You are a domino.

But unlike mere game pieces, you are not trapped in a single-file line. In life, there is not a domino behind you and another in front, limiting you to only fall either one way or the other, depending which tips you over first.

In this world, you are a domino in a sea of dominoes: an active and reactive player, one of six billion that exist among a constantly swirling tide of words, thoughts, actions and deeds. One cause occurs on the other side of the sea, rippling throughout dozens or millions others to finally affect you, many degrees of separation away.

Just the same, you are not alone or in a bubble: your decisions, words, and actions — and how you respond to circumstances, events and people around you — cause as many ripples in the sea of dominoes as the ripples that affect you.

This is the concept of Karma: an ever-changing, never-ending string of causes and effects that alter, impact, and influence all of life.

And it’s kind of a terrifying reality to step back and really recognize how little the control we have over our individual lives and the lives of those we truly love and care about.

But when we realize how little control we possess over our lives, what then do we do? What should we do? How can we respond?

We could fight it. Pretend to not believe it. Resist it. Suffer tooth and nail, hoping to throw the reigns of control upon ever-changing circumstances of life. But life doesn’t care. Karma doesn’t care. The sea of dominoes simply continues to toss you back and forth, up and down, left and right.

After long, we reluctantly accept that we all have no control over the sea of events, actions and words that surround us. We feel defeated. Powerless. Without roots to ground us. Worse, we may even feel devoid of purpose and reason, because if striving for control is a win-less game, we deduce, then, that the chaos of life is what actually controls us.

…But what about the control you have over yourself?

What if we instead take solace that no one and nothing has total control over us, but ourselves? And our own thoughts, words and actions? Our emotions and feelings, and the decisions in our heads and even how we interact with others?

In this chaotic, uncontrollable world of swirling causes and effects that toss you, a bobbing domino, with wild disregard, suddenly you understand that the only control you truly have is within you.

And that everything within can be completely untouched by the world. Unaffected. Buoyant. A beacon of light by your choosing with simple practice, dedication, and discerning opinion — and a humble respect for the karmic sea that surrounds you.

How you choose to live is the only real control that you have in your life.

Other dominoes will collide with you at times. There will be collisions of anger and fear and loss and disagreement. But only within yourself can you choose whether or not you will further propel the causes and effects that have impacted your life.

You might consciously or unconsciously bombard others around you with that same anger and fear and disagreement, or, instead, soak the negativity through your grounded toes — dispersing the dark, draining energy into the Earth in a quiet protest that refuses to prolong the chain of suffering.

What do you choose?

When karma affects you, you become a proponent of it. For better or for worse. As either a mirror of light or the carrier of a virus.

By your conscious choice and the unconquerable willpower of your mind, you can reflect that light upon those in darkness, or extinguish it with cynic doubt and disbelief; you may quell the virus with rest and self-care, or submit to it, and know that your sickness will infect others.

We are each a domino in a sea of dominoes: active and reactive players, direct and indirect components of a much larger ecosystem. But when you choose to assert yourself rather than succumb to it, you choose to become a leader.

When you choose to discontinue a crippling and viral trend of negativity, anger or hatred, the quiet leader within you chooses to assert the power of responsibility, discernment, humility, strength and determination.

You benefit. And others reap it. This is leadership.

When you focus attention within yourself to better understand the connection, impact and implications of your words, actions and decisions, the quiet leader within you cultivates worldly wisdom on behalf of all of humanity. This is leadership.

Leadership does not depend on the presence of followers: such would relegate the 99.99 percent of humanity to irresponsibility, helplessness, and a total inability to exert control within themselves. We cannot, must not, should never think that we depend upon the rich, the powerful, the popular, those who we assume to be “leaders” — only for what wealth, sums and prestige they possess.

We may be dominoes, but we are not the board game pieces of a punitive minority. Not so long as we remember what leadership truly is. Not so long as we forever recall that by our simple humanity, leadership exists in each of us.

Lead yourself. Lead by example. Lead like the entire world depends upon it. Lead. Not because others are following, but because how you choose to live is the only real control you have in life and in this world.

What do you choose?

Call to action: Do you agree that how you live is the only control you have in life? What holds you back from embracing that? Or from considering yourself to be a “real” leader? What will you do to start to change that? Let’s start a discussion below.

Flickr photo by raysto