needing help to open a door, to cross a road or, you know. I’ve seen a bumper sticker about, you know, committing random acts of kindness. If we consciously made a decision every day to do one, even just one kind thing… the more that we are making conscious decisions and then acting out those decisions the better and the happier your life will become.
So then you’ve got, you know, the decision of who you are going to hang out with, how open-minded you are going to be, how seriously you’re choosing to take life, whether it’s just, you know, like you’ve got that idiot that’s been charged with the police in the supermarket, he had his camera on, he was coughing as he passed people and coughing on produce in a supermarket. He thought it was hilarious. He said he saw somebody online. Of course, there was this huge, you know, backlash to it, and he ended up getting charged, and now he’s, you know, got that badge of dishonour that will follow him in his life.
So, you know, we need to be really conscious about how seriously we are going to take life, which doesn’t mean that we can’t be light-hearted and happy, but being too frivolous, endangering others, causing distress and anxiety, you know, these are things that we can consciously seek to avoid.
Another thing within our control is, you know, a decision to show empathy towards others who are having a bad day; a kid fallen over and, you know, grazed their knees, somebody being hurt in some way. I mean we should have truckloads of empathy to share now with so many people that are, you know, experiencing such hardship even just trying to feed families. We’re talking about responsible people that through no fault of their own are now in very dire situations. To be very conscious about making these choices, these are things that we actually have control over, our willingness to help others.
So, what I would encourage the guys in the prison to do was to, you know, as I mentioned, is to really write these things down, to prepare a sort of list, and over time, you know, somebody may want to expand that list, or they might want to reorder things and sort of like concentrate on those things on their list which are really more important and things that really begin to actually shape our experience of life. So making this, you know, we would make this actually part of their mindfulness meditations that we would do in these programs. And I would really encourage people on their own to actually take time, you know, make a little list of things that are within my control that I need to be more focused on and reflect, actually meditate upon that; to feel some regret for not having dealt with things in the best way, having regrets for having hurt others or caused unhappiness to others, these are definitely things that that we can do.
And when you begin to consciously make these decisions and take charge of your life by really beginning to implement some of these things you will increasingly feel a lot lighter and a lot happier within your heart. This will automatically be there. You’ll more readily and more easily, when you start going down this path, you will find it easier to try—to give up trying to control those things which are actually beyond your control.
I mean it’s like, you know, when once we can see things clearly we can see where the lines are. We can see that, hey, I have no control over that. There’s no point in getting upset about it. There’s no point in getting angry about it. That doesn’t change anything, doesn’t change anyone. What it does is make our life more difficult. It puts us in a worse state of mind, a worse state of being. It will only increase our own unhappiness.
So, you know, by being more mindful, and meditating, and then reflecting on and consciously trying to do these things you will come to this point of being able to, you know, see this territory, realize that there are boundaries of my control, things outside of that I can’t control, so I’m going to stop trying to do that. I will also become more mindful of those things which you actually can change. It will now become clearer to you, okay, I don’t like what’s going on there, but I have no control over that. What do I have control of? Oh, I have control over how I let that affect me, how I’m going to take that and how I’m going to respond to that. So, these things become much, much clearer to us, and rather than just living on this emotional roller coaster and being pulled all over the place, we’re living a much more purposeful, a much—much more of a mindful life, a conscious life.
And of course what will happen as you as you grow in this appreciation and experience, is that you will learn to begin to distance yourself, somewhat, from people and ideas that are directly in conflict with these fundamental truths, people that, as they used to say in the old days, a vexation to the spirit, somebody that’s constantly complaining about others, and just always getting upset about this and that. You know, we can try to help them and say, “Well, you know, you’re not going to be able to change anything by that. Why don’t you think about that one a little bit?” If people are not going to take good advice, then maybe it’s better that we create a little bit of distance, particularly at times when people are losing the plot like that.
So what I would tell the guys in prison, and I’ll tell you what I tell them, because it’s really applicable to us in the current situation in our life: I would tell these prisoners that, you know, you’re going to do your time, and how you act while you’re doing the time, and how you act and live once you have done your time will really make a big difference in your life. So, I mean, while you’re confined, I would tell them, while you’re confined behind bars you actually still have a tremendous amount of control over your life. You know, certain freedoms you have lost but you still have a great deal of control of your life; and rather than being overly focused on that fact that you are in prison and lost certain freedoms, that you are physically locked up, it doesn’t do you any good to be overly focused on that reality, what you need to be focused on instead is on your life choices and how, going into the future, how you are going to live and what choices that you are going to make. And that brings hope to people in that situation, and they actually begin to feel a sense of freedom and refuge for a troubled heart.
So, I really encourage that you also take time to, you know, consider these things. And we’re layering these lessons here, and you start seeing—you’ll start seeing how they’re interconnected, and as you begin to try and really apply them in your life there will be this change of heart. You will feel happier, you will feel lighter, you will feel more stable in making these really good and conscious choices.
And of course, the thing that’s really going to help you in doing that is this process of meditation. The process of meditation, it actually empowers you. It begins to bring about an internal transformation (and I’ll explain going forward why and how that happens) but it begins to bring about this internal transformation where you can step back from things. Rather than being caught up in all the craziness of life, and the difficulties, and the stress, and the challenges, and the things that pull us on this emotional roller coaster, we learn how to step back and consider, “How should I react? How should I deal with the situation? What is it that’s in my realm of control that I can—what is it that I can do? What is it I can say? How should I be thinking about this?” And so the process of meditation makes it so that you increasingly grow in your ability to do this, and of course that leads to really good choices, and the really good choices lead to fantastic outcomes in life. You have a much better quality of life.
So with that I thank you very much.
You know if anybody’s got any questions about these things do feel free to send them in. I don’t know if we will deal with questions immediately. I think I want to get down the road a little bit on some of these lessons, and then we can start looking at the overview and the bigger picture, and if you do send any questions in then I will most certainly keep them and we will address them.
So I’d like to invite you to join me in in this meditation on this transcendental sound, this spiritual sound. We’ll use the mantra Aum Hari Aum; and really take time to, while you are chanting, to actually try to reflect on the essence of what it is that we’ve been speaking about, and try to become resolved to beginning to do the things that make a difference in your life.
I’m going to post at the— or place some links at the bottom of the post, where I post this, particularly for people that are maybe quite recently just joining us and watching the programs, and these links will be to three meditations. One of them is just a really simple meditation, destressing, learning how to relax, breathing and just bathing your mind in the spiritual sound; the second two are kind of like daily practices that somebody could try to develop. But in addition to that, particularly for people that may be, you know, really stressed in this time I’m going to post a fourth link, and it’s to a yoga nidra, a form of yogic sleep, of full relaxation and breathing that’s done lying down, that can really help people that are having difficulty sleeping, to help recharge their bodies and refresh the mind so that we can attack the new day with a good and healthy and positive attitude and seek to implement these things that we’re learning.