Develop a different focus
It is a challenging world. And a compassionate one too,” I thought as I watched an ant crawl in the dust. When she met a stone, she laboriously tried climbing it. When she slipped down for the fifth time, she finally went around the stone and continued her crawl. I marvelled at the ant’s ingenuity. I marvelled even more at a world that erects obstacles and, simultaneously, offers a way around them!
A healing focus. An illness or pain is a challenge, an obstacle. The secret is to understand that we should not give way to despair, fear, anger, for they do nothing but exaggerate the physical pain and increase our suffering. Ah, but know: the mind that can magnify pain can also decrease it — by adopting a thinking style called ‘the differential focus on the good’.
To stay serene and stable, find all that is good to focus on: 95 per cent of your body is still healthy and strong, the beauty of a bird cruising the skies, its wings spread out, bonding with decent people by exchanging happy memories and stories, finding a coin on the pavement, seeing one bright flower peeping cheerfully through the leaves of a bush, the conviction that there are people who care for you and whom you love, the belief that there is a higher power looking out for you 24/7. This is how, like the ant, you walk around any obstacle.
The inner voice. Yes, there is that critical inner voice that insists it’s illogical to look for a silver lining in the dark, frowning clouds. The same voice also insists there’s nothing great in finding a coin on the footpath. However, this is not the time for needless judgment. Besides, what the inner critical voice is offering is not reality but duality — separating you from the magical joys and beauty of being alive and thrusting you deeper into needless gloomy isolation and pain.
When you’re in pain, you need an inner support system — one that celebrates your every step to being healed and sustains you through setbacks.
When you’re in pain, you need an inner support system — one that celebrates your every step to being healed and sustains you through setbacks. You don’t need an inner voice that says smugly, “You are deluding yourself” because you are not deluding yourself. You need an inner voice that says “Pain is temporary. Hang in there and keep improving every day, keep moving forward.”
Taking charge. Our body functions are closely related to our mental functions. As the Sadhguru puts it so aptly, “A thought of a tiger, mountain, ocean or person causes the body to re-calibrate differently.” A thought of a tiger invokes fear, an ocean invokes calm, a person you dislike invokes anger or disgust. Each thought reverberates through and impacts the body and keeps it in wellness or drives it to illness. So, it is in our best interests to not emphasise and exaggerate fear, disgust, anger, despair. And we can do it. We can take charge of our thoughts and responses.
A doctor takes charge of the treatment. An engineer takes charge of the turnkey project. A lawyer takes charge of the case. So too, should each of us take charge of our way of thinking. Medicine, engineering, etc are professions, but this is far bigger, it’s pro-life. I’m struck by James Russell Lowell’s verse: “Dear common flower, that grow’st beside the way, / Fringing the dusty road with harmless gold!” We too can fringe life’s dusty roads with the golden radiance of our thoughts.
Think… It helps to wake up each morning with this wonderful knowing that you are created, designed, equipped and blessed to become a blessing and kindle a heaven on earth. It fills your heart with gladness. The smile in your being matches the beautiful widening smile of dawn in the skies. The qualitative difference in you is amazing. You love people spontaneously with a pure kind of love and bask in the love you receive. You lose interest in listening to negative stuff and even more important: you lose interest in repeating negative stuff that you hear. There’s a wonderful way to think before you talk:
T – Will it transform life for the better?
H – Will it help?
I – Will it inspire?
N – Will its newness enlighten?
K – Will it kindle joy?
If what you are about to say will produce none of these effects, then why say it at all? Let it go. As this habit sets in, you’ll also think before you think! If there’s nothing beautiful about an emerging thought, why think it? Gradually, all those strong feelings of fear, anger, despair fade and fall away. In their place is a cool, relaxed luminosity which can generously host amiable visitors like gratitude, appreciation, empathy, humour and happiness! Such a mind will bring the level of pain or illness down.
Recently, a dear friend, Annie came to exercise class after a tooth extraction. She was not on pain-killers, her only post-extraction treatment had been an ice-pack. Her eyes calm as always, she cycled and did all her other exercises including weight-training quietly and uncomplainingly. When asked if there was pain, she nodded, smiling gently, much to everybody’s astonishment. Annie has the luminous mind I’m talking about.
Physical peace therapy. I’m grateful to Patanjali for bequeathing Yoga to the world and to Sweden’s Per Henrik Ling who introduced physiotherapy in the early 19th century. For, physical postures, manipulation and specific exercises alleviate pain and stiffness and bring relief to the body. Invest in peace and ease for the body instead of problems and pain. It’s practical, it’s common sense, it’s wisdom-at-work to use your muscles, to loosen your joints, to strengthen your heart and lungs and back and spine… Why sacrifice the quality of your life by neglecting your body? Remember: the quality of life is more important than getting things done. Giving priority to “getting things done” over fitness is an over-reaction. Being here at peace without pain is more important than any destination, any doing. Exercising teaches your body what it is to be flexible and more relaxed. When you are loose, you are more resilient, more positive, more yourself.
So, walk around the stone, the obstacle. And allow your gentle transition from pain to ease, from illness to wellness. And like the ant, never look back, you’re not going that way.
The writers are authors of the book Fitness for Life and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme.