Failure is a Stepping Stone

I recently made a pretty big mistake.  It got me thinking…

How do we come to terms with messing up, without becoming messed up?  How does ‘I did a bad thing’ not turn into ‘I am a bad person’?  How does ‘I made a mistake’ not become ‘I am a screw up’?

Swami Satchidananda, founder of Integral Yoga, says:

If you make mistakes it doesn’t matter.  Make mistakes and learn.  The best teachers are your own mistakes.  you learn even faster by your mistakes…

Every failure is a stepping stone.  Remember, though, that you can’t use the same stone for each step.  Every step should be on a new stone.  That means you should not keep on making the same mistakes.  Learn well from each one…Experience is the best teacher.

Most of us have heard this advice in some version or another since the day people decided we were old enough to take responsibility for our actions.  Learn from your mistakes.

It may be the truest, most cliche advice I’ve ever heard.  It’s also the most tedious.  Taking time to examine your actions and accept that something you did led to a disastrous outcome is not fun.  It flat out sucks.  It’s way easier to lie on the ground, play dead and let your thoughts beat you to a pulp like an angry gang.  Both options hurt, but for some reason self-examination is always way more excruciating than self-flagellation, though much more productive.

So the next time you make a mistake try these steps.

1) Feel it.  Get angry, cry, laugh, rage, insult.  Do whatever it is that you first feel like doing. Write a nasty letter in your journal or punch a pillow.  Let out the emotions in a safe space, keeping it between you and your closests.

2) Take responsibility.  Examine the mistake and own your part in it.  What could you have done differently?  Is there anything you can do to change your situation?  If not, what do you need to do in order to accept your mistake and move on?  Is an apology in order?

3) Learn the lesson.  Often we look back wistfully thinking, “If only I’d known then what I know now.”  But we didn’t.  However, the next time a similar situation occurs, our knowledge will be tested and we can no longer claim we didn’t know any better.  What is the lesson you can learn from this mistake?

4) Practice.  Once you’ve identified the lesson, go back over the actions that led to the mistake and make a game plan for the next time you are faced with this challenge.  What can you do differently?  Are there people you can turn to for help? You can go as far as to write out or discuss with someone else why you may have made the mistake and what can be done to avoid it in the future.

5) Take the test.  The test will come.  You will be faced with circumstances that echo those that led up to the mistake.  If you have done the work and are able to be aware enough to see the situation for what it is, you will pass the test and move on from this mistake.  If not you will repeat it again and again until you’ve become aware enough to end it.

I hope these little tips help.  It helps to work out mistakes with those you love and trust.  Perhaps they will see something you did not.  Give it a go.  And remember:

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Sutra Sundays: How to Be Happy Always

Here is some beautiful advice from Swami Satchidananda. I have been watching this on a loop.

Release expectations, you will be happy always:

Happy Easter

“He [Jesus] is calling everyone to resurrect with him and letting the old one, who is inside of you, die and letting the new one resurrect with Him. This is the Resurrection of Christ. Oh, yes, let’s praise Him. He resurrected 2,000 years ago, and even if he had not resurrected, He would still be Christ Himself. But to show the resurrection is possible, to show that God-Realization is possible or your own Realization, He has shown it. He has shown the Way. That is why He said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Light.'”

Sri Swami Vishwananda
“Death is a change of form…Nothing can be dead totally.  Because everything is fully alive, because created by a living god.  How can a living god create a dead matter?  God created everything in god’s image.  What is god’s image?  Life.”

Swami Satchidananda, one of the great teachers of the Sutras, on death:

Sutra Sunday: Hoarding likes

Aparigraha is the fifth of the yamas in the Yoga Sutras.  Here is a silly lesson Facebook taught me on being a hoarder.  

Aparigraha Sthairye Janmakathamta Sambodhah

“When non-greed is confirmed, a thorough illumination of the how and why or one’s birth comes.”

Greed reaches into our lives in the most inane ways, especially in this age of over-sharing through media and social networks.  Lately, I’ve been learning my lesson through the often anxiety producing Facebook like button.  I often find myself sitting at the computer completely confused as to why no one has given their thumbs up to my awesome picture of a tree in the snow yet.  It has gotten a whole lot easier with the iPhone upgrade.  (Admit it, you also have checked your phone incessantly after a new status to find out how many people think you are awesome.)

So all this anxiety caused me to become a “like hoarder” at times.  I was convinced if I saved my likes for those things I really found special that it would matter.  I knew that the person I had decided to not like would know and somehow realize that they had to step up their game.  I am not pretending that this is rational.  It is ridiculous.  However, it is a symptom of a greater problem.

After noticing this pattern, I sat down and liked anything on Facebook that remotely tickled my fancy.  I liked all the happy announcement statuses, I liked photos of babies laughing, I liked the kittens and puppies and rainbows and frogs.  I became a “like whore”.  I began to see this trickle into the rest of my life.  The more I shared in other peoples little joys on the internet, the more I could share in joys all around me, big and small.  I realize that the internet has caused a lot of disconnectedness, but I also think that it has the potential to spur us forward if we are able to use it to notice the manifestations of bad habits.

I was being greedy and possessive over my joy.  I thought my appreciation of something was important and that if I just went around appreciating everything it wouldn’t mean anything anymore.  This is more than a bit self-aggrandizing.  Hoarding your appreciation and love has to be one of the worst sins out there.  Though, there is a point when the appreciation is no longer genuine and you are just “hitting the like button” without truly feeling anything, if you are conscious of what you are doing, if you do it with feeling, it is never too much.

This behaviour is in direct conflict with aparigraha, non-possessiveness.  I didn’t realize that the more joy that I put out there, the more I would get back.  The small gesture of liking something did not mean that anyone owed me their like back, it did not mean I owed them anything either.  Swami Satchidananda says in his commentary on the sutra:

“Many times we get gifts that are merely an advance for a futur obligation…They are only given to get something in return…If we are strong enough to remain free of obligation, we can accept gifts…When the mind becomes this calm and clear by being free of desires and obligations, we gain the capacity to see how our desires caused our present birth.”

It may be a silly little social network, but it can be a great reflection of how we are living our lives out loud in the real world.  Look at your Facebook behaviour (if you use the site) and notice what patterns emerge.  Are you hoarding your likes?  Or whoring them out?**  Is there something else that your internet behaviour is trying to tell you?

**Funny random story: when I was a kid I got mad at my sister for keeping something away from me.  I yelled to my mom that she was being a “hoard”.  My mom heard “whore” and told me not to use that word.  This didn’t get straightened out until I learned the word whore…

On that note, Namaste!