The way we act and react to any situation or circumstance in life, the choice, is always ours. One of the first things I was taught by my mentor, the former Swami Buddhananda of the Bihar School of Yoga, was that a situation is neutral, our reaction to it is not and it is the reaction that causes suffering. Many of you have heard this from me over the years! As a young person in my 20s, this made no sense to me and I tried arguing that. I was told to go back and think about it, to reflect on it for several months. It took more than six months to accept that there might be some truth to it, that some change was necessary in my mental programming.
My earliest lessons in yoga were not in how to perform an asana. More than 30 years later, I dearly value that initial lesson and continue to reflect on it. My reactions and the seeds they sow (karma) cause more suffering to me than anything or anyone else. It actually makes perfect sense! Now it is for my boys, in their early 20s, to reflect on it. They are responsible for their reactions and the life they lead.
There are times when anger and bitterness seem to be overwhelmingly justified, peace seems to have no justification. Yet, we know if we remain calm and objective that the seeds of anger, violence, and bitterness are awful to those who sow them. It is incredibly challenging to remain peaceful in certain situations and those are the times we are tested the most–the strength of our individual strength and resolve. We fail and try, fail and try….The process makes us stronger if we do not give up.
Most of us need to be reminded of the importance of choosing wisely and we need inspiration. There are so many sources of universal inspirations and some are the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, Goenka’s teachings on vipassana, St. Francis of Assisi, religious texts, and so on.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. This YouTube video, I Love Living Life: I Am Happy, is one man’s choice of happiness (peace) over anger, bitterness, and hopelessness toward living a life without any limbs. Nick Vujicic is funny, moving, amazing, and will lift you up.
Eventually, we choose peace for our own sake.