"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Resolving Life's Equation

"Life is short. And uncertain. It is like a drop of water skittering around on a lotus leaf. You never know when it will drop off the edge and disappear. So each day is far too precious to waste. And each day that you are not radiantly alive and brimming with cheer is a day wasted. "
--  Srikumar Rao --
Fill in the blank: "If ____________, then I would be happy."

I have heard it said that we humans are great logicians, and the mental equation that we are usually preoccupied with is "if x, then y,"

The problem with our great logic, however, is that we spend almost no time looking at the 'x' factor, and concentrate all our imagination on 'y.' "If I had great wealth, then I'd be happy." "If I lost 20 pounds, then I would be attractive." "If I had a great relationship, then I wouldn't want anything else." "If I lose this job, then I'll be homeless." Etc., etc., etc.

All this mental algebra is just thought-food for the inner mental narrative of our ego sense. So much of our time is spent on how great, or how awful, 'y' would be if 'x' occurs, and little or no time is spent on the reality, probability or possibility of 'x' occurring, a point stressed in a lecture on achieving "happiness" by Professor Srikumar Rao, (attached below).

Is it true that we would experience unending happiness if we just had lots of money in our pocket, weighed twenty pounds less and were in a new relationship? Most people's experience, but not their inner narrative, says that this is just not so.

Prof. Srikumar Rao
"It's the model itself that is flawed," says Professor Rao, "not what you put on the 'if' side of the equation."

"The problem," Rao notes, "is that your life right now, with all the problems that you have - or more precisely, all the problems that you think you have - is equally perfect, but you do not accept it. In fact, you are spending all your time striving with might and main to make it different. You are not accepting it. And, when you are not accepting it you are buying into the 'if/then' model - 'if this happens then I will be happy' - and it is the model itself that is flawed."

What is needed, Professor Rao observes, is to "invest in the process, and not in the outcome." Rao, like so many others, preaches the benefit of focusing our attention on what it is that we are doing in the here and now, rather on what may - or, likely, may not - be the outcome.

"As we grow up," he observes, "we lose the ability to invest in the process. We start investing in the outcome. By definition the outcome is outside of our control, (and) if that is where we spend all of our emotional energy, we will get drained as we do so."

In encouraging his audience to focus on the process rather than the outcome - to focus their energy on doing 'x' rather than in obsessing over 'y' - Rao quotes the following introduction that the great John Wooden, the legendary U.C.L.A. basketball coach, would give to each of his teams at the start of their season:
"When it's over and you look in the mirror, did you do the best that you were capable of? If you did the best that you were capable of, the score doesn't matter. But, I suspect that if you did the best you were capable of you will find the score to your liking."
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