Acknowledging the variables we can’t control doesn’t mean abandoning the variables we can

Suppose while doing a calculation using an equation, we get an undesirable result. By changing the variables in that equation, we may seek a better outcome. But not all variables may be variable for us at a particular time – we need to focus on those variables which we can control.

A similar focus is needed when we face unpalatable situations. Suppose we have an irritating colleague. If we resent them, we simply waste our mental energy. When we give them constructive feedback, if they become aggressive or defensive, we need to acknowledge that their behavior is a variable not in our control. By that acknowledgement, we can move on to variables that are in our control. Among such variables may be their triggers, actions or situations that set them off. By proper planning and due caution, we can minimize those triggers, thus decreasing the explosiveness in our work environment.

Unfortunately, our mind doesn’t like to cede control – if we acknowledge that their behavior is not in our control, it makes us feel that we are becoming passive, letting others walk over us. If we believe this feeling, we remain in denial, dissipating our energy trying in vain to change others’ unchangeable behavior.

To protect ourselves from the mind’s misperception, we need to understand that tolerance isn’t passivity – it is perspicacity that recognizes which things are in our control and which aren’t.

The Bhagavad-gita (02.14) urges us to tolerate pleasures and pains just as we tolerate heat and cold. Overall, Gita wisdom takes us beyond tolerating specific worldly situations to tolerating our situation in the world. We learn to focus on raising our consciousness, which is the one variable always in our control. By diligent yoga practice, when we spiritualize our consciousness, we relish sublime peace and bliss.

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