By Purnima Yogi
Once we decide to work on ourselves, the people we don’t get along with and our surroundings both change for the better By Purnima Yogi
There are only three things you can do when faced with an unpleasant situation,” I once heard someone say. “Change it if you can, run away from it if you can, or if you cannot do either, tolerate it.” As far as relationships are concerned, the last advice seems to be the only option – one goes on tolerating them until kingdom come. I did the same, for 20 years – with whom else? – my mother-in-law. I guess she was tolerating me too – but I never gave it a thought for all those years we were under the same roof. Because I did not have the benefit of wisdom that hindsight and distance give. After I had the opportunity to move out, I had the breathing space that I longed for, to reflect and actually appreciate her good qualities that were masked by the discomfort that I experienced in her proximity.
So when I was in a relationship I couldn’t change, I tolerated it. But I realise now that it is the not the best way to go about it. It gives one ulcers and a mind shrunk and distorted with hatred. How many times have I heard the statement by Gandhiji: Be the change you want to see in the world (and in others). If I wanted her to be loving, I had to be loving. If I demanded to be accepted the way I was – warts and all – I needed to accept her the way she was. Did I do that? Maybe, but not the way I should have.
Purnima Yogi is a writer,
editor, translator and Mass
Communications professional from
Bangalore, now a full-time seeker.
I always felt I was the giver in the relationship, always submitting to her dictates and resenting it. Not once did I submit to her of my own free will unconditionally. If I had, things would probably have flowed smoothly. And if she hadn’t been confronted by my resentment but instead recognised my willingness to let her have her way, maybe she would have thawed too. To take a simple example, in the thick of traffic, if the driver behind you keeps honking to be able to zoom ahead, it is much simpler to just give him the way. Better than parking the car in the center of the road, confronting him and giving him a lecture on civic sense and driving etiquette. This would also delay others on the road, and get them angry and frustrated. This might sound like meek submission, but I realise that it is a strength to be able to put away one’s own demands and allow things to happen when you are not directly in charge yourself. Submission requires that one subdue the ego and the urge to create a scene, and resolve the problem smoothly. Confrontation consumes too much time and energy and leaves everyone mentally concerned and spiritually depleted.
Unconditional acceptance of the other is what it all boils down to. Once we accept a person or situation, we achieve a degree of peace with our self. Our mind becomes calm, enabling us to debate how to improve the situation and work around it. Our own calmness helps the other to calm down, and the stage is reasonably set for negotiations and adaptation. It might not be possible always to give and expect physical space, so it is best to give mental space to others and to ourselves too. How do we do that? First, by discarding the urge to change people – it is impossible. Second, by accepting them the way they are. Third, by giving ourselves mental space by not participating in mentally unpleasant situations. Fourth, by not carrying the unpleasantness beyond the immediate situation, and holding on to inner peace.
The amazing thing is, this attitude actually brings about change in others and in situations. Our sheer inner strength and purity raises the vibrations around us and changes our environment for the best! Try it!
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