What you can and can't change

Today I was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, and I found that the sounds of the urban jungle were bugging me. The cars rushing below, horns honking, tourists causing traffic jams with pedestrians and cyclists, and the vibrations of the subways. When the agitation was building inside of me I began to wonder why I was wasting my time getting annoyed by the people and sounds around me; I mean, I’ve lived in NYC long enough to know that this is what it is like living in the city.

So then I just stopped to look around. And then I started to ask myself a new question: why was I wasting my time being distracted from the beauty that was all around me – the bright sun, gentle waters, skyline, my fiance, and the joy of a relaxing Saturday afternoon. At that moment I reminded myself that I had a choice to build on the bitter feelings of the crowded city or let go and enjoy my walk. Both the good and the bad were all around me at once, and I had the ability to choose which one I let in.

Sutra 1.2 in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is Yogas Chitta Vrtti Nirodhah (The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga) and it teaches us that the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind is the practice of yoga. At that moment my choice was to practice yoga and recall that the entire outside world is based on my own thoughts and mental attitude.  Or, I could let my mind feel bound by the sounds around me.

There is a Sanskrit saying. “Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho.” “As the mind, so the man: bondage or liberation are in your own mind.” This saying is a great reminder that if you feel bound, you are bound. If you feel liberated, then you are liberated. Nothing outside of you can bind or liberate you. So when I was walking on the bridge today I could have chosen to feel trapped by the sounds and people surrounding me, or I could have changed my thoughts and mental attitude to enjoy the walk.

When we stop looking outside of ourselves, we realize we have so much more control over the state of our lives. We have a choice at every moment to change our outlook on life and therefore change our lives.

Is there something in your life that you want to change but can’t? Can you change your outlook instead? If you feel liberated, then you are liberated.