Most people live their lives wanting the good and avoiding the bad, hoping for the sweet – whatever they find pleasant or attractive – and fearing the sour – whatever they find difficult and unpleasant – and their whole life is based on this duality.
But there is another possibility, a different way to see the world, which is taking our life as an arena for evolving, maturing, growing up, or, if we have a spiritual inclination, for awakening, finding God, Moksha, or whatever name we happen to give it.
Some people feel that there is more to life than what appears to be; others feel that this is all there is. Independent of that, we can take our life as an arena to learn, to grow and to evolve.
Of course, the mind – our old conditioning – will still perceive what happens as good or bad. But we can re-condition our mind to see things differently…
… after all, everything is conditioning.
Our whole life is conditioning.
The reason we dress the way we do (the reason we dress at all!) is conditioning.
The reason we brush our teeth twice a day is conditioning.
The reason we have lunch around noon and dinner around 8 (or whatever) is conditioning.
Kids don’t have many of the conditionings we have, and that makes them so delightful, but also creates a lot of difficulties for the parents.
It is not easy to see, but pretty much everything we do and think is nothing but some kind of conditioning. This is also why it is somehow easy to distinguish a foreigner walking on the street. What makes them different is the different conditioning.
The only thing is that some conditionings are harmful, some are neutral and some are beneficial.
Brushing our teeth every morning is a good conditioning.
Some people complain a lot; complaining is a kind of harmful conditioning.
The reason you are reading this note is because you have a conditioning that tells you that in yoga there is something good for you. Many people do not have this conditioning, and they will never read anything like this.
Everything is conditioning, and to condition ourselves to see that anything that happens, good or bad, can be used to grow, evolve and mature is a great kind of conditioning!
But to even come close to the possibility of thinking this way already requires some maturity.
Most people feel that the world, everything outside of themselves, is what needs to change and evolve: the government should change, my boss should change, my employee, my friend, my spouse should change! Most people never think: ‘maybe it is I the one that needs some change…’
Maturity is a kind of vision that says something like: ‘I love, embrace and accept myself as I am in this moment and, at the same time, there is so much more I can be… more loving, more accepting, more compassionate, more caring, more free, more at peace’.
In this vision, with this vision, I can learn to use anything that happens in my life as an opportunity to grow.
It is only when we reach this stage that life starts to make sense.
Before this maturity settles in, people live and behave like little kids, wanting the candies and rejecting the broccoli, wanting the sweet and rejecting the sour.
But it is only when we mature even a bit and see the need for change that instead of getting so lost in the ‘sweets and sours’ of life we can see them as opportunities for growth.
When the ‘sweet’ comes, we learn, for example, not to take it for granted and instead, we feel thankful and grateful and see it as a gift from the universe.
And when the sour comes, we learn to use the situation to become more patient, open-minded, forgiving, accepting, tolerant, stronger human beings.
We will never be completely free of painful situations, but we can learn to use them and learn from them.
It does not mean we need to believe that a particular situation was made especially for me to learn – the universe is far too busy to have to create special circumstances just for us – but difficult situations abound, and we can condition ourselves to use them when they come our way, as they certainly will.
I am not talking here about extreme situations. Those can be much more difficult to use and to learn from… although without a doubt is also possible. The book Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl or The Diary of Anne Frank are examples of this, and there are many others.
But most of us don’t experience these kinds of extreme situations, at least not most of the time. For most of us, our unhappiness comes in terms of not allowing and accepting the difficulties of everyday life.
And it is precisely from those difficulties that we can learn the most.
But we can learn even from more difficult situations, like Marcus Aurelius wrote 2000 years ago: ‘Everything that befalls us, even illness and death, should seem as familiar to you as the sight of roses in spring or fruits in autumn.’
Now, to be able to do any of the things I spoke of here, we need to have a more quiet mind.
If the mind is always stressed, always in a hurry, always late for an appointment, always anxious, then there is no way we can bring these kinds of thoughts into our minds.
Everything I spoke of here can become our way to relate to the world – our conditioning – and conditioning is created by repetition.
If in our minds what we constantly repeat are our problems, our difficulties, our blames, our worries, then the only possible conditioning is the wanting of the sweet and avoidance of the sour.
But with a more quiet mind, a mind that is more connected to the moment, these kind of wiser thoughts can rise to the surface of our mind, and, in time, they become the way we perceive life: as an arena for evolving, maturing, developing, growing up; as an opportunity to become more beautiful human beings.