Psychologists tell us that most people are motivated by wanting to gain or avoid certain situations – we want to gain the ‘goodies’ and avoid the ‘nasties’. The very fact of motivation is the gaining of something, whether it be food, shelter, security, love, affection, self-respect, etc. But does it really happen that we just gain all these needs and move up the ‘ladder’ in a nice even flow? I feel that life is rather like a game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’ – the dice seem loaded against us and we often fall on a ‘Snake’ rather than a ‘Ladder’. Why is this? What do we say to ourselves more often than we think –“What’s in it for me?”, or, “How am I going to get out of this one?”

What about avoiding some of the situations we encounter in our lives – are not some of them a brake on what we want to gain? Now straight away when we begin talking about avoiding situations as opposed to gaining something we are in conflict. What do we have? We have a pair of opposites. I guess you could say in theosophical terms this represents a duality. Light/Dark, Laugh/Cry, Gain/Avoid, Right/Wrong – can anyone please tell me where one starts and the other finishes?

Now, here are a few feelings that I want you in your heart of hearts to ask yourself – should I always try to take these feelings on board and gain something, or should I try to avoid them?

Embarrassment

Insecurity

Comfort

You have probably thought these through and said to yourself – I certainly don’t want to feel embarrassed, so I guess I should try and avoid this at all times. I don’t want to feel insecure either, so I won’t involve myself in anything that gives me a feeling of insecurity. Comfort – well who doesn’t want to feel comfortable – certainly something to be gained at all times. Let’s have a closer look at these feelings.

 Embarrassment: is the opposite of Confidence. Many of us have said: “If only I could make myself heard, I really have something worthwhile to say but could never say it in front of all those people. I would be so embarrassed!” Well, all those people will never know if you don’t have a go and who knows what benefits other people could experience if they did know? You can only overcome embarrassment by taking lessons in confidence and to think of these lessons as something to be gained and not avoided.

Insecurity: you want to avoid these feelings. First of all, how do you know that you are insecure? Does anyone else think you are, or only you? Odds are that only you think that you are, so what can you do about it? Certainly, nothing at all by avoiding the issue. You must face the issues, analyse them, give yourself a pathway to overcome these feelings and thus gain in confidence.

Comfort: I’m comfortable now, at ease. Certainly not something to be avoided under any circumstances I hear you say. Some of you may have heard of Dr Ainslie Meares, a Melbourne psychiatrist, who made a life-long study of meditation and relaxation and how it can help us in overcoming illnesses and the stresses of modern-day living. This is a quote from his book, The Wealth Within:

“I have overwhelming evidence for the importance of discomfort in meditation which rests on my experience of many hundreds of patients. There is no doubt whatsoever that those patients who have combined the judicious use of discomfort with their meditative practice, have in fact gained much more from the experience.

I particularly recall one doctor, a surgeon. I remember well his opening words: “I have read all about your relaxing and it does not work.” When I asked more about it, he disclosed that he had been practising lying on his bed. His explanation was: “Because you are more relaxed that way.” As soon as I got him doing it properly, his symptoms disappeared and he became a much less aggressive person and a lot easier to get along with.

As we relax, our mind transcends the discomfort of our posture and then there is no discomfort. This is the most important aspect of the whole process of relaxation and meditation. It is the getting beyond the discomfort which allows us to experience the essential stillness of mind. In this way it is not the transcendence of discomfort itself which we seek, but rather the state of mind which goes with it.”

Karma: Now when we stop and have another look at these feelings, and they will not be the same for everyone, are we not talking about a learning process? When we talk about a learning process, are we not talking about Karma? Perhaps we can do a quick summary for illustration purposes. James A. Long in his book, Expanding Horizons, summed up Karma by saying:

“Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”. That is just what karma means. It means that we being novices in the use of our free will made many blunders in our previous lives. We all learn soon enough on the physical plane, but it takes much longer to learn on the moral and spiritual levels. It boils down to the simple fact that through the ages we have accumulated a lot of effects of former actions so that we are faced now with a collection of karmic responsibilities dating from the past which the immortal element in us has chosen a certain portion for this lifetime. This portion is neither too heavy nor too light as perfect justice rules throughout the entire cosmos.

Karma as opportunity gives everybody the same possibility of growth. If we believe there cannot be a cause without an effect or an effect without a cause, we must believe that nothing happens by chance. Every situation we are confronted with then, is the result of something we thought or did or participated in in the past that has attracted us to the effects represented by the circumstances in which we now find ourselves. Therefore, when anyone begins to think about the doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation he is compelled sooner or later to recognize that he has a definite responsibility to meet intelligently the karma that is his. He will have to learn how to meet it. When, in our struggles towards a fuller understanding we begin to realize we can develop the ability to read the unfolding karmic script of our lives we find ourselves better able to feel out the situations as they arise and to deal with them more intelligently.”

Choices: So, when we look at gaining and avoiding issues, what we are talking about is that the easiest choice is not necessarily the best choice for you. It is different for each one of us depending upon individual karma. Situations are maps along the path of life for each one of us. Gaining and avoiding are matters of choice for us. The choice you make will have a direct bearing upon your future karma. Do not be afraid to ‘bite the bullet’ and take the opposite course of action when the challenge comes up. Gaining and avoiding are challenges or tests for you alone. Remember the key point of winning and losing in life – A Loser Accepts, A Winner Thinks.

When confronted with a decision, remember the words of a Master of Wisdom: “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” The choice to gain or avoid will be with you until your mission in this life on earth is finished … and perhaps even beyond!

“Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you are alive, it isn’t!” – Richard Bach from Illusions.