“You have a choice over action alone”: These lines refers to our free will as humans. I reflect on that fact that I am 100% responsible for my own actions and thoughts at any given moment. I believe it also implies that I get to choose the attitude that I bring to any action (dharmic or adharmic, with the resulting consequences). This places a tremendous responsibility on us to choose each of our actions thoughtfully and wisely, whether it be small acts throughout our daily life or bigger choices life choices. It asks us to stop and think before we respond to a difficult person or situation. Ultimately, I believe this part of the verse indicates that in each action we can be grounded in God and act from a place of dharma.
In my own life, I can see that sometimes in the past I was apt to blame others when I found myself in a difficult situation. By not taking full responsibility for my actions, I helped to escalate an already bad situation. I became part of the problem. Now, when I do take full responsibility and make a conscious choice to act from dharma, I am able to choose a win-win response. If the other party(ies) in the situation are not acting from dharma, then it’s even more important that I do so, as I might be the only one who can approach the problem from an enlightened point of view. I’ve seen it happen several times that I can diffuse a potentially negative circumstance by choosing to act from dharma.
“Never over results”: This line teaches us that we cannot control the outcome of any action, even if we want to. I think it is difficult for many people, especially Westerners, to accept this basic truth. I include myself in this. Many of us have been taught that we have full control over the outcome of anything, as long as we take all the “right” actions, work extremely hard, make the right personal connections, think positive thoughts, etc. If things don’t work out our way, then we can tend to blame ourselves, blame others and/or become very disappointed, upset, angry, etc. This false belief that we can control the outcome causes us emotional distress and creates drama in relationships. It seems to me that this false belief is the root of much of the suffering that we inflict on ourselves and others.
Ultimately, this line means to me that I must trust Ishwara. When I look back on my life, I can see that I have never really trusted God. Instead, I have always tried to control the outcome of situations. I mistakenly thought it was all up to me, which is a huge burden that created an unhealthy amount of internal stress. I’ve always asked myself, Did I do enough? Can I do more? How can I work more hours? How can I do a better job? Why did I make that (stupid) decision? This led to a kind of perfectionism that continually disturbed my inner peace. I’m so grateful that I’m learning to let go all of that self-defeating thinking. It’s a relief that I can simply do my best, without overworking or over-thinking, and know that whatever happens is for the highest good. This requires TRUST. I am working on trusting in God every day, in every circumstance.
I will give a current example of how I am allowing myself to let go and trust God (in other words, let go of the outcome). I have planned a women’s yoga & Ayurveda wellness retreat for the last weekend in October together with a colleague. Since we began marketing it, we have gotten very little response. This is so surprising because my last two retreats sold out very quickly. In spite of this, I have been totally calm about the lack of interest so far. I have decided three things, based on this verse: 1) I will do my best to continue to market the retreat and not give up, 2) I will not go overboard and spend excessive amounts of time and money (unhealthy perfectionism), and 3) I am totally fine with any outcome, knowing that Ishwara is teaching me something in any situation. If I keep my heart open to the lessons being given to me, I will learn what I need to learn for my own personal growth and perhaps even something about my worldly work. I have also had to convey my genuine peacefulness to my colleague, whom I observe is very upset by the lack of response and is creating drama for herself as she runs “what if…” scenarios in her mind. This probably would have been my reaction, too, if I had not committed myself to living out this beautiful verse in my own life.
“May you not be motivated by the results of action”: I believe this line has enormous consequences for how we approach our work and our life in general, either from artha-kama or dharma-moksha. I have learned that the attitude that we bring to all our activities is critical; specifically, an attitude of service to Ishwara must be the basis of our actions. I believe that when we try to control the outcome of our actions, we often end up acting purely from artha-kama, without dharma-moksha, and this in turn leads to much adharmic behavior and emotional distress that can cause suffering for ourselves and others. It’s therefore important to stay focused in the here and now, on the task at hand, which ultimately must always be service to God.
In my own life, I am trying to implement this attitude of service at all times. When I do so, the results are inconsequential because I already know that I’ve done my duty in the here and now. I am checking my own attitude when, for example, I do household chores for my family, work on a translation, take my dog to the park, plan a yoga event, etc. Am I doing this in service to God, with joy in my heart? Or am I experiencing any negative thoughts of irritation, judgment, self-pity, etc? If I find my own mind going to a negative place, I try to reflect on it and then consciously shift into dharmic thoughts of service. Then my mood almost instantly improves and people around me respond more positively as well. When I don’t have any expectations from my own service, then my work seems almost effortless.
“May you not have an inclination/attachment towards non-action”: This line suggests that we must not fall into tamas when life experiences seem difficult, which is a common human tendency. We are always called to take dharmic action. The Lord requires us to be strong in the face of difficulties rather than retreat in defeat or apathy. I believe it all comes back to doing one’s duty with an attitude of service in the present moment. Even if we believe our actions won’t make any difference, that is actually beside the point. We must take dharmic action anyway as we recognize that we cannot know what Ishwara knows.
This makes me think especially about our duty to vote in elections and to take non-violent action to address injustice in our society. Many people will say that voting does not matter, that our government is totally corrupt and that the wealthiest among us control everything anyway, so why bother. However, in the face of injustice and corruption, we must act for the common good. Not taking action is a choice too! When we don’t take action, whether it be as a citizen of the U.S. or in our own personal lives, we choose the status quo. For this reason, I have committed myself to working 5 hours a week to help get Progressive Democrats elected to the U.S. Senate and House. I honestly don’t know if my actions will have an impact, especially because I live in a very conservative, Republican district that generally supports our current president, but I feel I have a duty to help and, who knows, maybe my little effort will plant a seed in someone else that will grow even though I won’t ever know for sure. Again, it all comes back to trusting in God.
I will end my reflections here, although I could continue for several more pages. I’m so very grateful for these teachings. This verse in particular, Chapter 2, Verse 47, has been changing my life for the better on a daily basis, and I hope that the peace I’m finding within is contributing to the greater good as well.