In December I spent two weeks in Sri Lanka, and every morning I went to a yoga class. Most days I would arrive on time, although I would often cut it fine.
One day I was running late, and I’d decided to buy some sweets for the little boy that helped out with the class. I went to the shop and there was someone ahead of me. They were being SO SLOW! And the guy serving him was sauntering around, looking for something at the back of the shop… couldn’t he see I was in a hurry?! For goodness sake!
I could feel the tension and frustration rising in my body. I was willing everything to happen faster than it was happening.
I paid the money without smiling or making eye contact at the shopkeeper and hurried off up the steps to the class.
I was wearing flip-flops, and half way up I stubbed my toe “Ow! %&$k!!!” and took a two layers of skin off. It was bleeding and painful. Now I was even more annoyed.
A few minutes later I arrived at my yoga class, ready to start my lesson in cultivating inner peace. How ironic.
On the same trip, a friend who’s based herself at an Ashram in India sent me a video of her teacher, who defined stress as the gap that you perceive between how things are and how you want them to be.
Every other day that I’d gone to buy something from the shopkeeper, I had no problem with him or the person in front of me in the queue. That day, the only thing that was different was my idea of how I wanted things to be. And it made me suffer mentally, emotionally and physically.
It’s a small example and a few minutes into the class, I was no longer feeling annoyed about the situation, although my toe was still hurting! But it’s a frame of mind that we apply to so many things in life.
The way to spot it is when you’re blaming something outside of yourself for how you’re feeling. You’re upset because:
“The bloody train is late!”
“My client is being so unreasonable!”
“My boss is such a bastard!”
“The stock market has crashed again!”
“This f***ing computer!”
You can try to bend the world to your will, and you might have some success, but you’ll probably find it exhausting and frustrating.
You’re other option is to take responsibility for your own reaction to everything, which is obviously something that’s much easier to control. It feels easier, however to blame someone or something else, because then there’s nothing you need to do apart from have a go at them, either in your own head or to someone else.
As Sophocles said, “It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it.”
I’ve written before about my struggle with money, and in that struggle for a long time I was blaming the potential clients who were saying no to me or just not getting back to me, the situation for being ‘difficult’, and my lack of experience in sales.
I really didn’t want to confront the situation. There was something much more comfortable about not taking responsibility for it. But as Wayne Dyer said “What you don’t face, controls you.”
My money struggles affected my levels of anxiety, my family, my friends, my desire to be generous, my ability to do retreats and go on holiday, my confidence, my ability to offer my services to people who could have benefited from them….
And now that I am facing it, and my income is increasing, I feel a sense of weight lifting off my shoulders and a wellspring of positivity has bubbled up where before there was a shadow of shame hanging over me.
Think of an area of you life you’re not happy with right now. Maybe you’re not earning enough money, maybe you don’t like your job or your boss. Maybe you’re not happy in your relationship or with your physique.
Who are you blaming for that situation? Is it their fault? Is it the media’s fault? Is it the government’s fault?!
When you blame others, you give up your power to change. What would it look like for you to take full responsibility for either accepting the situation as it is or proactively changing it for the better?
As Epictetus said, “Make best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.”