Little Rani cried. Suddenly, she was not allowed to run into the arms of her beloved grandma and grandpa, only wave to them from a distance. Ditto with uncle and aunt; they spoke to her fondly but with a vast gulf between them and didn’t play with her anymore. How would a two-year-old understand how an invisible virus was creating havoc everywhere? Yet she did. With the wisdom of simplicity and innocence, she understood that the hugs, kisses and games would return with the people she loved when the world got well again.
Will the world get well again? It already has. The oceans have regained their royal sparkle, the air is fresher as the winds whoosh through the wild grass and the mud has returned to its rich loaminess from which trees and forests spring. We cry for those who’ve gone and laugh with the ones with us. And meanwhile, let’s be good citizens of the post-Covid era. Maybe we’ll never smoke, spit and spew smog in the air. A beautiful life begins with beautiful intentions.
High intentions. That’s what I respect about Dr Atul Gawande, an American surgeon of high repute. When he said all those months back, “If we can get 60 per cent of us wearing masks that are 60 per cent effective…we can shut down the virus,” there were not many takers. Then the good doctor set out to change mindsets by sowing good intentions:
“I want to come to work every day never wanting to infect anybody else. I never want to cause someone else to be in the morgue.” And the masks came on.
Now, if we can hold on to such high, well-meaning intentions, we can build a new world which does not merely progress in wealth, knowledge and power, but also has a humane philosophy of life, an art of co-existing which includes mental-physical health and mutual aid. It would be a society that has a larger heart than a larger purse with mindsets that reflect “I never want to retrench anybody and deprive families of food and children of education.” Jobs that will never be snatched away. That assured security would be a tremendous vaccine created not in a cold research lab but in the warm human heart itself — a vaccine of the 21st century against stress.
The new corporate mantra. When a gradual growth becomes the mantra of the corporate world, we’ll also need leaders that are resilient in spirit and flexible in action. It would mean, continuing the work-from-home practice, exerting less work-pressures and higher motivation and making everyone feel like winners with enormous potential. In all governments, we’d need leaders who, to quote Tagore, do not “push aside the inner ideal of civilisation by the love of power,” and are not carried away by the “aggressive forces of greed.” Lao-Tzu too addressed his countrymen with his famous “Not self-seeking, he gaineth life.”
It’s all about choosing the luminous above the luxurious. It’s about expanding our economic imagination and doing away with pointless luxuries. As the spiritual teacher Sogyal Rinpoche writes, “Our task is to strike a balance, to find a middle way to learn not to overstretch ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations, but to simplify our lives more and more. The key to finding a happy balance in modern lives is simplicity.”
Let simplicity rule. Simplicity buys inner peace, stability and harmony in a complicated world. It doesn’t allow society’s thinking patterns to rule you because you don’t live a life to impress others but are beautifully aligned in body, mind, spirit and intellect within yourself. There’s wellness and well-being in simplicity. To many minds, simplicity equals giving up what they revel in, which equals loss and deprivation. Whereas, simplicity merely means giving up excesses and opting for moderation. After all, overeating and high stress levels cause most illnesses. Some examples:
- Acidity: Inability to digest rich foods. Inability to withstand work-pressure.
- Hypertension: Excess salty snacks. Holding anger or resentment.
- Cholestrol: Fat-laden foods. A sedentary lifestyle where everything is done for you.
- Asthma: Excessive eating — quantity matters. Sad feelings of being suppressed or rejected make the lungs experience a sense of being smothered.
- Diabetes: Too much intake of sugar, with no diet control.
- Kidney stones: Accumulation of calcium and protein. Poisonous thoughts that literally crystallise their discomfort.
- Influenza: Lack of vitamin C and draining of B vitamins due to continual stress. Fear derived from mass negativity.
Please get out of the excess mode. A new world calls you to put your heart into thoughts and activities that light you up and make miracles happen every day. Begin each day with gratitude at being healthy and alive, at having your loved ones healthy and alive. Generate health and spread cheer to all those you interact with. Be socially distant and emotionally close. Want nothing but mere necessities from material life, as wanting breeds discontent within. Make yourself a container of joy so that you sprinkle it all around you. Singing in the shower is a lovely way of filling yourself with happiness. Avoid complaining, fighting, passing sarcastic remarks, criticising, abusing, belittling. Why burden yourself and others with negativity? Keep the world well with loving words.
Exercise caringly, neither too much, nor too little — cycle, walk or march-on-the-spot for 20–40 minutes. The effects of exercise will be with you like blessings as you do a thousand other things. Moving the body rhythmically focuses scattered physical energies, strengthens its immunity, brings balance and a smooth orderly functioning to our system.
A body-mind spine. Just as a book needs a spine to hold its pages together in orderly chapters, we need a physical spine (a body-movement) and a mental spine (a focused mind) activity to hold us together. This has been my personal experience. Writing brings the world in my mind together. An exercise-regime — stationary cycling, terra band stretches, and abdominal exercises — brings the teeming world in my body together. And boom… one experiences the miracle of being alive.
Exercise takes care of about 40 per cent of your fear if you suffer from acute anxiety. This is even more relevant today because a virus seems to literally get its foothold on the grid of mass fear. Experts say that the amygdala, two sets of neurons in the brain react first in fear before the neocortex or thinking brain can apply reason to the situation. Thus, fear overwhelms reason. A simple exercise takes care of it — switch on pleasing music and sway your head from side to side with the melody. The energy in the brain starts vibrating and circulating all around. This balances the functioning of the amygdala and the neocortex of the brain. Sway until you feel a sense of inner balance return.
While a vaccine for the coronavirus is most welcome, meanwhile, let’s continue to strengthen lifelong our immunity in body and mind through nourishment, cleansing, exercise and rest. We are a resilient, resourceful species. May our vigorous wellness itself be our vaccine against every virus in the world. And may Tagore’s immortal words resound in our being: “The ultimate truth in man is not in his intellect or in his material wealth; it is in his imagination of sympathy, in his illumination of heart, in his activities of self-sacrifice, in his capacity for extending love far and wide across all barriers of caste and colour, in his realising this world not as a storehouse of mechanical power but as a habitation of man’s soul with its eternal music of beauty and its inner light of a divine presence.” We can do it. We can weave wellness and grace into our genes. We can make the world bouncingly, buoyantly, blissfully well again. For Rani.
The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme.