Do You React to Life or Choose Your Response to Life?

Not long ago my wife and I went for an early morning walk on a secluded beach near our home. The coastline in northern California can be rugged, and on this stretch the waves were uncommonly high. I found myself absorbed in watching a huge log with which the sea was playing like a cat…

…I couldn’t help feeling that for the most part, this is what our lives are like too. The Buddha would say that most of us live at the mercy of circumstances, going wherever life takes us…

…I stood back and watched while one brave soul turned his back on a powerful swell and tried to get to his feet. The wave picked him up and tossed him aside into its crest, spinning his board into the air like a missile… He retrieved his board and waited there for the next wave to come. Again the same thing happened – and again he came back for more.

The other young man had more experience. He knew just where he wanted to be, and when the next wave rolled in he caught its pace with a couple of swift, sure strokes. In seconds he was on his feet, cutting back and forth along the face of that wall of water as if making the ocean do his bidding were the easiest thing in the world…

…All of us, I think, would like to enjoy that kind of mastery in living. Who doesn’t respond to the thought of taking life’s waves and riding them with effortless grace?…

…If we merely react to life, this implies, we have no more freedom of choice than that log the ocean was playing with. We go where life pushes and pulls us. But if we can choose our responses, we have mastered life. Like a skilled surfer, we don’t need to ask for perfect waves. Where is the challenge in that? We show our skill by how well we can handle whatever the sea sends.

Excerpt from Eknath Easwaran’s book, Conquest of Mind

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