“Satyagraha” is the priceless gift of “focusing on an ultimate goal and refusing to divert energy to unnecessary skirmishes along the way”; the art of restraint, of picking battles wisely, of discerning between bait and conviction.
I found this quote in a book by Susan Cain called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I’m finding it a fascinating read, I think mostly because I am innately curious about people and what makes them tick. But this quote above stopped me in my tracks; it was exactly the medicine I needed at exactly the right time.
The entire purpose of the book is to explore the quiet strength of introverts, something we often dismiss and overlook in a culture chock-full of extroverts. Having practiced being an extrovert most of my life, I have a tendency to think that I need to react to every criticism, defend every attack and fight every battle.
Over the years, though, I’ve been slowly learning to actively choose where I put my energy rather than impulsively getting drawn into a “skirmish” and then wondering how the hell I got into a mess. Apparently, this discernment is innately an introverted quality, meaning introverts do this much more naturally than extroverts.
To the extroverted side of me, these “skirmishes” are attractive, presenting me with opportunities to prevail and triumph; however, they are exhausting to the introverted side of me. And quite frankly, sometimes they are just bait. Not because the initiator is purposely trying to bait me (although sometimes that may be true), but more so because if I participate it will be less conducive to achieving my goal than if I don’t. It may appeal to my ego in the moment, but really it will be diverting energy away from ultimately achieving my goal.
In Sanskrit, “satya” means “truth” and “agraha” means “soul force”. As a self-sovereign being, I am wholly responsible for the “satya” of my “agraha”, or the truth of my soul force. I can choose to temporarily divert my energy and take the bait of the battle or I can choose to more thoughtfully pause and contemplate my response, which may or may not be audible (or visible).
Certainly, there is value is being able to make a quick decision (a primarily extroverted quality), but not every situation warrants a quick decision or reaction. And certainly not every encounter is bait; some circumstances do require being addressed head-on. It is being present in the moment, being in the flow and being fully conscious that determines whether I can make this distinction. Because let’s face it, life doesn’t come neatly wrapped in a box with nicely creased edges and a bow on top; rather it is full of hairpin turns, steep cliffs and curveballs. Situations that require making this distinction happen spur of the moment and often without notice.
So this means that presence of mind becomes all the more paramount to my success and to my ability to ultimately achieve my goal, whatever that may be.