These are the times to be mentally stable and physically fit. The reason? The world is not what it was some 20–40 years ago. Those days, most of the population stood outside the din and dirt of politics, wars were fought on distant frontiers, if suicides were committed we barely heard of them and, yes, epidemics didn’t spread to our neighbourhoods. We were content in our areas of sunshine and… well… everything was in its designated place. Not anymore. Today, everything is on our TV screen and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a 32 or 102 size monitor, all the monsters are here in our living rooms. Our imagination is not left to its devices, there is nothing to imagine. Opinions are loud, images flash by at supersonic speed, the music blares… it’s not just in our face, it’s in our minds. And that mental shrillness gets into our bodies like a diet turned into a nightmare. Welcome to the crazy, cacophonic world of reality shows streaming live right into us! Whew!
“It is quite true what philosophy says: that life must be understood backward,” writes Soren Kierkegaard and adds sagely, “But then one forgets the other principle: that it must be lived forward.” This is exactly what this piece is about — to live forward. For that, we really need to neutralise the volatile waves of reactions in our hearts and minds and swim in the clean, clear waters of peace and health.
The 8-walk. When we understand that much of the madness from our mobiles and TVs gets into us because we are, literally, sitting ducks — lounging on the couch or sprawling in our seats with earphones attached to us like extensions of our ears — we’ll know what to do. After a quacking skirmish, ducks swim away from each other and flap their wings vigorously to release tension. We’ve got our own version — pacing up and down the length of the room to relieve our stress. The needs of today, however, call for a modified version of pacing, it’s called the 8-walk because it keeps the highly-stimulated mind occupied in navigating the winding shape of the figure 8. It can be done on the beach, in the park, at home or the workplace. If indoors, place two chairs in a row at a distance of two feet. Now, walk around one chair, diagonally to the other and around the second chair, diagonally back to the first one — describing an 8. Start by doing it for five minutes, then progress to 10…20…30 minutes daily. Breathe normally as you walk. It’s a great stress buster — the mind relaxes as its beta-waves slow down to the soothing alpha-waves frequency. Do it for 14 days and check how you feel.
Reset the mind. Being assaulted loudly and relentlessly with bad news often lowers our contentment level. A querulous tone enters our mind and voice. Check: *Am I complaining often? *Am I dissatisfied about something I can’t put my finger on? *Does the future look bleak based on the present? Helpless, gloomy feelings can suppress the immune system and give way to allergies, depression and other disorders. A great way to stay out of these woods and create a psychological safety zone for yourself is to consciously reset the mind in contentment. Patanjali, the father of yoga, had said, “Contentment leads to superlative happiness.” In these loud times that stir up dissatisfaction to, sometimes, dangerous levels, it’s imperative we keep our mental balance by deeply touching the dormant feeling of how much we have.
It is much easier to get to the how much base when we cast out pride, envy, bottomless desires and all the stress that goes with them. Once the clutter is out, we touch the treasure of how much and allow its peaceful radiance to fill us. This is contentment. And I echo the wise when I say, “use this feeling as your guiding light.”
One of the secrets tucked in contentment is: Love life as she is, don’t expect more than she can give, lend her your laugh when she makes you happy, when her road gets rocky to run on, pave it with your patience and unflagging care and miss her already because, one day, she is not going to be there.
The gentle guide. Contentment silences the loudness around and enables us to look around undistracted and derive joy from the abundance, the beauty, the proof and fruit of the great intelligence that made this fullness. Contentment is an inner strength that helps us reserve and use our time, our energy for things that truly matter. It gently guides us in many ways:
* We stop bothering about what others think about us — it’s like walking out of a dark cave and discovering the vast sky above and the huge space around.
* It keeps us from over-thinking, over-analysing, thus, there is no fear, no mental paralysis. We know that everything is better than it appears and will only get better.
* It prevents us from beating ourselves needlessly over something we’d done and we become better people because we stop judging others. We dwell in greater understanding and that’s like taking an unexplored scenic route inside ourself.
* It helps us catch ourselves when we keep wishing things were otherwise. It’s as good as it can be, it says without words. And we use the energy conserved in getting on with life.
* When we are contented, we will still feel sad but we don’t become helpless, we don’t feel hopeless. We take positive action. If we are the outdoor type, we walk away our blues, if we prefer the indoors, it’s possible to just sit silently until the wave of sadness ebbs and calmness prevails.
* There’s no complaining. It just doesn’t happen. When others do, we look at them in wonder, we help them when we can. Or we guide them to the right people. And, yes, that querulousness does not get a foothold in us.
* We never rehash old stuff unless there’s a very good reason for doing so. We clear any fog in the mind by exercising, spending time in nature, listening to music or a bracing Ted talk.
* One of the most beautiful things it enables us to do is to always encourage people in what they want to do. Contentment dissolves the feelings of competition and one-upmanship. In its place is a wonderful sense of oneness. As Bob Marley sang, “Live for yourself and you will live in vain; live for others and you will live again.”
Ah yes, and please do switch to a gentler, kinder, softer programme on TV, something that cheers, educates, inspires, elevates. I recommend
Dr Wayne Dyer’s movie, The Shift. It’s one more great way not to let the loudness get into you.
The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme.