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30 For 30/30 #23 – Relinquishing Control and Saying “Yes” to Everything

This is the 23rd post in my 30 for 30/30 series where I am publishing a new post each day for the next 30 days within a 30-minute window without much of a plan. You can read about why I’m doing this by clicking this link


“Have a safe flight!” is a common departure comment often offered to departing travelers.  Although I appreciate that others wish me safe travels (I also do the same), the truth is there is very little that any traveler can control. I’ve never had a reason to think I could affect the relative safety of any flight I’ve ever taken.

If the pilot has a heart attack, hopefully, the co-pilot will land us safety. If we hit turbulence, the plane will bounce around a bit, but it’s still a safer mode of public transportation than any other, including trains.

Planes, trains, and automobiles

In 2016 I boarded an Amtrak train in Emeryville, California (across the bay from San Francisco) and five days later detrained in Clemson, South Carolina. There were two scheduled train changes and layovers in Chicago and two days later in Charlottesville, Virginia. The layover in Chicago was just three hours while the layover in Virginia was about six.

I was racked with fear prior to this journey. My fears had everything to do with factors out of my control.

What if I’m late? What if I’m really late and totally miss the train? What do I do in a city like Chicago or Charlottesville? Will I lose my ticket to visit the Sky Deck on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in Chicago? 

What was the correct response to this situation?

For me it was to relinquish all control.

Relinquishing Control and saying “yes”

I’m one of those people who will tell you that control is an illusion. Given the examples above, as well as others in my own life over the years, I’m convinced the best response at my disposal is choosing to make the fullest use of the present moment wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. It’s the way I approach my life in all respects.

Mindfulness means seeing the world as it is without the veil of ideas or concepts and acting accordingly.” – Matthew Bortolin, The Dharma of Star Wars

I find that life is easier, less stressful, and devoid of suffering if I relinquish control of everything. Since I’m not in control of anything, I needn’t waste my energy or emotions convincing myself that I am. I can avoid the suffering induced by worrying about potential outcomes that I cannot fully influence by surrendering the illusion of control at the outset.

“I say ‘yes’ to everything”

In Rebirth, a novel by Kamal Ravikant, the protagonist Amit asks a Tibetan Buddhist monk in northern India about the secret of life. The aged monk thinks for a moment and replies, “I say ‘yes’ to everything.”

Relinquishing control and saying yes is freedom. Each moment that we live, we are presented with choices to make:

What will we do at this moment? Will we attempt to exert control over what is uncontrollable? Will we say “yes” like the old monk?

We can choose to believe we have influence and control and thereafter suffer the consequences of disappointment or, via relinquishing control, choose a moment without the suffering induced by the illusion.

I choose to endure the turbulence in the air and deal with the tardiness of the train, by simply saying “yes.”

(29:45)



One response to “30 For 30/30 #23 – Relinquishing Control and Saying “Yes” to Everything”

  1. […] living as a Practical Buddhist, I know that I don’t have control over anything. I tend to say yes to life, but when I confuse life with retail sales, I can falter and say “OMG, […]

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