“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” ~ Lao Tzu
Life indeed throws a curve ball at us every now and then, doesn’t it? You can never predict what’s going to happen next, unless your level of awareness matches that of the ‘Sages of the Ages’ exclusive club members. But for an everyday Joe or Mary or Svetlana (I like that name, and I had to use it), things could get pretty stressful, if events happen contrary to what was planned, which they will along the path.
Now, there are different strategies that are in vogue to overcome these obstacles. The most common ones are to use ‘Deep Breathing’, ‘Be Positive’, ‘Hang in there’, ‘Take a Break’ and although these techniques are quite prevalent and useful, they tend to have its drawbacks. Some have temporary effects, while some are quite difficult to implement in the moment of truth. It is one thing to say and advise these techniques to others when you are not the one facing it, and then there is the case of executing it when it matters the most. Seldom are we able to overcome the obstacles without experiencing a degree of stress, and the ones with a strong will and determination eventually succeeds. But some of us perish, and give up at the first signs of trouble and go back to our habitual way of dealing with it.
In my view, life doesn’t have to be a struggle to accomplish what we desire. The desire is actually rooted deeply within us for a reason, and I believe it is waiting to be fulfilled. The masterstroke to thriving in life in my view is the gift of attention. The human mind has always played games on us – when things are going great, we feel great, when things seem to go downhill, we feel lousy and down. To counter the mind, the best technique is to use it’s own strengths to pin it down, like in judo, where one uses the opponent’s strengths to their own advantage. And the strength of mind is its unnerving ability to shift its attention at break neck speed.
Let me give an example, for instance, imagine on a Friday afternoon, you are getting ready to wind up from the office, and your boss comes in and drops a request on your desk to be completed before you head out. I think for most people, it would be a feeling of overwhelm, upset, frustration and taking it to the other extreme even anger. In this moment the mind’s attention is on a disempowering state, however the very next moment if you happen to pull the drawer to find two tickets to Hawaii and the trip is with your favorite person the next morning, you suddenly feel rejuvenated. Again, nothing’s changed at this point, but only your attention.
So, now let’s consider, if you could shift your attention at will, rather than have the mind run the controls, what would that make available for you? Regardless of what events or situations come up, imagine you are in control of your attention, and you can choose to put your attention towards an empowering objective. What would that be like for you? I think it would be amazing. Wouldn’t it? Easier said than done.
The first step towards any breakthrough is awareness. The next step is to identify the missing link, and the third step is to master the process. And if there is a fourth step, then it is becoming a genius in that area. But, let’s stick to the mastery of the process for now. The only way, I have noticed one can get a mastery of the attention process is by learning to concentrate, and the only effective way known to mankind is through meditation. The more hours one indulges in effective meditation (There are different types of meditation in vogue), the better one gets at this ability to shift attention at will.
So, to summarize, the empowering state to conquer the obstacles in life and to achieve peace of mind is through mastering the ability of shifting attention at will. And the best way to do it is through meditation. If you have not learnt to meditate up until now, don’t lose heart; it is never too late, begin taking small steps to learn the art of meditation.