According to a 2017 article in the Business Insider, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February! That’s not a very encouraging statistic. Why do most of us fail in our quest to do the right thing? There are of course several subjective reasons for our failure but one of the common objective reasons is that things do not go according to plan. We may be determined to eat healthy food at the right time, but we get pulled into chasing a deadline and end up eating pizza at 10 p.m. We may have planned to exercise three to four times a week but end up travelling on a family emergency to a new city for a couple of weeks.
To paraphrase the German Field Marshal, Helmuth von Moltke: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” The army can come up with elaborate battle plans, practice each situation, and have a response for every condition, but the actions of the enemy are always unpredictable. The enemy does not conform to the army’s assumptions and beliefs. It has its own mind and our battle plans must adapt and change accordingly. Predetermination of circumstances and actions will be our downfall.
In the battle called life – or one of its subsets, the New Year’s resolution – the enemy is reality. Unless our resolutions anticipate unplanned circumstances and are poised to change accordingly, they are bound to fail. This is not only true with New Year’s resolutions but any material or spiritual resolutions in life. There is no right or wrong way to approach a situation; there is only an appropriate way, depending on the circumstances.
With the coming New Year and our well-meaning resolutions, let’s make one thing certain: that every resolution will meet reality and we must be ready with the appropriate response. There cannot be a right or a wrong way to approach every situation. Sadhguru addresses this issue in his latest article below. He does not mention resolutions specifically but explains our approach through a Zen story:
Questioner: There is a zen story that I heard. There were once two neighboring zen monasteries each with a young novice. Every morning on his way to the market, one boy ran into the other.
“Where are you going?” asked one.
“Wherever the wind blows,” the other responded.
This reply puzzled the first child who went to his master for help. “Tomorrow morning,” the master told him, “When you meet that little fellow, ask him the same question and then you ask him, ‘What if the wind stopped blowing.’ That will fix him.”
The children met again the following morning.
“Where are you going?” asked the first child.
“Wherever my feet take me,” answered the other. This again nonplussed the youngster, who took his defeat to the master.
“What if you had no feet?” suggested the master.
The next day the children met a third time.
“Where are you going?” asked the first child.
“To the market,” the other replied.
Questioner: There is an explanation given. In changing with the changes, the more we chase, the farther away we get. Meet the changes by not changing, for the number of ways to change is limited while the number of ways to stay the same is infinite. While the number of ways to change is limited, the number of ways to stay without change is infinite.
Sadhguru: Once you explain it too much, there is nothing in it. You cannot make a moral out of it. Spiritual process is not about coming up with right answers. Spiritual process is about realizing the right way to be.
How we respond to a particular situation essentially depends upon the situation. If we are predetermined in how to handle a situation, then as the situation changes, your reaction will not be in accordance with the situation. Action is always relevant only to the situation in which we exist. There is no right answer or wrong answer. There is no right action or wrong action. There is only appropriate answer. There is only appropriate action.
Whatever we do, if it is not appropriate to the situation in which we exist, it is meaningless. But the logical mind, a very mundane limited mind always thinks there is something called “right” and something called “wrong”. There is no right and wrong, there is only appropriateness to life. If you understand the appropriateness of life, you will handle it well. If you do not understand the appropriateness of life, you will come with readymade answers and readymade solutions which will always throw you off.
Questioner: Can you give an example of a readymade answer and readymade solution?
Sadhguru: This is the essential difference between morality and consciousness. Morality is trying to give you readymade answers. A mind which is already in a state of conclusion is dead to the realities of life. If it has to be alive, it has to be aware. It should have no conclusions.
When that boy said “wind”, or “feet” or simply “market”, this boy did not know what to say because he had conclusions in his mind. The essence of spiritual process is just this – you are not concluding, you are only seeking. A zen monk means his life is about seeking, and seeking is only possible when you have no conclusions. Someone has become a theist, someone has become an atheist – both of them have made conclusions. These conclusions will not lead to truth. These conclusions will only lead to a fight between the two groups or two individuals.
If we have to seek, the first and foremost thing is to be like a mirror to the situation in which you exist, that you are able to grasp the situation for what it is and you are able to act. This also is the basis of all success in the world. Spiritual or material success will happen to you only when you are able to see what is there right now, just the way it is. The moment you have a conclusion in your mind, you cannot see it the way it is. Then you will be completely off the mark.