There is a beautiful story which I want to share. Once there was a blacksmith in a village, a very poor man. It looked like he acted like a magnet to all the problems in the world. They were visiting him too often. But he was a devout, very prayerful person. Once, a friend of his who did not believe in all this came and said, “What nonsense, you going on praying to your god. Look at your life! All the time you are in trouble.”
So the blacksmith said, “See, I know only this profession. Everything I have learned, I have learned by being a blacksmith. If I want to make a useful tool, I take a piece of steel, heat it, beat it, cool it, heat it, beat it… If a piece of steel cannot take the heating and beating and cooling, then I throw it on the scrap heap. Otherwise it becomes a useful tool. So my prayer is only this: “Dear god, heat me, beat me, cool me, do whatever– but don’t ever throw me on the scrap heap.”
The scrap heap is a comfortable place. Nobody beats you, nobody heats you, nobody does anything to you, but you are on the scrap heap. You should not be afraid of pain, you should not be afraid of hardship, you should not be afraid of death. “Don’t put me on the scrap heap.” That should be the only fear for a person on the spiritual path.
Stress is not a part of your life. Stress is just your inability to manage your own system. Stress happens not because of the nature of your work. The Prime Minister is complaining of stress, the peon is also complaining of stress. In between, every other person is saying his job is stressful. And those who are unemployed also find their situation stressful.
So stress is obviously not about your job, isn’t it? It is just that you do not know how to manage your body, your mind, your emotions, your energy, your chemistry – you do not know how to manage anything. You are functioning by accident, so everything is stressful. If you get into a car where if you turn the steering wheel one way, the car goes in the opposite direction, you’ll be stressed, isn’t it?
So stress is just an inability to manage the inner situation, not the outer situation. Essentially, the quality of our lives changes and transforms not because we change the content of our lives, but only because we change the context of our lives. If someone is living a beautiful life, it does not mean he is doing something different. When he wakes up in the morning, he also goes to the toilet. He also brushes his teeth. He also does the same things. But somehow, his life is magical and beautiful because of the context.
This could have happened to people when they fall in love with someone. When they fell in love, and everything becomes different because the context of their life has changed. But then, once they fall out of love, again, the context of their life changes and they become miserable. Changing the content of your life as you wish may not be possible because you need permission from the situations in which you exist, but changing the context is something that you can do willfully. You don’t need anyone’s permission. It is not at all situational.
On a certain day, three men were working in one place. Another man came by and asked the first man, “What are you doing here?” The man looked up and said, “Are you blind? Can’t you see I’m cutting stone?” This person moved on to the next man and asked, “What are you doing here?” That man looked up and said, “Something to fill my belly. So I come here and do whatever they ask me to do. I just have to fill my belly, that’s all.” He went to the third man and asked, “What are you doing here?” That man stood up in great joy and said, “I’m building a beautiful temple here!” All of them were doing the same thing, but their experience of what they were doing was worlds apart.
Every human being, every moment of his life could be doing whatever he is doing in any one of these three contexts – and that will determine the quality of his life, not what he is actually doing. How simple or complex an activity is doesn’t change the quality of your life. With what context you do it changes the quality of your life.