Our emotions are our choice. Our reaction or non-reaction to our emotions is a choice as well and a product of a disciplined mind. We don’t like that word discipline and resent that word choice. “I can’t help it, it is just how I feel,” we say, and yet in truth we can help it at every moment.
Yesterday India got the best of me. Mother India is a wonderful teacher of patience, for anytime you try to get something done that you would expect to take an hour or a day takes six hours and two weeks to accomplish. You must be prepared for twists and turns and unexpected side trips to have mango lassi with someone’s cousin. After weeks of careful planning, financial investment and reassurances, at the unveiling of what it was I wanted, in fact, it wasn’t what I needed at all and wouldn’t work for me. Disappointment set in. I went back to my room in the ashram and for a few seconds I began to cry. Then I stopped to examine myself. “I want to honor your emotions,” I said to myself, “But this is unnecessary. Go outside and look at people with real problems, then find someone to help.”
I splashed cold water on my face, went outside and gave some Indian sweets to the man who had tried to help me arrange what I wanted, fed my favorite cow her nightly turnips and walked down to the ghat on the Ganga where pilgrims from near and far where making their way down the stairs to the holy river. The sounds of the tabla, the harmonium and voices harmonizing in Sanskrit filled the air. One after another I found older women who were unsteady on the steps and offered them my arm. I filled water bottles for them with Ganga water so they didn’t have to bend down and hurt their backs. I lent a simple hand to others and pulled myself up.
My emotions and tears were a habit. They were the result of years of conditioning that let my emotions run wild before me and let reaction rule my day. I had to short circuit that habit and choose a different path. My emotions were my choice, and I choose to feel good. There is nothing that will make you feel better faster than giving. In serving another, you remove your ego from the equation. The ego is where your emotional pain lives, so by stepping outside of your ego by being in service, you separate yourself from your drama and your place of pain for awhile. You can catch your breathe and regain emotional equilibrium.
Practice non-reaction. With the daily discipline to choose devotion, non-reaction and introspection our whole lives can change. The Swami here at Parmarth Niketan says to start your day with devotion, live it with non-reaction, and end it with introspection. It is like a multi-vitamin for your spirit and protects you from illness and depression.
When your mind and your expectations of the world around you lead you into depression, recognize that you can take control of your experience and change it. You can decide not to allow negativity into your life. The practice of daily sadhana gives you the strength to practice non-reaction and begins to rewire your brain so that your emotional reactions are easier to control. Whatever that sadhana is for you, whether it is yoga or meditation or prayers, do it consistently. Honor yourself with that time and watch the nature of your experience change.