Thursday, January 10, 2013

A practical guide to responding to challenging situations

Verse 1.21-22: Arjuna said: O infallible one, please draw my chariot between the two armies so that I may see those present here, who desire to fight, and with whom I must contend in this great trial of arms.

As I've mentioned before, I love philosophy and logic but above all what I cherish the most is practical application. Here we see Arjuna facing a challenging and adrenaline inducing situation in the midst of a large crowd. We've all been there before. Think back to when you last felt this way. Perhaps it was was when you were speaking in front of a large audience or perhaps you were running for the bus and tripped and fell in front a group of people (been there, done that).

In those situations, it's very easy for our minds to "freak out" and for us to react without thinking. We forget cool logic and taking those deep long breaths and instead get caught up in the excitement, anxiety, embarrassment or whatever else of the moment. This verse is a goldmine of information to teach us how we can handle such circumstances with grace.

Just see how Arjuna is so methodical. He not only wants to gauge the situation but wants to break it down so he can assess the important variables.

Firstly he asks Krsna to move him to the best vantage point, in this case between the two armies. Similarly, we too in any situation should try to move into the appropriate perspective whether it be mentally, emotionally, intellectually or physically. For example, when in a heated argument with someone, sometimes the best thing to do is politely excuse oneself. Cool off a bit and then come back once you've had a chance to look objectively at the situation. Or the situation maybe such that we need to "walk a mile" in the other person's shoes so that we can better understand where they are coming from.

Secondly Arjuna wants to understand the mentality of those present before him. As the saying goes, "The face is the index of the mind." The soul is sensitive by nature. We've all had those moments where we can feel that someone is being sincere and when they just want something from us. If we look for it, it's there. Paying attention and watching a persons's reactions when we interact with them will help us to determine whether we're getting through to them or if we need to find another way.

Finally, Arjuna then wants to figure out who the major players are. Who are the persons that he needs to watch out for. Brilliant! Arjuna is so intelligent. By identifying those persons, whether they be friends, allies or those who may challenge us, it can help calm our fears. How? Because we're not facing the unknown anymore. Instead, by recognizing their mentality and having a better idea of what they stand for, we will be able to better anticipate what they may bring to the table.

Amazing isn't it? I never realized that this formula for responding to challenging situations was here until reading the Gita today. Just goes to show that bhakti is practical and useful in everyday life. That's why bhakti isn't just a spiritual path, it's a way of life.

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