Be reflective, not reflexive
Our physical reflexes often protect us from danger – if we unconsciously place our hand on something hot, it recoils from that object even before we consciously recognize what’s happening. That’s reflex action, an inbuilt biological survival mechanism.
But when it comes to our mental life, our reflexes don’t serve us so well. Our instinctive inner reactions, which we can refer to as our mental reflexes, often take us towards trouble instead of away from it.
For example, when something troubles us mentally, often we reflexively go towards it instead of away from it. We start obsessing over the problem, worrying about its various complications and ramifications, frequently working ourselves into a state of acute anxiety, even nervous breakdown.
Certainly, we can’t neglect the problem; we do need to attend to them. But our attention and subsequent action should ameliorate, not aggravate, the problem. We can remedy situations only when we are calm enough to observe and analyze them without getting overwhelmed by them.
Our mental reflexes, however, don’t usually let us do this kind of clear thinking. They impel us to act immediately, doing something or the other that will hopefully solve the problem. Unfortunately, such an impulsive approach is rarely effective in solving problems.
That’s why in our inner life, it’s better to be reflective rather than reflexive. The Bhagavad-gita recommends such inner reflectiveness when it (14.22) urges us to become objective observers of the territory of our consciousness, noting dispassionately the arrival of different emotions. By reminding ourselves that we as souls are transcendental to all such emotions, we can maintain our inner sense of security and perspective. Equipped with the calmness coming from such an inside-out approach, we can carry our reflectiveness outwards towards the problem and act constructively for solving it.