Mental Well-being and Not Punching – June 15 2018

In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, I.33
 
I wrote about an experience I had with a man that involved not getting into a fistfight, and after, I received a question from a reader:
 
I can’t help but wonder if this man needed to be punched in the face, and if you needed to do it.  I know this seems out of the realm of normal logic and I do not know the context of your interaction with this person, but maybe, just maybe you missed a powerful experience by not being willing to give this man what he needed….? 
 
There is a rule of thumb that we never engage in physical altercation with anyone unless there is an immanent threat to our own well-being or the well-being of another. The situation I described in my story was threatening only to the well-being of my ego, and that nearly always could use a bit of bashing.
 
And…
 
What we are looking for, always, is happiness. Peace. A sense of inner well-being. A sense of knowing we are right with the world – in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. When we confuse ourselves by thinking we are defined by our outer circumstances, we seek to arrange those outer circumstances in the hope of finding the configuration that will reflect to us this sought-for outcome. For example, punching someone who is causing us unhappiness.
 
But peace, well-being and happiness are not available from the outer world. They only are available within ourselves, within our consciousness, and depend entirely on our point of view on ourselves and the facts of our life. If my sense of self depends on how others see me or how they treat me, no amount of face-punching will change the feelings I will be having about myself. If I think of myself as at-one-with God and worthy of compassion, tenderness and love, the natterings of someone who sees me differently are not going to find their way into my system to have any affect whatsoever on how it feels to be me.
 
Patanjali here makes it very clear how we are to set our minds vis-à-vis our relationships. When we find a happy situation, we are to cultivate feelings of friendliness. When we find someone who is unhappy, we are to meet them with karuna, compassion. When we come upon a virtuous person, we are to bring to that interaction a sense of delight, of supreme goodwill. And when we encounter the vicious or wicked – apunya, literally ‘without virtue or merit’ – we are to practice indifference or neutrality.
 
In this way we learn to have a peaceful mind. We learn where our point of control is. We learn that the mind will go where we ask it to go, if we have a better option than the one that habitually we have taken.
 
When someone offends, we find the one thing about him or her that is not offensive. In my letter to the man who wanted a punch, I praised his commitment to his children and the way in which I have seen him show up for them. I did not make this up. It is true. And by shining a light on that truth, I am able to be indifferent toward the other truths that would have him be my enemy.
 
Today I will find one good thing about someone who seems to want to make my life miserable, who seems to want to make me unhappy, or who seems not to care one way or the other about my well-being, even though they should. I will find that one thing, and when my mind tells me how ‘bad’ they are being toward me, I will remind myself of that one good thing and I will seek a sense of neutrality toward them. 
Statue of Buddha, vegetarian restaurant, Ojai, CA
All original material copyright © 2018 Jeff Kober

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