Some years ago, as I reclined upon the grassy hillside of St. Clair Park, enjoying an evening concert at the Robertshaw Amphitheater in Greensburg, my attention wandered to parents interacting with their young children. The thought occurred to me "the only thing that makes us crazier than not being able to control ourselves is not being able to control others."
Reflecting today, while giving past tense Tim credit for arriving at a clever way to make the point, ultimately, nothing makes us crazier than not being able to control ourselves.
I'd Be Fine if Everything was Just as I Wanted it to Be.
Unfortunately, external conditions are only so much within our control. Even when all of the stars and planets align, and everything is just as we want it to be, the changing nature of reality will, whether gently or harshly, tip the scales away from our perception of a perfect balance. That's when the beautiful "grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference" comes into play.
When others behave in a way that we'd rather them not, it's common to become frustrated, angry, then start blaming them, accusing them of being the source of our anger, when in fact, we are solely responsible for the arising of our own emotions. At most, their behavior serves as a catalyst, but everything from that point onward arises within ourselves. The one variable, in any situation, over which we have any real control, is how we react to the situation.
Mindfulness provides the skill necessary to witness when the mind becomes discontented on account of reality not being just as we want it to be. We investigate our own thoughts to see what we're struggling to accept, discerning whether or not the issue lies within our capability to change. If so, we act accordingly. If not, we practice the art of letting the thought go, just like we do in our meditation practice; the mind wanders and we bring it back, as often as necessary, until the thought lapses.
If we're always aiming to keep our center of attention on what we're doing, we can clearly see that getting crazy about not being able to control others really translates right back into not being able to control ourselves.
And just as importantly, the serenity we seek arises in our acceptance of reality as it is, not as we wish it would be.