In the eyes of the beholder
Have you ever met someone who somehow just doesn’t seem to get affected by the things around them, be it the prospect of potentially terrible socio-political situations, disturbing family members, or irritating colleagues at work? It could even seem like this person has some kind of superpower of untouchable inner peace. To most of us, it could even be a bit irritating to see someone so detached and peaceful when we are not. Although this peaceful individual might annoy us just a bit, with some luck their state of mind may awaken in us a quest, a hunger, to become peaceful ourselves. And consider this example of the great saint/philosopher Vivekananda who proposes that seeing something as sin is only in the eyes of the beholder:
When you place your bag of gold on a table, and a thief takes it away, how do you think a baby sees it? Would it even be aware of what happens? How would you react? Likely with the mind of someone who is extremely disturbed, knowing that the bag of gold belonged to you.
The idea is that you can only see what exists within you. If the mind is completely devoid of ideas of possession for example, what loss could there ever be? If the mind is completely devoid of ego, what hurt could ever be conceived? If the mind is completely free of internal strife and violence, what aggressive kind of response could ever be given?
It stands to reason therefore that what the philosopher proposes makes a lot of sense. Sure, from a worldly standpoint you may argue that it may not be the most ‘practical’ way to go through life, but such considerations are less relevant or impractical for the one seeking the highest level of inner peace.
When we truly understand and apply this principle, we start to realize that the buck stops with us. It also provides us with the tools and attitudes to profoundly change the way we think about life and how to turn it in our favor. External hurt, deceit, loss, and so on, according to this way of thinking, are only able to have a grip on us according to the degree we allow it. It has, in a way, no true power over us if we don’t allow it to. Or, if we go a bit further if these kinds of ideas wouldn’t even exist within us.
To that degree negative thought and impressions exist in the mind, the external world will feed it back to us. It has to be so, as we cannot help but perceive it everywhere and react accordingly. The mind acts as a mirror.
The yogi or mindfulness practitioner therefore always tries to look within first. It is also the best place to look, and the only place where we have control. Nothing outside of ourselves can ever be controlled and by trying to control it, we only end up getting anxious. Sure, we can influence certain external situations, but never truly control them.
Looking within means trying to come to a place of centeredness, a higher frequency. You may call it the Self, or God, or whatever idea provides you peace. Once the mind is centered on for example the Self, when it feels the peace, light, and bliss of the Self, then it has a platform from where to let go of old and limited ideas and emotions. Otherwise, you cannot let go of these things you hold on to or have identified with. You must first come to the shore of safety. A safe harbor.
So there are two things you need to focus on in your quest for true inner calm. First, find your divine center within. Second; understand that external events are only reflections, external representations, of what is going on within you. And, let them go. Focus on your inner light instead. Feel that light, hang on to it, tune into it, taste it, love it, and everything else has a chance to slowly dissolve and drift away.
There is no need to become a doormat
Does it mean I should just let everybody abuse and use me? No, not at all. I need to have clear and strong boundaries. Everything that detracts from that light I must avoid and let go of. But there is a big difference between aggressively or negatively reacting to these things and letting them go in a detached manner. Detaching means having boundaries and choosing to not let these things, people, or events bother me. Showing detachment is making a strong statement and placing huge boundaries around my inner state of being. I say: ‘NO I am not ok with this kind of behavior, I am not ok with this kind of negativity or abuse,’ and I choose therefore not to engage in or to entertain it. ‘I choose to go within instead’. Or ‘I choose to walk away’. It’s a misconception to think that turning within or walking away is not taking strong action. And, if required, like in social situations, I can and sometimes have to take external actions. But it still doesn’t mean I should react violently or aggressively.
Finding the Self within is not as hard as it sounds. All it requires is meditation. Meditation starts with first hearing about these things, then reflecting on them, and then finally internalizing and experiencing them. You have to imagine it. Then you can start to feel it and make it come alive. Through practice, I can start to carry that stream of inner light with me throughout the day. And even if something would at first greatly disturb me, I have a place to retreat to.
In this way, I can slowly learn to stop reacting to things. It can be a huge waste of energy. When each time I turn within instead, I gradually learn to let go of the negative internal feelings that caused the reaction to begin with. It is when I start to realize I have an internal choice, move to the inner light or react, that life starts to turn in my favor and peace is within reach. It is a daily life practice, and the more I am aware of it and use it, the greater its power becomes. Be still and know the storm shall pass.
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