In one of the last conversations I had in San Francisco before I boarded my flight to Shanghai, I heard something that stayed on my mind for quite some time. The comment came from someone with whom I had met under very serendipitous circumstances a few years back. After hearing about all the reasons why I wanted to go to Shanghai and the things I was hoping to achieve, she just said: "be careful not to attach yourself to any outcome. Rarely does it manifest itself when you do."
A part of me wanted to believe her, but another part in me didn’t: "why wouldn’t I want to strive for the outcome for which I was going abroad in the first place?” It just didn’t make sense to me. For me, it seemed that not attaching myself to an outcome would mean that I wouldn’t be doing enough for that outcome to occur. So she clarified: "if you can find a way to let go, what you want will find its way to you – assuming you are working, remain focused, and stay present."
Now admittedly, there is a lot of kumbaya in the notion of “what you want will find its way to you,” but after giving it some serious thought, I realized that I had heard something similar once before. Namely a fable about a guy who was chasing a butterfly. I couldn’t find the actual story anywhere, and I also don’t remember where I heard it in the first place, but here is how it went more or less:
There was a guy who was inside his kitchen looking outside the window into the garden. He noticed a super beautiful butterfly whose colors and patterns just mesmerized him. He instantly jumped up, dropped everything and ran outside trying to catch the butterfly. He was so in love with what he saw, he wanted it no matter what. So he ran up and down, chased the butterfly around all corners, put up nets, traps, just tried everything. But after minutes of running back and forth, he was out of breath, all sweaty, giving up his on his goal to catch the butterfly. Exhausted, he sat down on his patio, and moments later that butterfly slowly approached him, flew around his head, and then sat down on his nose.
In many ways, the "what you want will find its way to you” notion was very evident in this story about the guy and the butterfly. What happens is that by wanting something really bad (a specific outcome in this case), we channel all our stress and anxiety and actually make that outcome less likely to happen. We push it away, scare it, distance it from us. But if we shift our minds to a place of patience, to self-control, to complete peace with whatever outcome, we create the right environment for what we want to come to us, to attract it, and awaken it.
But for that to happen, we need to be at complete peace with ourselves and with whatever the universe will serve us. Being ok with whatever the outcome there may be, as indifferent as it may sound, actually makes it most likely for us to effectuate what we actually want. And as my friend pointed out, this is not an act of indifference or laziness. It’s an act of working hard, remaining focused, and staying present – and not to stress out over what might or might not happen.
Rumi’s word are often mistranslated or misinterpreted. And while the title of this post (a Rumi quote) can be looked at from different angles, for me it fits the notion of this post – what you seek is seeking you .. you just need to allow it to flow to you, painlessly and effortlessly.
Now not everything I came to Shanghai for happened the way I wanted. Sometimes, I admit it, I’m too attached to a specific outcome. Sometimes, I want something so bad that I make it harder on myself (and everyone else involved). But then again, I am not perfect. I’m a human being that is work in progress. I am a living and breathing person who feels love as much as he feels pain. And while I can’t turn back time to undo mistakes, I care enough to learn and improve going forward.
This is to living a life less attached to outcomes.