Contentment, Life & Roller Coasters

fireworksI remember years ago taking my younger brother to the amusement park. His goal was to ride the roller coaster, one of the most daunting rides that existed at that time. I swallowed, bought the tickets, and soon we were strapped in our car.  But as the ride began, my brother said, “Keep your arms straight up in the air and no screaming.” Not to be outdone, I obeyed, releasing my arms from their grip on the bar and hesitantly raising them overhead.

When the ride ended, my little brother had an exuberant smile on his face; his arms had unwaveringly kept their overhead position. I, on the other hand, was gripping the safety bar, realizing that somewhere along the ride I had forgotten to keep breathing. In stark contrast to my brother’s exhilaration, I was exhausted. We had been on the same ride with its extreme ups and downs and sudden jerks, but one of us was smiling; the other was not.

Life is like this roller coaster ride. Every morning we wake up is like getting on a ride. No matter what our plans are, no matter what our “to do” list says, life has its own agenda and we are mere passengers. What we do have control over, the masters teach us, is how well we take the ride. Will we, like my little brother, enjoy the ups and downs, challenging ourselves to stop gripping and keep breathing?

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna the importance of maintaining equanimity in both the highs and lows of life. One can almost hear him saying, “Really, Arjuna, are you so weak that life’s ride is going to knock you off kilter and into exhaustion?  Are you so weak that you can’t tolerate the challenges and changes that life comes packaged in?

Each and every morning we face a day that to some degree will have dips and climbs and sudden curves. Our mastery lies in our ability to stay open, keep breathing, and end the day with gratitude for the gift of the ride itself, no matter how bumpy.

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