Illuminations Newsletter 46
Possibility thinking means there is always more than one way of approaching a situation. Generally we have patterns of thinking which lock us into seeing situations in a narrow way or the same way over and over again. But there is always more than one way to deal with a situation. By being open to other ways of viewing the situation, we begin to see possibilities we didn’t know existed.
Think “what can I do to improve my service to Krishna in this situation?”
If we really believe in Krishna, we should be thinking that anything is possible by His mercy. For example, in any difficult situation we can think, “What else can be done?”, “How can I maximize the situation?” “How can I turn my obstacles into opportunities to serve Krishna?” There is always a silver lining at the end of the cloud.
What’s good about this?
You can see how bad experiences in the past have helped you become stronger today. There were valuable lessons learned from those experiences. But at the time you didn’t know this. Those experiences are blessings in disguise to learn what we need to learn. So, even the bad, seen in another way, becomes a source of strength and knowledge.
Once, a king placed a boulder in the middle of a street and hid himself behind a bush. Most persons just went around the boulder. After some time, a peasant came and pushed the boulder aside. Below the boulder he found a purse with gold coins and a note from the king that said “This is a reward for the person who removes the boulder.”
In essence, there is gold at the end of a rainbow. Behind each obstacle, there is a lesson that Krishna wants us to learn.
Dealing with anarthas
An outside of the box way of viewing anarthas is to see them as things which are so valuable to us that if we give them up, we’ll be giving up that which we are dearly attached to. Krishna appreciates it when we offer him something that we’d rather not give up. So, attachments offer us great opportunities to serve Krishna.
Since everything in creation must be offered to Krishna, we can offer to Krishna our determination to drop the anartha or a bad thought and continue with faith in our spiritual practices. Having a different perspective on how to deal with anarthas has helped many devotees.
Tools for Possibility thinking
- Brainstorming or mind storming. Some persons suggest taking a piece of paper and writing down 10 to 20 possibilities. This forces one to think differently from how one generally thinks. It is also highly beneficial to do this exercise with a coach or a mentor.
- Is there a third alternative? Often times, two parties are caught up in “I have an idea” and “You have an idea”. But there could be a third alternative which encompasses or far exceeds both the ideas. Generally, people think like a funnel, a narrow pipe. It is said that if the mind has 60,000 ideas in a day, they may all have the same pattern. People have a habitual way of thinking. Most of our thoughts are the same day in and day out.
- Win win thinking. When two parties come together, its best to come up with an option that is beneficial for both parties. It’s called synergy or creative co-operation. Such an approach is very beneficial because it helps one develop respect for the other person’s opinion, the other person’s needs, and the ability to understand the other person.
Obstacles to Possibility thinking
- I can’t. It is said that what you think to be true is often just your belief or attitude. When devotees use words like “I can’t”, “It can’t”, or “This can’t be done” they are limiting themselves. In fact the words “I can’t” can be redefined as “there is no possibility” of any other way of doing it or thinking about it. It’s important that we catch ourselves when we use those words. Instead, it’s a healthy habit to use words like “let’s look” and “let me consider”.
- Bhakta Henry (Ford), the grandfather of Ambarisha prabhu would say “If you say ‘I can’t,’ you have 100% failed. You have determined your path to fail.”
- Another alternative is to ask other devotees how they view a situation. They’ll often have a completely different perspective.
- Neglecting the most obvious. Often times, because of our fixed mind set, we tend to oversee the most obvious things we can do to solve a problem. We are surrounded by all kinds of solutions and possibilities. We just don’t see them.
- Akrura narrates a true story of an African farmer who sold his land and embarked on a journey to find diamonds. When he was unable to find any diamonds, he drowned himself in the ocean. The new owner of the land one day found out that the acres of land that were sold to him were mines of diamonds. We also have acres of diamonds as wonderful devotees around us and talents given by Krishna. All we have to do is open our eyes and look around.
- Routine. We are caught up in a routine and we don’t even know what’s beyond that. We don’t go beyond our routine to explore opportunities. We can become like machines who can only do a few things. Then we say, “This is just the way I am.”
- Being satisfied as a mediocre. Devotees often become complacent in their devotional practices. It’s a good exercise to think from time to time how we can be a better servant of Krishna. “How can I be a better spouse for the pleasure of Krishna?” “How can I be a better parent?” “How can I be a better disciple so I can serve Krishna better?”. When we ask such questions, the hidden opportunities for service start showing up.
The hidden blankets in the cold room of your life
Akrura narrates the story of how he slept in a Slovakian temple on a cold night with a thin blanket. When he woke up next morning, he found a box next to his bed with a warm blanket. He obviously did not see the most obvious. What are you not seeing?
Krishna has given us intelligence, creativity and talents. We have to look and unveil our talents for His service.