There is a story about a farmer who is in dire need of water on his land, both for his survival and the survival of his crops. He lives far away from any flowing streams but he believes fully that he can dig a well to reach the vibrant underground aquifer in the area. So, like any hard working farmer would, he starts digging a hole and spends all day digging down into his land, eventually getting down six feet. To his disappointment, he finds no water. The next day he goes out and finds a new spot to dig 100 feet away from his first hole and spends all day digging, getting down six feet, but still finds no water. So each day for two solid weeks he keeps moving to a new hole 100 feet away from the last hole until his farm is covered in six feet holes, none of which produce water for a well. The farmer, having worked so hard for so long, is confident there is no water under his land and gives up the search.
Many people would say that this farmer was committed to the search and simply failed but the moral of the story is actually quite the opposite. Instead of sticking with a single hole and digging deeper and deeper in the same hole each day, the farmer simply gave up the search after a mere six feet. There was water below his land deeper down but he never got to it because he failed to stick with any one of the holes long enough.
This is the story of many people’s lives, whether it is with a job, a hobby, a relationship, or any other worthwhile pursuit. The career that held so much promise before it began can quickly become that six foot hole when satisfaction is not obtained easily. The same is true for relationships. When a relationship starts to become testing, the easiest thing to do is convince yourself that it’s not worth digging any deeper. Instead, why not simply move down the block and try a relationship with someone else.
The reason this mentality does not work is because it reinforces the same bad habits and way of thinking that got you to the disappointing place to begin with. In yoga we call these bad habits samskaras. They are the unconscious forces acting upon us that send us down the same path over and over. It is our samskaras that cause us to seek out the same types of partners in relationships over and over, only to be disappointed over and over. It is also our samskaras that cause us to run away from difficult situations (like the six foot hole) thinking that because there is some difficulty we should simply remove ourselves from the situation.
However, adversity and difficult situations are sometimes the very thing we need to find the fulfillment we seek–or the water we need for our farm. Commitment means being able to stay in a difficult situation that does not feel right, but which we trust will lead to the result we seek. This is referred to in yoga as dvesha, or aversion. Because we don’t like to be uncomfortable we avoid uncomfortable and painful situations. In our professional lives, we quit when the job tests our ability to let go of the ego or abide by rules set by authority figures we don’t respect. This happens even though we know that sticking with our career will pay off in time. In our love lives, we protect ourselves from getting hurt by building barriers around our hearts. We sabotage relationships that start to test us and sometimes even end them too early when we have barely scratched the surface of seeing where they might go. This behavior has predictable results—it brings us to exactly where we started, over and over again.
To get past this, it is necessary to let go of the notion that every situation should be enjoyable or easy. We must find ourselves in the difficult situation and act from our hearts and heads without reacting from our samskaras (habits). We must commit to those things that are important to us because the payoff may not come easily, and will likely be worth the adversity. And, most of all, we must commit to ourselves to be open to the possibility that we are wrong. Too many times we build barriers to trust and respect of others by holding on to a sense of being right. When you have become unwilling to admit that you may be wrong, you are practicing fanaticism. We all know that fanaticism is the cause of much war and struggle in the world (probably it’s the only cause). If love or success are things you seek, being a fanatic will only ensure failure. Dig deeper and be willing to accept the possibility of failure (or being wrong). Ironically, that is the only way to be right.