Walking the line between contentment and complacency trying to find the middle ground of gratitude and grasping satisfaction and searching for more Focusing only on injustice and suffering is sure to wear you down fast but somehow it feels selfish to simply enjoy my own lucky lot in life without using my privilege to fight for more I'm far from ungrateful for how far we've come even though I know we can still do better I don't want to seem greedy asking for more than what I've got There are so many that have less than me I don't pretend to have earned my present place I take no pride in a roll of the dice but sometimes it's still hard not to feel cheated when you were promised so much more I don't take for granted clean water and fresh foods but should that mean I have to accept a 40 hour work week not providing any sense of true security? Humanity has a timeline now that only I seem to acknowledge is it frivolous to ask for dignity and mutual respect on a planet that is slowly dying under our overcrowded feet? Why fight for far off goals I truly believe we won't even have a chance to reach? My righteous indignation has long since faded away Most days I wonder whether I should just bite my tongue and be thankful that it isn't far worse I know that it could be that it will be
By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (1.33)
During my yoga teacher training, we spent a lot of time discussing yoga philosophy. I have come to believe that the study and practical application of the wisdom within ancient texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are perhaps even more important than the physical practice of asanas. I have no doubt that the adherence to these guiding principles would produce an idyllic life with the least amount of suffering. However, putting these teachings into practice is much easier said than done.
The sutra I quoted above is one that has been particularly challenging for me. I am fully on board right up until the words “disregard toward the wicked.” I feel a strong aversion to this idea in the pit of my stomach when I consider it. I am someone who has a strong sense of justice and can be quite inflexible in that regard.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.Edmund Burke
Multiple people have said to me, “you have the courage of your convictions.” This is something I’ve always taken pride in. It is hard for me not to speak out and take action against things that I view as wrong, even to my own detriment at times. I used to make myself sick, fighting with people about the moral obligation of veganism and exposing the insidious effects of religion on society. I could see that I wasn’t changing anyone’s mind. I was quite possibly just causing many to dig their heels in deeper. Yet I didn’t see any other option but to keep fighting. I felt each moment of silence was a moment of consent, of complacency.
I feel a well of indignation rise up within me whenever I am confronted with a situation or belief system I am morally opposed to. I have also been told by several people that I have a hard time “biting my tongue.” Something I am often embarrassed by.
Knowing this about me, you may better understand why I have agonized over accepting this particular sutra. What I’ve come to learn over the years is that there is a fine line between complacency and surrender. But there is still a difference. It is possible to accept something without agreeing with it, consenting to it, or supporting it. It is sometimes necessary to just allow, to surrender. Because there you will find peace. There you will find the clarity of mind to move forward in the most productive way. To stop shooting yourself in the foot with your outrage.
“Disregard toward the wicked” for me isn’t about simply ignoring the evils of our world. It’s about not letting that wickedness taint your heart. We mustn’t respond to these things with hardness and hatred. We must cultivate an indifference. An indifference that allows us to acknowledge all aspects of existence without judgement. In this way we can avoid inflicting unnecessary suffering upon ourselves and others. Creating more suffering does no one any good. It only serves to cloud your mind and heart. Ultimately hurting whatever cause you feel the need to fight for.
This doesn’t mean you have to surrender your ideals or your beliefs. It simply means surrendering to the fact that you can’t control this world. Accepting that. And carrying on. Returning your focus within, to the only place where you can make a true difference. In this way I have finally been able to find surrender without shame.
My mind has been playing tug-of-war with these two seemingly conflicting ideas recently. I am trying to enjoy this brief time I have been given in this world. I want to enjoy every moment, no matter what it may bring. Just the idea of allowing myself to be happy with my very imperfect life is calming. Yet at the same time, it is causing me to ask myself a lot of hard questions. And I’m not sure I’ll ever really have the answers to them.
On one hand I want to enjoy where I am, on the other I fear this is another way for me to just ignore and avoid my problems and responsibilities. After all, it is discomfort that keeps us moving forward and growing as individuals. I don’t want to be choosing to become complacent with a way of life that isn’t what’s best for me. But I also don’t want to waste my entire life waiting until everything is “perfect” before I let myself be happy with who I am.
Perhaps this is that black and white thinking of mine creating this confusing disconnect. Maybe there is a way I can be happy now and still strive to grow and improve. Part of me thinks allowing myself to be imperfect is the only way I ever truly will be able to make meaningful changes in the future. I have been striving for more for as long as I can remember. I have never really been able to give myself credit or enjoy my progress. Maybe I need a few months or even a year to just sit down, breathe, and reflect on how far I’ve already come. Maybe I need time to remind myself that this growth is voluntary and not a requirement to feel worthy or be happy.
However then the pendulum of my thoughts swings the other way. I tell myself I am just creating this flowery narrative to cover up the fact that I’m afraid to change, afraid that maybe I can’t change, and just using this as an excuse so I don’t have to face reality. I genuinely don’t know which is the truth. Is this something other people rely on their intuition for? Because I’ve never been sure if I even have any. Maybe I am just not used to listening for it, so I don’t hear anything.
This is how intelligence combined with anxiety leads to paralysis. I think too much. I see pros and cons in everything, all the various angles and outcomes. Not often is one choice obviously better than the other. So I remain stuck in indecision, eventually avoiding the choice all together and mindlessly pressing onward.
The voice of Noah from The Notebook sometimes comes to mind yelling, “What do you want?” And right now I just want to be happy. I just want to be nice to myself for awhile. I want to stop worrying and just enjoy my life, love myself even with all of my problems, shortcomings, and bad habits. To let the pieces fall where they may and stop trying to control everything. I don’t want to wait anymore. With all the things going on in the world who knows if I’ll even have much longer to wait. I want to savor each and every moment I have left.