The world determines our situations, but we determine our emotions
Suppose we get caught in a traffic jam and get late for an appointment. We may naturally feel irritated.
Such an emotion is natural, but it is not inevitable. That is, specific situations don’t have to necessarily lead to specific emotions. Though we can’t always control our situations, we can train ourselves to control the emotions that comprise and shape our response to those situations.
The Bhagavad-gita (13.21) indicates that material nature is the substratum on which the chain of cause and effect unfolds. So, the chain of events that led to the jam and to our finding ourselves at that place at that time – that chain occurs in the arena of nature that we frequently can’t control. Significantly, the same verse also states that the cause of our pleasure and pain is our desire to enjoy, or more generically, our definition of enjoyment. This implies that by revising that definition, we can free ourselves from the cycle of associated emotional binaries such as pleasure and pain.
If we have defined our success or happiness in terms of the impression we make on others, then the delay will drive us wild. However, if we have an enlightened self-conception of ourselves as spiritual beings who can’t be injured by anything worldly, then we won’t let the situation steal our cool. No doubt, we will still be concerned, but we won’t be disturbed. With a due sense of responsibility, we will call the person whom we were to meet, explain our predicament, apologize if necessary, and do whatever is needed to deal with the complication, maybe re-schedule the appointment.
Essentially, by meditating on our spiritual identity when confronted with worldly ups and downs, we can increase the distance between our situations and our emotions, thereby empowering ourselves to respond intelligently, not impulsively.
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