It is common for us to want to “control” other people, places and things.  We often get caught up in a mental set where we are actively trying to control or believe we are controlling our surroundings which encompass others.

Control actually means to exercise restraint or direction over; to dominate, command or rule.  Many believe that if we can control “things,” then we will be stable and have piece of mind.

Sound familiar?

The problem with this way of thinking is two-fold. First, and probably most important, it has a human being looking outside of himself to create inner harmony.

It has us fixing, fidgeting, adjusting, and manipulating all to get the results we want from others so that we feel good about ourselves.

The problem with this scenario is that the world keeps changing. People have their own individual nature, which can’t be changed, and we all have our own agendas. How, then, can we control anyone?

So much of the tension and stress humanity suffers from is due to the enormous effort in trying to control our external environment.  What a thankless and exhausting job!

Secondly, since the beginning of man, we have had countless examples of humans searching for happiness and failing, when it is based on just external factors.

We have seen kings conquer nations only to want more.  Presidents leading nations, but still riddled by the passions of their loins.  Rich men clamoring for more riches. Women and men finding their soul mates and then losing their mind when their soul mate leaves them and the family unit. The dream of having a family come true, only to realize that it brings along a ton of work and often many problems.

So trying to govern, rule or dominate to get things just right will never work. If this was the way, then those with the most power would be the most happy.

We know that is not true; just ask Tiger Woods. The world bows to his talents. He does as he pleases and has what he wants. But his wanting more may have destroyed his family.

Now that we understand that trying to control others is exhausting and fruitless, let’s move on to how to use it and on whom.

Version 2

One of the greatest wonders of life is that there are so many things outside of our control: weather, traffic, making everybody like or love us, controlling our own children, what people say to us and how they say it, the economy, and our death, to name but a few.

Now we have a part to play in some of these things, yet we can’t control it all.  But what we can control is the only thing we need to in order to have a perfect life –  and that is ourselves.

Isn’t it fascinating that there are an infinite amount of things that we can’t control?  Yet the only thing we really can control is ourselves in order to have peace and prosperity.

Viktor Frankl was a Jew living in a concentration camp during World War II.  He was a psychologist before he was taken into the camp.  He watched his friends and family brutally tortured and killed almost everyday for years.  He realized he could not control what the Nazis were doing, but he could control his response!

He came up with a therapy where one becomes responsible for his/her own thoughts and actions completely free of the environment, even one like a concentration camp.  He became so empowered by being able to control his mindset that, even with the daily threat of his own life, he kept an attitude that nobody could control him except him.

How beautiful!

It is so great to be able to control ourselves in such a way that even in the worst circumstances, we can be at peace.

Why bother trying to make anyone else anything other than who they are, when we can make ourselves into a supreme being, one who has complete dominance over his/her own desires, thoughts, emotions and actions.

“Work on ourselves, we find transformation and salvation; work on others, we find friction and frustration”.



I was listening intently to Swamiji lecturing during a small gathering at a man’s home in New York.  The setting was intimate; an informal lecture, where he spoke a few words and answered some questions before sitting down to a big feast in his honor.  He started to speak about “the” road map for happiness.  He spoke briefly about the three Yogas: Karma, Bhakti and Gnana.  As always, his words were powerful.  But if one did not listen closely, they were easy to lose because of their simplicity.  I took notes feverishly.


Swamiji spoke about dropping our selfishness.  He mentioned that what the world needs is not more social work, we are good at that, especially in America.  What we really need is more social consciousness. Then there will be no need for social work.

Somewhere in all of this, he casually threw out these words: “Everyone is grateful; gratitude is selfish; drop your gratitude and just be in Awe.”

I nearly threw up when I heard those words! I lifted my head to see the reactions of more than 50 people gathered around him. Nobody seemed to hear what I heard.

I looked to Swamiji’s students who had traveled with him from India. They, too, looked unaffected (and they had heard this before).  In my whole “spiritual” life, I have been taught to be grateful.  In one casual sentence, that was shut right down!

The lecture ended. I waited for the line of people thanking Swamiji to thin out before I approached him, desperate for answers.  Swamiji looked at me and said, “My beloved, sit, let’s talk, I know you have questions.” I told him I heard something in his words that I had never heard anyone say before – even him! – and it flipped me out.

I asked him what he meant by his gratitude statement. Like a proud parent, he immediately called over some of his students and announced, “Eric is brilliant. I travel the world speaking and nobody listens but him.”

I am never sure if Swamiji means what he says about me. But I know that even if he doesn’t, the fact that he goes out of his way to compliment me, tells me he cares. He knows that I need that from him. That is the mark of a truly great teacher: understanding his students’ needs and giving them what they need, when appropriate.

Swamiji said that gratitude is selfish. It is being thankful for what you have. I am grateful for my health, my family, my job, my students, my teachers, even grateful for others’ well-being – but really, it’s just saying YOU are thankful!

Swamiji went on to say that I/we must drop the “me, mine and I.” All gratitude does is bring everything back to “you,” even if you are thanking someone else.

I sat completely hunched over as if I had been diagnosed with cancer. This was some monumental shit that was going down.  He was dead-on! Even my attempts to count “my” blessings were selfish!

I then asked My Beloved (this is what we call each other): Where do I go from here?

With a big smile, he answered, “Awe. You need to simply be in Awe, my boy.”

He said Awe is the recognition of the Supreme, a feeling of reverence produced by something grand. It is admiration for the great mystery of Life.

He said, we don’t know where we came from. Don’t know where we’ll go. Don’t know when. We may know how our body functions but in many cases, we are not in control of it. Beyond the science, nobody can explain how an ear hears or how the eyes see.

He asked, “Who woke me up this morning? Some people never wake up. Why me? Some won’t make it through the day. Why me?”

For these reasons, and many more, he said, “Just have Awe. Just walk around and be in Awe of this great mystery called Life. Forget about gratitude; be in Awe.”

I have not told many about this conversation because he directed me not to. We agreed that it would only irritate most people because this kind of teaching is for people who already have a fairly alert intellect and understanding of the Vedanta philosophy. Well, as you can see, sometimes I am not a good student.

In order to stimulate some deep thinking, I must push some buttons. I understand that expressing gratitude is part of our culture. It is a way to convey that we care, to shift our minds from what we don’t have to what we do have.

However, shifting the mind is not getting beyond the mind.

To live where the mind is in control (emotions, likes, dislikes, worries over the past, anxiety over the future) is a dangerous neighborhood to inhabit. Focusing on possessions and relationships is just plain selfish.

Remember, the focus is not on you.  It is on how we can serve, and act without our “self” in mind.

Our freedom lies in service. We need to drop the little self and find the bigger one.

We must act without attachment, simply doing what we should, and be in Awe!

Wow, wow, wow!! This is one of my mantras.  Try it on.  It might spark that internal flame and take you beyond yourself!

Hari Om,