Lately, my job has been stressing me out. I work long hours, the work is tough, and things don’t always go the way I would like. Recently, I started feeling worn down, not my normal self, dreaming about problems I had to solve, distracted even when I should have left things behind hours ago. I would lie in bed, mind racing, and literally could not get through repeating the (mercifully short) Beloved God prayer, without my brain obsessing about something else.
Perfect timing: we had a vacation planned. But even then, I found myself looking up at the Big Sky of Montana, playing conversations I needed to have through in my head or trying to solve the latest unsolved problem. I could not relax.
So I did what I often do: dug deep inside, tried to find my moorings, searched for my better self to pull me out of my rut and put my priorities in check. Nothing. I tried to figure out exactly what was making me unhappy, so I could unravel it. I wanted to make things right, to feel better. But I just felt tired, and a little sad.
I was a bit afraid to ask Baba about it, as I sensed I may be in for some tough love. Being in a bit of a slump, I tried a softer line of attack: reaching out to people who I admire, who seem to sail through life with equanimity and a healthy dose of joy. Lucky for me, I know a few of these. One afternoon, I was sitting outside by a lake, thinking about something my heart knew was unimportant but that I could not convince my mind to let go. So I called my Dad, who was about to leave for India, and is one of my key wiser-than-me allies. He, in his usual zen way, said “Well, there is clearly something here that you are attached to. Detach.” Simple, right?
But wait. “How do I stay invested, and also detached?” I asked myself, as if it isn’t one of the great spiritual koans, puzzled over for centuries. Still, I needed concrete advice. I turned to a dear friend who seems to manage this quite well: committed and effective, yet poised and kind, despite having a huge job that she doesn’t always love. “How do you do it?” I asked. “My motto is: everything is temporary,” she replied with a smile.
Armed with these grains of truth, I finally felt brave enough to see what Baba had to say about my sorry state. Sure enough, Baba tells us that real detachment is based on “the unshakable knowledge that all things of this world are momentary and passing.” And that “complete detachment is one of the essential conditions of true happiness.” To achieve detachment, Baba tells us, we must free our hold on pleasure in order to be immune to loss. He gives the specific example that “the only way not to be upset by blame is to be detached from praise.”
Well, of course I felt pretty proud of myself for finding that gem. And then blamed myself for not seeking it out sooner. But in all seriousness, it helped me to have something to practice in the face of the stress. That person is frustrating me? It will pass. What if I fail at this project? It’s not the end of the world.
And then I encountered one more gem, scrawled on a wall: “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind.” This brought compassion into the mix, and reminded me of something I sometimes say when feeling challenged by others: “Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.” And then I realized: me too. I’m doing the best I can. And I need to just leave the rest to Him.