A perennial yoga philosophy that has been so helpful to me personally over the years comes from the Bhagavad Gita. One of the main themes of it's teachings is summarized in Stephen Cope's book, Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, by one of his friends, Tom:
You dedicate your passion, your energy, your gifts to something bigger than yourself, and you just live it fully-- and the outcome is none of your business."
What if we could just give ourselves the gift of taking action in the world, and let go of worrying about how things are going to turn out? Imagine how freeing that would be. Imagine how much of our imagination, energy, and creativity could be released and expressed in the process.
We live in a world where we have many choices and decisions to make, and it's easy to get caught in the all-too-human experience of thinking "I'm afraid to take action because I'm afraid of how things are going to turn out if I do the wrong thing and fail."
In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna -- essentially the human soul -- and Krishna -- the Eternal Source -- are in conversation about Arjuna's dilemma over his seemingly impossible choice, which Cope writes: "[should Arjuna act] on his sacred duty as a warrior and [face] the karmic consequences of fratricide [by killing members of his extended family], or [retreat] from his duty into inaction and [face] the sin of 'dereliction of dharma' (duty)?"
For us, we're often faced with what are difficult -- and sometimes impossible -- choices, and we often seem to want to retreat into inaction. Much of the reason for our angst is that we fear the results of our actions and what the consequences might be. The solution, according to the Bhagavad Gita is this:
You have control over your actions alone, never over of it's fruits. Live not for the fruits of action, nor attach yourself to inaction. Established in yoga, perform actions having abandoned attachment, and remain balanced whether you succeed or fail. For balance of mind is called yoga.
Essentially, if we can let go of worrying about the outcomes of our actions, then we can live life with so much more freedom from guilt and blame. Cope explains:
Action that is done "desiring the welfare of the world," in alignment with duty and without "attachments to the fruits," is action that leaves no residue of karma, no bondage, no stain of any kind.
The key is that if we can align ourselves with our sacred duty -- what we were born on this earth to do -- and not be attached to the results, then we will not only leave this world with less karma to work on in a future life, but also suffer less by being freed from the mental bondage of needing things to turn out in a particular way.
Given the current political situation in which we face the possibilities of our country going backward in so many areas -- civil rights, human rights, women's rights, climate protection, and on and on -- the lesson for us who are in a position to put our attention toward advancing and promoting human understanding in these areas is that we can only do the best we can do and take the best actions we can. Beyond that, to repeat, "the outcome is none of your business." If we can go in with this mindset, then we can free ourselves of some -- if not all -- suffering.
In my own life's work through Keoni Movement Arts, I am faced with so many decisions that sometimes my head spins. The thing that keeps saving me over and over again is remembering that the outcome of all of this is none of my business. I started this nonprofit with an idea in mind for how to help the world through my own talents and desire, and the result so far is that we continue to grow year after year. Where this will all lead to, I have no idea. I do know that if I just keep following my heart, and remain practical and diligent, the results will continue to speak for themselves. I also know that the less personally I take the results, the less I will suffer.
According to Cope, Krishna (God) teaches in the Bhagavad Gita:
Act in the world, in alignment with your true vocation, your true self, and turn over the fruits--and you can rest assured that, then, you are not the Doer of the action.
I've heard accounts about people being "in the flow" and feeling like they are not in charge, so much as that they are channeling some source greater than themselves. We've all experienced that feeling, I have no doubt, and it happens when we are doing what we were meant to do on this earth in this lifetime. It is incumbent on us, as yoga practitioners, to listen strongly to those feelings when they occur.
In fact, as we advance in our yoga practice, yoga becomes less and less about being able to do a headstand or touch one's toes, rather, as Cope writes:
As yoga matures within us, the intellectual idea that we are born divine becomes transformed into a way of life. We move ineluctably toward trust in the basic OKness of things and in the the remarkable intelligence of life itself. We let our dharma—the plan life has for us—find us. And when we surrender to life’s plan for us, we discover that we are not the doer. God is the doer.
A good reminder for all of us is something one of Cope's friends, Mark, said to him shortly before he died of AIDS at a young age:
Don't wake up at the end of your life and find that you've had yourself at the center of it all along. ... You have to find some one, some thing, some purpose greater than yourself to which you're devoted, and cultivate that devotion. Really give yourself over to it, whether it's teaching, music, family, the law, children, meditation, yoga, gardening. Whatever.
Especially with the way things are going in the world these days, it is most incumbent on us as yoga practitioners to help the world by allowing our Dharma—our life Duty—to come to us, and live it fully. If we can do this individually, then I have no doubt that our collective efforts will save the world from the madness that is engulfing it at the moment.
May you know your Dharma, ...
May you act on your Sacred Duty, ...
May you actions be aligned with serving the welfare of All, ...
May your mind remain balanced in success and failure, ...
May God act through you, ...
May you remember the outcome is none of your business, ...
for the benefit of all Beings everywhere.
Aloha with Metta,