When the ego encounters an obstacle, it responds by exerting more force. The ego’s world is a battlefield where you have to fight to win. There’s no doubt that this attitude can bring results–every empire was built by force of conquest–but it does so at a terrible cost: The tide of war, struggle, and destruction continues to rise.
When you are attacked there is a great temptation to adopt the weapons of ego in retaliation. How many peace movements are full of angry activists? How many environmentalists love the Earth but hate those who despoil it? As Mother Teresa famously said, she wasn’t willing to join an antiwar movement because it wasn’t the same as a peace movement.
The ego’s world presents a massive obstacle to spiritual growth. Therefore, the need to be flexible arises every day. You will meet with inner resistance as a constant occurrence, with intermittent victories and moments of joy. To avoid discouragement, you need to realize that obstacles come from the same source as everything else. God isn’t only present in the good moments. An infinite intelligence has found a way to fit every hour of your life into a plan.
From day to day you can’t possibly comprehend the incredibly intricate connections between your life and the cosmos. The entire universe had to conspire to bring about this very moment in time.
You can’t plan in advance how to meet the next challenge, yet most people try to do just that. They protect themselves against worst-case scenarios; they cling to a small repertoire of habits and reactions; they narrow their lives to family, friends, and work. Husbanding your resources may bring a modicum of security, but by doing so you will have completely shut out the unknown, which is the same as hiding your potential from yourself.
How will you know what you are capable of if you don’t open yourself to life’s mysteries, or usher in the new? For life to remain fresh at every moment, your response must break free from your established patterns.
The secret is to abandon old habits and trust in spontaneity. By definition, being spontaneous cannot be planned in advance. It doesn’t have to be. Whenever you catch yourself reacting in an old, familiar way, simply stop. Don’t invent a new reaction; don’t fall back on the opposite of what you usually do. Instead, ask for openness. Go inside, be with yourself, and allow the next reaction to come of its own accord.
A famous Broadway composer once was asked how he came up with his wonderful tunes. He had been known to pull his car off the side of the road in the middle of busy traffic to write down a hit song. What was his secret? “Wait, drift, and obey,” he said.
Adapted from Why is God Laughing? by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2008).