- Everyone experiences a desire to retreat from the world
- This desire may come from need to escape “normal” life’s problems
- But it might be better to engage with your current life in a different spirit, rather than run away from it
- This is easier said than done
The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results; all his selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge.
The wise, ever satisfied, have abandoned all external supports. Their security is unaffected by the results of their action; even while acting, they really do nothing at all.
Free from expectations and from all sense of possession, with mind and body firmly controlled by the Self, they do not incur sin by the performance of physical action.
They live in freedom who have gone beyond the dualities of life. Competing with no one, they are alike in success and failure and content with whatever comes to them.
They are free, without selfish attachments; their minds are fixed in knowledge. They perform all work in the spirit of service, and their karma is dissolved.
The desire to retreat is strong
There is a fun show on Joanna Gaines’ new TV network, Magnolia, called “The Cabin Chronicles.” Each episode highlights someone’s cabin and more specifically, its design and how their owners use it.
Many of the owners use the cabin as a retreat from their normal lives, where they recharge, commune with nature, spend more time with their family, etc.
Not surprisingly, after watching the show I wanted to get a cabin too. The episodes made me forget how much I hate mosquitoes and love Wi-Fi.
Mystics and ascetics have retreated from the world to achieve spiritual growth for millennia. The modern version of this desire is to build a cabin in the woods with Instagram-friendly design sense.
This desire may stem from a need to escape “normal life” and its problems
In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna, our reluctant warrior, who is in a real pickle because he has to go to war with his family, is tempted by the path of renunciation, which would conveniently solve his family war problem AND help him attain spiritual wisdom.
Though most of us are fortunate to not have to go to war with our family (except at Thanksgiving), we may be dealing with the problems and stressors of work, family life, and other obligations.
Escaping to a cabin in those conditions seems amazing.
But escape may be the wrong approach
Renunciation of the world is a tried and true path to achieve spiritual enlightenment.
But 99.9% of us don’t have that option or the desire to do so.
Krishna gives Arjuna some advice that is more relevant to us who don’t seek to become forest monks on a full-time basis.
He counsels Arjuna to continue to live a life of action, which in this context, means to perform his duties as a young warrior prince.
However, he advises that he should do so in a way that is detached from the outcomes of his actions and performed in a spirit of service to the gods.
When you are able to do this, you move down the path of spiritual liberation, or nirvana.
So whatever roles you perform in this life, do them to the best of your knowledge and ability and expect no more.
Selfless action is the right approach, but difficult
This is easier said than done. I am a dad now and while I am certainly interested in doing a great job as a dad, I still hope for results. Namely, that Sloane lives a happy and meaningful life with a minimal amount of suffering.
I also suffer with this in my professional ambitions. You have may have sensed this in my original experiments. I still do. I have become more successful at the thing I don’t care about and less successful at the thing I do care about (writing about ancient wisdom).
But, I suspect the cure for this is to continue to do the things a good dad or good writer will do, regardless of the results. And if I’m able to do that, I hope that I will attain more inner or spiritual freedom. No magic involved. Just doing the work.
I still hope there is a cabin in my future, but if Krishna is right, it’s not necessary.