When the world is too much for me, I go in my mind to the isolated shore of some pond and allow the stillness of the place to calm and heal all that is raw and angry about me, comforting my sorrow, soothing my pain, reassuring me with the water of life sustaining the wild things of the neighborhood through the ages, inviting us all to stay for awhile and take what we need for our journey from the abundance of beauty and grace, and be well, all along the way.
What determines what we do seems to fall into one of three categories. Habitual patterns of behavior, preferences/interests and comfort level. Doing what other people or doing, or what someone tells us to do, falls under "comfort level." I tie my shoes the way I have always tied my shoes. I drink coffee because I like it. And I wear several layers of clothing in cold weather because I'm comfortable that way. And I like it. And I've always done it. Which means no one is likely to talk me out of dressing warmly. All of which is to say nothing is going to change about us until we change the way we do things, which includes not doing some things, and doing other things instead. Why do that? No one does that until they have to. Change is forced on us by a change in circumstances. We have to get to the end of our rope before we can change our mind about what is important. We run out of money. We have "an event," breaking a hip, say, or developing a terminal illness. The list is long. Something happens, and we have to adjust and adapt. Adjusting and adapting are among the things we do best, but we don't like it, and would never think of volunteering for it. We resist it all the way, and only acquiesce to it when we run out of other options, denial being high on that list (Denial is really what we do best!). We live like we always have lived until something happens, and then we live differently, according to the requirements of our circumstances. Until then, it is normal and customary all the way. But, not for long. Our circumstances are always changing. What we do then is going to depend on what needs to be done. Then, it will help to have no agenda and no opinion. Just seeing what needs to change, and changing. And waiting for the next thing to come along.
Tevya (in "Fiddler on the Roof") is my idea of a superhero. He loses everything, his horse, his wagon, his cow, his chickens, his house, his barn, his way of life, his traditions... And arrives in New York with his wife Golda to start a new life with only a suitcase and his original nature to work with. No matter what he loses, he is still Tevya. I take this to be a lesson for us all. We had better not put all our importance on the things we "have." We had better start stocking up on who we are. Being ourselves. Bringing forth our original nature and letting that guide us in responding to the fluctuating patterns of the day-to-day. So that, no matter what happens, I am still me, and you are still you. And, together, we find the way, even through the loss of everything, to continuing to do what needs to be done in each situation as it arises all our lives long, in an "Okay, now what?" kind of way.
Jesus was a man of poverty, born in a manger, died on a cross, hailing from Nazareth, and nothing good ever came from Nazareth. The Buddha was born into princely privilege, and renounced his heritage, taking an oath of poverty and taking up the work of enlightening the world. Jesus and the Buddha are sons of Brahman and children of God, as Ones Thus Come, calling all people to assume their destiny by doing the work only they can do in honoring their original nature and being one with the Mystery of Life and Being in all the times and places of existence. By telling us to pick up our cross and come with him, Jesus is asking us to die to ourselves and our desires and fear and sense of dharma duty, forsaking profit, gain and merit to do whatever needs to be done in each moment of every situation that arises the way only we can do it. That is all there is to it. Who will do it? In every moment of our life, starting here and now?