In the spiritual path many "how and when questions" come to mind. “Am I doing it right? How far have I come? How far have I to travel? When am I going to reach an enlightened state?” This is quite natural and part of the quest for truth that the soul seeks on its journey back HOME. One of the simplest paths leading to a peaceful state of mind is to rise above “reactions” and live moment to moment in a “response” mode.
The most awesome discovery of modern science is that our thoughts can improve or impair our quality of life. It is not that somebody out there can make us happy. It is all in the core of our being, in our mental attitude toward life. It is our responsiveness to people and circumstances, not our reactiveness, that creates an inner environment that helps us to breathe peace and joy, happiness and harmony.
What exactly do we mean by reaction versus response? A reactive parent who is overwhelmed with the demands of a busy life and who is not living mindfully might blurt out some hurtful, abrupt words to their child when the child asks for their time. On the other hand, a mindful parent can be truly present to their child because they are living moment to moment in a response mode. The mindful parent recognizes the child’s need and is able to respond in a loving, compassionate manner, whereas the parent who is overwhelmed with a to-do list, and is feeling guilty they cannot spend more time with their child, will react from their feelings of anxiety, anger and guilt.
Thus, our reaction is the consequence of how we think and feel about the situations and circumstances of life daily. It is our philosophy, habits, and mental and emotional patterns that dictate how we are going to react to people and circumstances. In this the ego plays the dominant role because the conditioned mind is reactive. It is very consistent, too. We do the same thing again and again!
Response, however, flows out of a deeper understanding of the way life is. Then compassion, empathy, acceptance and letting go of our expectations guide our path. There is no preconceived notion of what we should think, say or do, but only our alertness to respond to situations and not react, as in the case of the empathetic response to the needful child.
When we respond we are necessarily unpredictable. A sage is responsive, a seer is responsive, and hence they are very unpredictable as they are just flowing in the moment. It is not the situations that command a consistent pattern anymore, for the pattern disappears with the dawn of the Sun of Awareness. Now we respond, or rather flow, as the Universe demands, not as our conditioned mind demands.
Our normal pattern is to react to situations. How do we change this? We begin by not telling the darkness to go away, instead we come to realize that if we light a lamp, the darkness disappears. We light the lamp of Awareness in our hearts, glorify the Doer within, and let response flow. Reactions disappear, setting us free from the pains and agonies that are the aftermath of a reactive life of ignorance. We become the observer or witness of our thoughts, emotions and actions.
Observation is empowerment. Identification or attachment is misery. The bottom line of all meditative practice is to disentangle the mind from its habitual thoughts, emotions, behavior and reactions. This happens only when we bring the “observer element” to the forefront of our daily life. When we are identified with situations and circumstances, the situation rides us and we become victims. When we instead observe situations and circumstances, we become empowered!
The only option we have is to CHANGE OURSELF. For the next six months, chalk out your program of self-realization. First, try to come closer to yourself through study of the most inspirational lives of those who realized the Higher Truths through exemplary life styles. Learn to spend quiet time with yourself. Meditate upon your natural breathing, relax your body, and watch the fleeting thoughts of your mind as you do when you look out and watch the clouds floating away. You will see, as your inner self calms down, that your attitude to life will naturally change. You won’t feel the need to impose your way because the need to be reactive and angry will not be there as much as before. This is the beginning of the change that occurs first in you. Then as YOU change, you will see that things outside of you also are gradually changing how they appear.
Our reactions are the fruits of our ego; our responses are the manifestations of our Soul. But we can’t be responsive until we have practiced meditation and relaxation to calm ourselves. It is only a calm mind that can respond to situations spontaneously. A frustrated mind is instinctively reactive, leading us to more depressive situations. So, the time is now for you to wake up to your soul’s call, to live a life of moment-to-moment mindfulness that leads to a positive responsive life. Retreat within yourself, let your daily practice take you closer to your higher mind and allow the responses to flow from it, healing all of life, and let the pains and agonies of the past melt away, creating a future of true happiness and joy.
Shuddhaanandaa Brahmachari (Kolkata, India), is an international motivational and spiritual speaker, author, social advocate and peace maker. Founder of Stress Management Academy, his Simple Art of Managing Stress and Course in Mindfulness are known worldwide, inspiring corporate leadership, students and all seekers of peace and happiness to be the leaders of tomorrow.
Author of the internationally acclaimed Making Your Mind Your Best Friend, Shuddhaanandaa was the recipient of the Man of Peace Award from the World Organisation for Peace in Mexico, 2012. He is recognized as a visionary social advocate for his development of groundbreaking programs that serve thousands of poverty-stricken individuals in slums of Calcutta, India and remote villages of West Bengal. He founded Lokenath Divine Life Mission in 1985.
Please read his new book Cleaning the Mirror of Mind, available on Kindle.
For more information visit http://www.courseinmindfulness.