When it is examined with objective measures, being in charge of your life, or even feeling in control, looks like a major challenge. Right now doctors are writing record numbers of prescriptions for antidepressants and tranquilizers. Economic pressures create financial worries in many families. The world feels threatening in ways that we as individuals cannot really defend against, from terrorism to climate change. How is it possible to regain control and remain secure in such an environment?
Most people don't really confront this very basic question. Society urges us to constantly pursue the next distraction and to equate happiness with money, status, and possessions. But the world's wisdom traditions offer the most important clues about how to be in control. They define a life path that proceeds from the inside out. The goal isn't about adjusting to one day's stressful situations and hoping that you can cope with tomorrow's. The goal begins with a vision of life where a person's inner world is safe and secure, leading to safety and security in the outer world.
Regain Control, Become Self-Aware
We get out of control because of the habit of depending on the restless mind, which constantly shifts from moment to moment, largely obeying what the ego wants. The ego feels insecure and therefore wants to be reassured, seeking the next pleasure or gratification, the next promise of help from someone else, and the next reason to place blame outside itself. As a result, there is no calm center to the mind, no place where restlessness is exchanged for peace and calm. Even when a person gains some control over the restless mind, its worries and disturbing thoughts are simply shoved out of sight—they continue to cause agitation at an unconscious level.
I'm only painting a bleak picture to underscore that being in control requires a different approach, the approach of consciousness. Through meditation practice and other lifestyle changes, you can make it your long-term goal to settle into a deeper level of awareness and to expand your consciousness beyond day-to-day demands and concerns. Life works best when you regain control form the inside out.
If you acknowledge the possibility that consciousness links the inner and outer world, you move ahead on the assumption that any thought can change how you experience the world. The deciding factors aren't mystical. They have to do with the following ingredients that go into shifting your personal reality through conscious intention:
- Being yourself and following your own truth.
- Not creating a false self-image that you must live up to.
- Having your own ideas instead of ones you picked up second-hand.
- Being passionate about the things that matter most.
- Being able to focus, bringing the mind to one point without distraction.
- Being centered.
- Having the experience of going deep into the mind.
- Letting go instead of controlling.
- Having confidence that your desire is supported by Nature, God, the universe—something larger than your individual ego.
- Feeling integrated in mind, body, and spirit.
- Not feeling confused and conflicted.
- Valuing yourself and your well-being.
- Wanting to pursue an ideal.
These factors enter into how you live each day. The choices you make can be great or small—that doesn't matter. What matters is the degree of self-awareness you apply to any situation.
For example, instead of thinking "What's going to go wrong now?" or "Do I have what it takes to get through this?", which are self-defeating questions, concentrate your efforts on becoming more aware. Consider the ingredients on the list above and genuinely make the effort required to expand your awareness. When you take consciousness seriously, it takes you seriously.
The reason you can be truly in control of your life right this minute is that you are already creating every reflection you see; the interaction that merges "in here" and "out there” is always at work, regardless of whether you believe it or not. Therefore, you need to see yourself as a conscious agent with enormous creative potential. This attitude is enough to restore control in anyone's life, beginning a journey to real mastery.
Learn how to use meditation to help heal mind, body, and spirit with Basics of Meditation, a self-paced online course guided by Deepak Chopra. Learn More.