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You can't control what happens

17th Jul 201611m28s

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  • There's a quote by Elbert Hubbard who was a 19th century American writer, and it goes, life is one damn thing after another, and when you think about life, it's very true, in a way. Basically, we all have desires, we all have things that we want in life, and we pursue those desires, and then when we get them, we momentarily feel happy, and then we start desiring something else, and in the pursuit of each desire, we have frustrations, we have periods where we don't quite get what we want, and so there's unhappiness. And then there's the stuff that we don't really control, like nature of the people, which also causes problems for us, of course, the situations that we have to deal with, and so we find that in life, we're having to deal with one situation after another and it's never ending. From the day we're born till the day we die, and no matter how long we've lived, no matter how much we learn, we can't really ever get to the point where we control what happens to us, because we don't control what happens to us, we don't control the external world within which we live, we don't control other people, to some extent, we don't even control the thoughts in our minds. I mean, everybody thinks that they're in control of their own mind, but in a way, it's true at a superficial level, but at the deepest level of your mind who you are as a person is based on your memories, your imaginations, the experiences you've had growing up, the environments in which you grew up in, the environments in which you're living, in which you currently find yourself. These are the things that determine the thought patterns that are dominant in your mind, and if you're not aware of those patterns, then they're essentially acting on autopilot and you don't really control them, they control you. Which brings of course, the philosophical question into it, which is, what it is you if you're not your mind then what is you and this you know, we could go into that and talk about more spirituality, but I wanna focus just on this idea that we don't really control what happens in our lives, and that therefore we're having to deal with one situation after another, and that that's how life is. This might sound a bit morbid, and I'm sure some people will say, well hang on a second, that's even though that's how life is we can learn to be happy with this, we can learn to accept that this is how it is and not be frustrated by this, and indeed, that is the only way to live, that's the only way to be able to handle life. In fact, you're not ever going to be fulfilled by what happens externally in your life by for example, becoming rich or getting a partner or having some kind of amazing experience or achieving something amazing. As I said, the feeling the positive feelings, the happiness that you get from these things never last, it doesn't last for that long, it only lasts for a short period of time, after which you then have to get something else in order to maintain that feeling of excitement, that euphoric state, but peace of mind is something that can last, peace of mind is something that you can have on a more permanent basis. And peace of mind is only achievable if you're not mentally agitated by what happens in your life. So what that means is, you're able to handle what life throws at you. You have expectations, you have desires, you pursue your desires, you pursue your goals, but when your expectations don't get met, you don't suddenly get upset by it. Of course, in the moments, it's hard to control how we react to things. Often our deep seated mind patterns, a deep seated emotions comes to fore you didn't get something you wanted, you feel upset, you feel oh man, I wish it hadn't turned out this way, but you can recover from that quickly. I mean, especially if you're aware of this, you're aware of this concept, you can practice you can train yourself to think more positively, which in a way, means you're recovering from these obstacles and these unwanted outcomes quicker than you normally would, thus allowing you to maintain peace of mind more consistently, and that's actually the intelligent way to approach this, because fundamentally speaking, even though you can't control what happens to you in life, you can control how you react to what happens, how you respond to what happens, and therein lies the secret of happiness. The quality of your life is determined by your state of mind and your perspective on the world. Let me repeat that the quality of your mind is determined by your state... The quality of your life sorry is determined by your state of mind and your perspective on the world. So the perspective that you hold on the world, determines how you react and respond to the things that happened to you. For example, if you have prejudice against a certain group of people, you know, for whatever reason it may be, every time you meet someone from that group, every time you think of somebody from that group or you hear somebody from that group, it's gonna bring up negative feelings in your mind, which in a way dampens your mood, it dampens your day. If you didn't have that perspective on that group of people, you wouldn't have those negative feelings. Now, maybe you are, you feel like you have a legitimate reason to hold a negative perspective to hold this prejudice against those people. Personally, I don't think holding prejudice against anyone is helpful to our mental state, because I believe that no matter how bad things get, the most important thing for us is to maintain our own peace of mind, our own inner happiness, and we can't do that if we hold hatred or negativity towards other people. If someone does something to us that we don't like, of course, we have to deal with it, and in the moment, we feel all kinds of negativity towards them, but it's better if we don't hang on to that as we live on the rest of our life. But in any case, you get the point, if you have the negativity, if you have that perspective on such people, then every time you interact or encounter someone like that, you're going to feel that negativity, you're going to feel that hurt. If you had a different perspective, you wouldn't feel that, so shifting your perspective is a way in which you can overcome the negativity you feel in that situation. I mean, this is why people who do meditation or people who really pursue spiritual growth in earnest will say that, knowing that you're going in the right direction, can be ascertained by how loving you are as a person. So let's talk about that, loving you are as a person, what does that mean? It means do you really love everybody out there? Despite who they are, who they're being? Do you really love what's happening to you in life? In other words, are you able to accept people for who they are? Are you able to accept the things that are happening in life without reacting strongly against them? So in Buddhism, there's this concept called equanimity, not just in Buddhism and other cultures too, but equanimity is essentially the ability to handle things that happen, to handle situations with a calm peace of mind, without reacting either too positively or too negatively it's this balanced state of mind that it's referring to, and indeed meditation practitioners, this is what they're trying to achieve, and this is what they're able to achieve with consistent practice. They still have reactions going on, but they're a little bit dampened because their mental balance is a little bit more prominent. Now there's some people who say, well, if you're like that, then don't you just become emotionless? Don't you just lose the passion, the drive, the enthusiasm for life, and it's not really true, you don't, because actually you control it. You can be as enthusiastic or as unenthusiastic as you like, you have a lot more control over your output, over your expression than you otherwise would have, and, as we mentioned, at the very beginning of this, you don't really control what happens to you in your life, and to an extent you don't even control the thought patterns in your minds, so gaining even some control over those thought patterns, is only going to benefit you. So the differences between reacting angrily to something you don't like, and instead, instead of that, once you've gained a bit of control, sensing that there's anger within you, and then choosing whether you're going to allow that anger to express itself fully or not. So being able to choose, being able to make that choice, being able to have control is decidedly a superior way of going about things, because it allows you to choose how much agitation you want in your mind. Again, I mean, you're not gonna be able to do this for everything in your life, even with consistent practice, because some things just come out of us in the moments, deep seated emotional reactions, this I mean, I think social justice warriors will think of this as trigger warnings, right? There's some things that are deep seated within you that get triggered by things that other people may say, other people may do, and you almost can't control it, and that's unfortunate, but there are still a lot of things you can control, and I suspect that even people who feel that they have lots of triggers, I suspect that the truth is that they could really work on their inner state of mind and overcome some of those triggers, if maybe not all of them. I don't think it's possible, well, I'm not sure it is possible to overcome all such triggers, if you for example, you've really suffered some deep seated trauma like you've been in a war zone or something like that then that's probably something you're gonna have for a long, long time. It's probably possible to overcome it, but it will require a lot of work, but a lot of us still can overcome some of the more superficial or some of the more shallowly imprinted thought patterns on our minds, just with a little bit of practice, and meditation can certainly help in that regard, and I think it's worth doing that, I think it's worth doing that because that's how you can gain more control over your inner state of mind and thus gain control over your perspective, thus allowing you to live a happier life by having a healthier perspective on things. All in all, I would say that fulfillment cannot come from having the external situation, the external reality of your life, perfectly aligned with how you want it to be, it has to come from the acceptance that it cannot be perfectly aligned. Once you're able to accept that idea that your life cannot be made to be perfect and that you cannot wait for it to be perfect, once you are able to accept that there will be problems, there will be ups and downs and that these things are a normal part of life, then you can finally finally begin to find some inner peace, a peaceful state of mind because then you're looking at things with the right perspective.