When J. Krishnamurti (A twentieth century Indian philosopher) was asked what his secret was to maintain his equanimity and happiness, he responded, “I don’t mind what happens”.
Wow, I thought. On one hand, that felt so right to me from a developmental and mindful perspective. However, I could easily see how it could be misunderstood. He didn’t say, “I don’t care what happens.” Was he intentionally precise about his use of the word mind? How I chose to understand what he meant was, don’t get stuck or lost in reactivity (negative emotions, made-up stories, assumptions, beliefs, old self-protective habits, and behaviours) when things happen you don’t like.
If it is something that happens that we would normally label as a bad thing (e.g., car won’t start, morning paper doesn’t show up, or no milk in the fridge) Krishnamurti is saying he no longer indulges his reactivity to the triggering event. He no longer wastes time, energy, good health, by following an internal made-up story of what is unfair or shouldn’t happen. A story that leads to a barrage of negative emotions, that result in our ill health and often bad behaviour. He no longer assumes he should have control over what happens in his life.
In two conversations recently, one with a client and one with a friend, I got clear on how one is able to not mind what happens while still caring about it and responding appropriately.
Jim argued, “I don’t want to be complacent or apathetic to a situation I don’t like. I don’t want to lose my passion around circumstances.”
In Jenny’s case, upon first reading this Krishnamurti statement attached to my personal signature, she shot back to me in an email that screamed, “Brian, I DO mind what happens.” She had just found out her partner was suffering from a major health problem.
Today when bad things happen to me, I apply the framework of NAIL in my response. This is how I care, without minding.
N – Notice and name my sensations, thoughts, and feelings when triggered, by an external or internal event. Whisper internally what they are. Tightness. Anger, Fear, Nausea.
A – Allow those internal experiences to be, without pushing them away or clinging onto them.
I – Interrogate the beliefs and assumptions that result in the emotions of anger, rage, guilt, blame, resent, etc. Ask…are they true? Is this internal storm real, or just manufactured by me? Is it the storm who I am, or something bigger?
L – Loosen the narrative or let go of the hold the story has on me. Retreat from the storm up into the blue sky. Remember the sky is my true nature, not the storm. Nurture your true nature.
From the above perspective, when bad things happen, I am free to now choose the wise response, the workaround and move on, without really minding the setback.
About a year ago, I woke up one morning to realize I am always happy when I am present with no judgement but just engagement with what is. When I am unhappy, my mind is usually in the past or the future. I am learning to care and respond to what life has presented to me, without minding it.