Connect with Inner Calm Amidst Uncertainty
“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” -Anne Frank
Ever since normalcy has been put in a blender on pulse, it's kind of like a sci-fi movie is playing out in real time; one that illustrates how interconnectedness can affect incredible change. And yet, processing what's going on couldn't be more personal. It's natural to grapple with inertia, fear, guilt, frustration and feelings of shock. Navigating the emotional seesaw is a moment to moment challenge. Given that the mind is directly linked to physical health, ultimately, how you spend this time doesn't matter as much as balancing your mental state.
When faced with so much suffering, you might wonder... is striving for anything resembling happiness selfish? In the words of luminary master teacher, Swami Ramananda, Executive Director/President of Integral Yoga Institute in San Francisco, “The world needs the presence of people whose hearts are anchored in peace, whose minds are stable enough to be present to the multiple stresses we face without being lost in reactivity.”
Still, these are wildly complex days. Along with the possibility of life-threatening illness, there's the expansive fear of the unknown. When seeking inner balance, where does all the fear and anxiety go? After all, it doesn't just magically disappear in a puff of smoke. And suppressing emotions isn't healthy, or honest. It will only cause them to surface later on, often in unpredictable ways. So don't wait to break down. Honor your feelings in a safe space as they arise. And that may not always be easy to do. So continually check in with yourself. Offer compassion to the parts of you that most need healing. Never judge. Remember, vulnerability is part of your inner strength. Reach out to friends for support. And at the same time, be there for others, offering empathy and a listening ear.
Where does calm come from? It can be a physiological response, such as the reaction from slow deep Yogic breaths and meditation. Viewing certain imagery like a sunset, or rippling ocean waves, can evoke a sense of tranquility too. While external forces can awaken a relaxation response, for a true gateway to serenity, look to your center. And your power to choose your own emotional responses. An extreme example of this, comes from holocaust victim and writer, Anne Frank. While hiding in an attic with her family, as the worst atrocities revolved around her, Anne wrote in her diary, “How noble and good everyone could be if, every evening before falling asleep, they were to recall to their minds the events of the whole day and consider exactly what has been good and bad. Then, without realizing it you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day; of course, you achieve quite a lot in the course of time. Anyone can do this, it costs nothing and is certainly very helpful. Whoever doesn't know it must learn and find by experience that: "A quiet conscience makes one strong!” Infinitely wise beyond her brief years, Anne Frank illustrates that maintaining a calm joyful core is far from easy. It takes a wellspring of courage and determination to choose your own reactions in the midst of adversity.
Look out the window at the sky. How are you choosing to see what's in front of you? What do you opt to filter out? And in? In the words of author and buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield, “Happiness in the deepest sense is not a feeling state or a succession of pleasures, but a deep sense of wellbeing and an appreciation for life itself, with all of its mystery and changes.” Much the same way that the nutrition you take in contributes to your health, what you feed your mind affects your emotional state. So be equally conscious of the information you absorb and also serve up to others. Whether fictionalized or extracted from true events, horror sells. And in the name of awareness, the media emphasizes fear and sensationalism over positive headlines. While you don't want to bury your head in the sand, it's important to consciously choose where to give your valuable focus and energy. It takes some effort though, since good news can be tricky to come by... Chances are, you'll have to dig deep beyond the noise to seek it out. For a positive slant, grounded in realism, look to hope and healing, in the form of science-related data that sheds light on potential medicines, vaccines, research, and inspiring stories, such as those found in David Byrne's Reasons to Be Cheerful; also healthful ways of living that strengthen immunity and deepen knowledge. As you gather new information, share it widely.
While much of life is on pause, opportunities exist to practice kindness towards others and yourself. And an awareness of gratitude serves to illuminate the good through appreciation. As Jack Kornfield once said, “Our gift to the world comes as much through our being and presence, our smile and touch, our sense of possibility and the mystery of human life, as it does in the specifics of what we do. Wherever we go, we can be a beacon of well-being, love, and care that not only touches but uplifts those whom we encounter."