This is a common phrase used by my friends who just came out from the National Service, “eh bro, wake up your ideas.” Although it is usually spoken in a slightly crude and poke-fun manner, I would like to borrow this commonly recited phrase to summarize something interesting that I learnt through Yoga. Of course, I am speaking these words by their literal meaning – wake up your ideas.
What are my ideas?
As a well-trained undergrad, my brain is conditioned to brainstorm for thesis and antithesis when I need to write an essay; and next, refer to materials from credible sources to draw supporting evidence for my arguments. This is how you score and show critical thinking skills in examinations. Yes, I conveniently did the same thing before I start writing this blog post. Then, it hit me. Have I been too well-trained to be, or pretend to be, a critical thinker? Ask me my take on the origin of the Cold War. I would have confidently told a structured answer consisting of a well balance of the orthodox, revisionist and post-revisionist schools of thoughts, which are different point of views on who was (more) responsible for the start of the Cold War. My teacher has assured me that such an answer was analytic, balanced and thorough. But they are not my ideas. I merely copy and paste pieces of analysis by recognized scholars to form an argument that would gain me credit form others. What do I actually think of the origin of the Cold War? It kind of resembled the way I used to play tricks to get my cousin’s toys when we were young. If he refused to trade his toys with my sweets, I threatened to tell his father because my uncle always had my back. I have had countless cold wars with my cousin. Do I need an orthodox or revisionist explanation for our childhood fights? Would putting the blame of one or both parties really explain the origins of conflicts? Maybe. But what I have recently learnt about Karma Yoga seems to provide me another angle to dissect and understand the nature of conflicts; a methodology that seeks and begins understanding within one self.
The definition of Karma is anything that is left inside you that is incomplete and is asking for attention for completion by going through it again and again. And the cause of this feeling of incompleteness is our intent that is attached to our actions but has yet been satisfied or fulfilled by the outcome of our actions. The layman term for such intent would be “expectations”. We expect to see certain results from our actions. When our expectations are not met, we get disappointed, frustrated and conflicts arise when we try to impose further actions against others’ will. What we often see as corrective actions is usually catalysis that could only further escalate conflicts. This can be testified by half a decade of childish fighting between with my cousin and I and the Cold War that lasted almost half a century. The question is, why. According to the definition of “Karma”, the reaction of disappointment to the unfulfilled intent is internal, meaning, generated from within our self. Yet, we tend to associate this disappointment to the action of others and hence get stuck in the vicious who-is-to-blame cycle. We fail to see that our conflicts with others are actually fed by the internal conflicts that we have in our own heads and further fueled by our natural instinct to deny such internal mental discordances. To be simply put, the root of so many never ending conflicts in our lives, and the essence of Karma Yoga, lies in our ideas – the way we perceive and handle our unfulfilled expectations.
Awakening our ideas
So how do we wake up our ideas? The simplest and purest way is to just stop having any ideas and accept everything as it comes, which is also the hardest to achieve because we are all educated to be critical; usually critical to others but not ourselves. In order to unarm my critical mind, I have found the following steps helpful when something happens and falls behind my expectations.
- Resist the urge to criticize and keep quiet.
- Understand what (thing, not people) really caused the frustration and redirect my energy to think of a solution rather than words to diminish others.
- Take action that solve the problem or seek advice from people who are more experienced.
- Enjoy the moment when you get things done and feeling calm and peaceful like never before.
The hardest part is actually resisting the urge to put down others and make yourself feel superior. When I was coaching my juniors in cheerleading, I could feel my ego shouting and screaming in my head wanting to give a speech whenever they did something wrong. I made the attempt to shut my mouth and hold all those words in. It was all noisy and messy at the start. But my thoughts got clearer and clearer and eventually, I just came to find it a waste of energy to think of any negative comments to express my frustration or even to feel frustrated at all. Instead, it has become easier to just focus on searching for practical ways to solve the problems. To conclude,
Expect nothing. Blame no one. Do something.
However, I have to admit that things still go out of control sometimes and I would find myself fallen prey to a surge of emotions again from time to time. But similar to any other things in life, peacefulness and calmness of the heart come with daily and consistent practice.
Gwen Wu Guiyan <3