“What kind of beast is your salamander?” asked the Prince. “It is hard to tell their kind, your Honor,” said Golg. “For they are too…
There are certain parts of Topanga Creek that run clear; you can stoop down in the shallows and, on occasion, see aquatic life darting about. Similarly, when our thoughts are unmuddied and energy flows unobstructed, we can see our way through life’s journey with ease.
Moments of clarity can be elusive. Most of us live in a fog of desire, frustration, worry, and boredom. We struggle to move to a point where we are unclouded by the maelstrom of our feelings. If only someone would present us with the key and show us the way! In a sense, many teachers who came before us have. In Hindu scripture, select teachings of various saints and sages, and encounters with the everyday angels in day-to-day life, there is instruction. If we pay attention we learn how to purify our physical and energetic bodies, and quiet the mind.
Today’s society is not lacking direction as far as keeping our external environment resplendent with clean air, clean water, clean soil, and uncluttered living space. However, there are less clear cut guidelines on purifying our inner landscape. Furthermore, it is not clear that we have any more control over our inner environment than our outer one. Whether or not we are able to follow the idealistic guidelines seems to depend in large part on our community, in which we are one of many. Can one person’s voice be heard? This is where clarity and control are inextricably linked. On one hand, it’s easy to fall into the habit of feeling too small a cog in the wheel to affect movement. Yet every cog counts, one relying upon another for mechanistic action. If we are to believe that our voices count and our actions make a difference, we must accept that we have control over at least some aspects of our lives. To see that, to really understand that, we need to think, perceive, and act with clarity of mind.
It is difficult to make decisions when the voices of the world around us are cacophonic and confusing. Creating space to tune into our own compass means creating clarity.
Once we have clarity of purpose, if we are able through intention and love to change ourselves we may be able to influence our external environment. That beneficial change will create a ripple effect making those in our circle change for the better too.
In a well-known book titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten we are taught that you can’t always control what classmates say or do, but you can control yourself. You can control your wiggles and giggles, and you can control if you are going to turn a frown upside down. The advice you would give a child struggling with confusion or frustration is really the same advice you should take: slow down, take some deep breaths, experience your feelings then let them go. From a new calm place, act. Don’t allow yourself to get weighed down by what you can’t control: the opinions of others, past mistakes, and even the weather. Clearing those thoughts from your mind allows you to focus on what you can control: learning from mistakes, taking care of yourself, focusing on goals, being kind to others, asking for help when you need it, and choosing friends wisely.
What does our inner environment look like? What are our predominant thought patterns? Are we angry? Disappointed? Hopeless? Guilty? Full of regrets? Jealous? Insecure? Or are we inspired, happy, positive, peaceful, loving, and supportive? To make any progress we must realize that we are responsible for how we think and feel. It is not others who make us feel and think a certain way. It is not our lot in life that causes us to be miserable. We must take control, and stop wasting time blaming others. The blame game simply muddies the waters.
Victor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, was imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II. His father died of starvation and pneumonia at one camp. His mother and brother were killed at Auschwitz. Rather than focus on himself, Frankl found ways to support and care for others in the camp. The satisfaction and love he felt sustained him during a time of suffering and misery. He took control of an unbearable situation and was able to endure, and more than that, find meaning.
To improve our inner environment, we can stop letting the world program us. Go on social media and news fast. There are 8 billion people in the world and 195 countries. The news does not always accurately represent what is happening to all of them. It is a few corporations that decide what stories to promote in order to sell, influence, or control. Likewise, social media is a collection of those trying to get attention for one reason or another. It is important to stay informed, but it is equally important to think for oneself. Collect facts, sort them out, and formulate one’s own opinion. Where does your knowledge come from? Just as one may forgo junk food for fruit and other healthy foods, we can reach for the thoughts that resonate with the inner environment we are trying to create: one of peace, proactivity, cheerfulness, and above all clarity.
There is so much beyond our control. Yet the most important thing you can control today is well within reach: your thoughts. Let’s focus on cultivating those thoughts that empower us, instead of spinning on those that make us feel helpless. Empowering thoughts light the lamp illuminating our journey forward.
In India, the common greeting is Namaste which translates to ‘the divine light within me bows to the divine light within you.’ The salutation is exchanged when you enter a temple, home, or hotel – it has become commonplace. Let’s extract the intended meaning and see the light within ourselves and everyone we encounter. The more clarity we create, of mind and of heart, the stronger our convictions and brighter our lights. Dear reader: Namaste.
This article is a collaboration between Jill Cotu and Peter Walzer. Peter and Jill are neighbors in Topanga. Jill is a massage therapist and energy worker. Peter is a lawyer and a longtime member of the Self-Realization Fellowship. They co-authored this piece, and are working on a series of “the power of” articles.