The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Walking the tightrope

"Learn to treat pleasure and pain as things equivalent
Then profit and loss, victory and defeat;
Then gird thyself for battle
Thus wilt thou bring no evil on thyself."
--The Bhagavad-Gita

Okay, here's a joke:

A young psychiatrist leaves his office at the end of the day, disheveled and beaten. He gets in his building's elevator, and in there is another psychiatrist, the most successful doctor in the building, an older gentleman, still crisp and unwrinkled by the day. The kid can't help himself.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure," the older man replies.
The kid gulps. "How do you do it?"
"Do what?"
"Listen to all the stories every day, and not be crushed by it? Stories of pain, and shredded hopes, and broken dreams. Of abuse, and shattered marriages and lost love, and suicidal thoughts and soul-withering grief? How can you do it?"

The old man smiled, and answered: "who listens?"

Years ago, I encountered the concept of the "Householder Yogi"--one who follows a spiritual path while simultaneously maintaining a career and/or supporting a family. It resonated. But considering that caring for family deals with the most basic chakra levels, while spirit is the 7th--and therefore outside the envelope of the physical body--it can be difficult to reconcile them.

One of the reasons I love the equation "Goals X Faith X Action X Gratitude=Results" is that it embraces both "attracting" success and "stalking" it. Look at these two approaches as "female" and "male" aspects, and it becomes obvious that you have to combine the two to have a maximum chance of achieving goals or living a happy life.

Many of the requirements of raising a family have nothing to do with what you "want" (changing diapers, for instance) and everything to do with what is necessary. And yet, to perform at the highest levels of the "necessary" you have to engage as if you derive pleasure from it. In fact, ideally, you DO derive pleasure from it. With the aforementioned diapers...anyone who has ever had a constipated child has learned to rejoice in a full diaper. It means a healthy baby, something so shockingly important the emotions can overwhelm if you are not prepared.

To do the best in worldly things, one has to do them for the sheer love of doing them, without attachments to the results. But simultaneously keeping the results in mind. Tricky balancing act.

You have to simultaneously care and not care at all. Engage and remain disengage. Do your best and not give a damn about the results.

Isn't this exactly what I tell Jason before he takes the soccer field? I care about his practice. I care about him giving 100%. I care about his sportsmanship, and support of his team, and that he learn something every time he plays. I don't much care whether they win or lose out there. But in contradiction to that, I honestly believe that if he does those things...he'll win his butt off.

Does that seem hypocritical? To tell him not to care about winning, while simultaneously asking him to care deeply about the things which his daddy believes will lead to victory? Maybe. I know that I wonder about that some time. But I also know that that attitude applies deeply to my attitudes about writing (do my very best, work hard, be unattached to sales or reviews), relationships (seek to give all I can, want the very best for any friend or lover I've ever had...including wish them to leave me if that is better for them), or fitness (do my best every day, but understand that I cannot control all the factors that influence my results).

Do your best, every day. Constant action leading to your goals, with faith, and gratitude for results yet to be attained. And remain unattached to the results.

Or as Rudyard Kipling said in "If":

"If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken
And stoop and build 'em up with worn out tools..."

If you can do the myriad things Kipling suggests, you can be in the world, but not of it. 
Or as I say to Jason:
You'll be a man, my son.


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