Verse: 2.56: One who is not disturbed in mind even amidst the threefold miseries or elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.
Unwanted and unexpected guests. What kind of emotion do you experience reading those four words? Elation and happiness or worry and anxiety? I'm guessing most would pick the latter two emotions. ;)
In the world we live in today, it's getting rarer to receive unexpected guests (if you exclude the random door-door salesperson), wouldn't you agree? With the advent of cell phones, email and texting it's much easier to just check in to see if somebody is home before you visit. If you're one those people who feels this way, you may be surprised to find out that there are three unwanted and unexpected guests that show up almost daily (and they certainly don't check in to see if the timing is convenient for you to visit!).
The aftereffects of their visit can be summed up by the words anxious, upset, frustrated, worried and distracted. The Gita speaks about them in detail to educate us so that we can be aware of their effects and become aware of their stealthy attacks. In fact, the Gita expands on how these are the "side dishes" that come along with having a body. The annoying part? You can't request them to be left out. They're part of the whole material body package.
They come in these three forms:
1) Distress that comes as a result of nature.
2) Distress that comes as a result of other living beings.
3) Distress that arises due our own body and mind.
Distress due to nature....the subject matter of many a conversation! When I went to India last month, I got an opportunity to do so many wonderful things and was feeling so grateful. But (isn't there almost always a but?!), it was unbelievably hot. It was so hot that by mid afternoon my clothes would be soaked with so much perspiration that there would be salt stains left behind. Eww...I know. The heat was just unbelievable and definitely disturbed me. I chuckle, because at the present moment there are blowing ice pellets falling outside my window and I'm already dreading my walk to the bus stop. These are just minor examples of the disturbances we may experience as a result of nature, what to speak of huge floods, famines and tsunamis.
The second type of distress may arise due to other living beings. Remember the last time something said something negative about you? Primo example. For many of us, that's one of the things that causes us great disturbance both emotionally and mentally. However, this type of distress is not limited to only other humans. Other living entities also cause us grief. I'm shaking my head recalling an incident last summer when a mosquito was buzzing close to my ear and prevented me from falling asleep for two hours!
Finally, the third unwanted guest that may cause us to be disturbed is our own body and mind. Anytime the body gives us any pain or suffering, it's so hard to stay equipoised. Our mind especially causes as problems. As discussed yesterday, it is constantly trying to find ways so that we may gratify our senses and if it fails, we're in for it. I remember in first year of University I was in so much anxiety thinking I was going to fail my Calculus final that I couldn't get out of bed. My worry literally paralyzed me for an hour. My personal observation is that oftentimes disturbances that arise due to one's own mind and body may be the hardest to overcome.
So why this analysis of these three unwanted and unexpected guests? Because it's hard to know how to deal with an unwanted and unexpected guest if we're not even aware that that's what they are! The Gita is explaining that this is not just a part of "normal life" and it's not something we should just accept. These are incentives to realize that we are not this body.
By recognizing these unwanted guests as temporary visitors, we can choose to stop giving them the power to dictate our emotions, resources and reactions. Instead we can utilize these moments as opportunities to dive deeper into discovering who we really are - the eternal and ever-blissful soul.