I was reading recently how some gurus in India expect their disciples to become ascetics and recluses, while others encourage family life and duties. It was indicated that most gurus consider family life more difficult than renunciation, with family life suitable only for a balanced and mature personality.
I was reflecting on this as social distancing and stay at home measures are being implemented to help slow down the rate that people are getting sick from COVID-19. I listened to an episode of the New York Times Daily where a couple was going to be spending significantly more time together because they were both going to be working from home with their children home too. I imagine this is happening to many families that have the flexibility to do this. In California, we are now on order to stay at home.
It seems like balance and maturity are going to be in great demand during this time, as we hunker down and ride out this period of uncertainty while doing our best to mitigate the effects of this pandemic. China and South Korea both provide positive examples that it is possible to slow things down dramatically. There may be personal sacrifices required in service to the greater good, but we can all help to flatten the curve. Part of the reason South Korea’s death rate from the virus is 0.5% compared to Italy’s 4% is that their health care system is not overwhelmed.
I also see this time as an opportunity to slow down and really practice self-care. I know when I get sick it is usually because I have been going too fast and not listening to my wisdom telling me to rest and recuperate. It seems like the whole world now has an opportunity to relax, get quiet, and enjoy the simple things. Of course, those who are directly impacted by the severity of this disease are in the midst of the crisis and don’t have that luxury, but those of us who are healthy can dramatically support our health care system.
So for the greater good of all, it seems that many of us around the world will likely be spending more time with our loved ones. Here are some thoughts that occur to me to support the balance and maturity required to enjoy such sustained contact.
How to avoid going stir-crazy.
The key is remembering where your experience comes from. Our experience is always a temporary reflection of our state of mind. A fleeting or not so fleeting modulation in our consciousness. It is not permanent. It will reflect the thoughts you identify with, in the moment. The more you identify with, resist or buy into stir-crazy thoughts the more stir-crazy you will feel. It is adding gasoline to the fire of your thinking. The more you simply allow your experience to be, and relax into it, the quicker it will pass.
That is how thoughts work. They flow. There are constantly new ones. It is impossible to focus on the same thought indefinitely. If it feels like a thought is persisting it is because we are generating new, similar thoughts. Whatever we place our awareness on we will get thoughts related to that.
See if you can get comfortable with your experience, even if it is uncomfortable.
What makes it easy to get comfortable with your experience no matter what it is, is the recognition that you are not your experience. Who is the “you?” You witness your experience, but you are beyond it. You have feelings, but you are not your feelings. Thoughts come and go, but they are not you. Who are you?
I cannot answer that question for you, but it is a worthy direction to look in. When we look inward and get quiet we can’t help but experience the vastness of who we are. I came across this quote I really like:
“A quiet mind does not mean that there will be no thoughts or mental movements at all, but these will be on the surface, and you will feel your true being within, separate from them, observing but not carried away.”
~ Sri Aurobindo
It is this experience of your true being that makes it so much easier to not identify so strongly with your personal experience. There is the infinite you and the experience of the personal you. You get the best of both worlds. From this vantage point, suffering diminishes. You know you are okay no matter what your inner experience. Your actions follow your wisdom and are not fear or anxiety-driven. This is a learning curve. There is no perfection, but the more you look in this direction, the more is revealed to you and you naturally experience greater levels of inner peace and wellbeing.
There is no learning required for this. All spiritual traditions point in this direction, but the simplicity is all that is required is your willingness to focus your awareness within rather than outside of you. Awareness is awareness no matter what direction it focuses on. So that same everyday awareness that requires no effort to do and needs no perfection can simply point to your deeper nature that is inside.
This is what allows the personality to have maturity and balance. We are stabilized by realizing the personality is but a small level of experience and that there are deeper feelings of love and peace available to us that are not ours on a personal level. They are the universal, common to us all. Dipping below our experience of the individual into the collective unknown is blissful.
Now, this might seem far fetched when kids are cranky and demanding or when your partner’s temper flares or when your anxiety flares up. This might seem completely unrelated to what I am saying, but it is completely related. The only solution to an inner experience of suffering is to look within to the peace in your heart. It is the only way. It may look like there are temporary distractions that help you on the outside that sneaky piece of chocolate, cigarette, drink, or drug. Or in a more socially acceptable form numbing out with work or exercise. And then there are the distractions of screen-time or in-person contact.
I am not saying don’t do any of these things. Follow your own wisdom or this. I am not against any of them. But if you feel better, even if only briefly when engaging with them, I want you to know why. You feel better because your mind relaxes. And when your mind relaxes you feel the good feelings of your own being. It is that simple. Understanding this is empowering. You don’t need the intermediary of a coping mechanism, even a healthy one. You can just point your awareness to your own being. And still enjoy what you want to enjoy in life, for the enjoyment of it, not because you need it. This is liberating.
So during this time of social distancing and orders to shelter in place, allow yourself to enjoy the experience. Let your mind relax. Allow your awareness to point inward and resource yourself this way. The by-product is you will enjoy the experience more. You will enjoy those around you more. You will feel more peace even during this time of the unknown.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes. I will be joining you.
Rohini Ross is passionate about helping people wake up to their full potential. She is a transformative coach, leadership consultant, a regular blogger for Thrive Global, and author of the short-read Marriage (The Soul-Centered Series Book 1) available on Amazon. You can get her free eBook Relationships here. Rohini has an international coaching and consulting practice based in Los Angeles helping individuals, couples, and professionals embrace all of who they are so they can experience greater levels of well-being, resiliency, and success. She is also the founder of The Soul-Centered Series: Psychology, Spirituality, and the Teachings of Sydney Banks. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and watch her Vlogs with her husband. To learn more about her work go to her website, rohiniross.com.