Attaining stillness, peace and joy in times of the covid-19 crisis and beyond.
True stillness is a mental state and not a physical one. We could be physically isolated, only to have our thoughts jumping from place to place, person to person, and memory to memory. Yet there are those who have developed the ability to be fixed on God or the inner Self, remaining peaceful and still despite being surrounded by people and yoked by work and responsibilities.
I write this at a time when the world is in the clutches of the Covid-19 virus and we face anxiety and fear from all spheres of life. How do we maintain stillness and peace of mind in these turbulent times? The mind has to be trained to focus on the inward Self, much like muscles that require exercise. Physical solitude and isolation (when used correctly), can help us to make a start in practicing stillness when those mental muscles are still weak. Many saints and sages have turned to solitude, at least for parts of their lives, to strengthen themselves spiritually. The imposed physical solitude that most of the world now finds itself in, is an opportunity for many to tap into the peace that true solitude can offer. One’s mind is like a torch that darts from object to object. If we remove the number of “objects” that we are surrounded by, it can be easier to focus on God and our inner realities. Physical isolation can help by removing distractions, and by giving us the time to evaluate ourselves, iron out our faults, catch our wandering or negative minds and plant it back where it should be.
But despite the advantages of solitude, the changes, threats and fears that plague us at this time can easily overwhelm us and leave us lost and unsettled. How do we master our minds and use this time to find stillness when the world seems to be walking on shaky ground? In this time of physical isolation, replacing our usual worldly distractions with new worldly distractions, such as a continuous stream of Covid-19 news, may rob us of the mental benefit that physical isolation can afford us. It is important to use discretion in choosing our mental and emotional inputs, at least for those times when that choice is ours.
If you are finding it difficult to be joyous or still at this time, read on to find out if the following tips could be useful to you.
- How can we be calm in a time of heightened fear? In my experience, the single most helpful tool to beat fear, under any circumstance, is through surrender to God (in whatever form is dear to you). Surrendering to God is only truly accomplished once we hand over the results to God for Him to decide what is best for us. In a situation such as this one, where we cannot guarantee our safety by any reasonable means, we have to trust in the strength and wisdom of God. This may be difficult to do, but once accomplished, allows God to work and allows us to be free of worry, knowing that He knows what is best for all of us, always. This does not mean that we are not responsible for our actions or efforts, but after choosing to act wisely, handing over the results should free up mental space so that we can re-focus and get to our place of peace.
- In my efforts to write a book whilst managing a young family, I experienced the negative effects of trying to be constantly productive. Being in a mental-space that is always hurried can be detrimental to health and spirituality. There is great value in being productive and contributing positively to the world, but we can add even greater value when we are connected to the inner Self. To be able to do this, we should be able to slow down and switch off at the appropriate times to make mental space for meditation and prayer. It is therefore important to spend some time acknowledging that spiritual exercises deserve our attention and time.
- Take care of your body. If your body is ailing or even just dulled, then your mind will struggle to achieve the clarity that a vibrantly healthy body produces. See my guidelines for a healthy diet here. All parts of our being are connected in some way, and we should care for each aspect of our selves for the whole to be well.
- Constantly remind yourself that you are not this body or this mind; that your true Self is Spirit and that this Spirit is part of God who is all. It was Sri Aurobindo that said, “Learn to live within, to act always from within, from a constant communion with [God]. You must persist and establish the habit of living in your inner being, which is your true being, and of looking at everything from there.”
- Your mind usually follows your heart. First, fill your heart with God and with the desire to commune with God so that your mind easily revels in thoughts of Him.
- Practicing manthra chanting is an effective tool to train the mind to be still. A manthra is a word, phrase, or more that is recited repetitively. It usually focuses on God, an aspect of God or something positive. The name of God (whichever name is dear to you), is said to be the most powerful manthra in this current age, having potent purifying and transformative powers. It is a tool used by all major religions in some form or another.
- Surround yourself with positive influences, positive media, devotional music, and positive literature; all these things can lift your energies and assist you with keeping joyful and silent.
- Be pure. Choose to speak (and write) kindly and truthfully, do not engage (directly or indirectly) in actions that will cause harm to other beings. Purity will set you up for a peaceful mind.
- In this era of human history, even in isolation, we have access to many platforms to interact with the public and friends such as on social media. It is important to support others and to show love in this trying time. However, to guard your peace whilst sending out your messages and positive and truthful contributions, especially on public platforms, make sure not to desire the approval of others. Love unconditionally, regardless of the opinions of others, these things are only superficial and we are all ultimately connected as one. Desiring to “own” others by means of their approval prevents your love from flowing freely and distracts you from your true purpose.
- Meditate (or pray meditatively). Only through meditation can we discover the vast world that is beyond our senses; only through meditation can we discover our true Selves, and only through meditation can we connect to the Source of true and limitless joy and peace. Worldly joys are shallow and fleeting; joy from our source is far more wonderful than we can imagine. Only through experience can we know this joy and we can experience only by going inward. There are many techniques that can be used for meditation. Effective meditation techniques that I practice include Jyothi (light) meditation and Phyllis Crystal’s, Cutting Ties methods. However, meditation should not be a once a day exercise but a constant habit of stilling oneself and connecting with God even whilst we are going through our day.
- Detachment is a necessary tool to bring us peace. We need to constantly remind ourselves of the impermanence of the physical world, including objects and people. This will help us not to become attached to the attractions and distractions in our lives and will help us to operate from a more logical standing. All our relationships and all our belongings will eventually not belong to us (and truly, never do). That being said, we must also remind ourselves that the only thing that is permanent is the Spirit (God), which is also what unites us with all things.
- Forgiveness is necessary for sound health and peace of mind. Go through the exercise of forgiving everyone who you have had unpleasantness with, and feel yourself grow stronger. Forgiveness allows channels of love to open up and allows your positive energies to flow more freely. It is far more important to forgive than to hold anyone to account for their wrong actions.
I wish each of you all the best with finding inner peace at this time and beyond it. Remember that your happiness adds to the happiness of the whole.
I leave you with an extract from the preface of a book titled Solitude, by the Central Chinmaya Mission Trust in Mumbai. (The author of the preface simply signs off as V.B. Please contact me if anyone can provide me with the full name of the author so that I can give him/her due credit. )
” Living in solitude is living with a fresh open mind that rejects memories of the past and anxieties of the future. In solitude, the external supports are abandoned and we are alone, facing ourselves. No distractions entwine the mind or sedate it’s natural urge to understand the purpose of existence. If understanding seems immanent, we thrive on our solitude, and are unwilling to allow any other thought to invade and deter our quest for experiencing the fullness of our being. ” V.B
By Natasha Subbiah
To receive updates on my latest articles, follow Unity Mama on Facebook.