What can we do to stay calm in these busy times? For sure my own life is getting busier (even though I'm approaching a time in life when you're supposed to slow down). But you only have to read a newspaper or look at TV to realize the whole world is getting busier and more intense -- more in need of ways to stay calm.
How do we handle change in a creative way so that we're not buried by it, but it becomes instead a catalyst that leads us to a deeper awareness of the timeless peace and happiness at the core of our being?
Here are six steps that certainly help me -- I use each of them everyday.
Step 1 to stay calm: Simply Stop
It's impossible to overestimate the profound power of this step. Stop whatever it is that you are doing. Stop whatever it is that you are thinking. And take a moment to be still.
It might be a good idea, to begin with, to set aside five minutes at the same time each day so as to give yourself a chance to really get a handle on this most important step.
We are talking about surrender here -- surrender to something we may have been avoiding for a lifetime.
As Gangaji says in her beautiful book, The Diamond in Your Pocket: "I invite you to stop. Right here. Right now. Stop. Whatever it is you are searching for, stop. Whatever it is you are trying to keep away, stop. Stop and see what is always here. It may appear terrifying, it may appear thrilling, it may appear dead, it may appear blank, but if you stop reaching for it or running from it, you cannot help but finally see what is."
The word "surrender" can bring up uncomfortable connotations, of course. No one wants to surrender away their freedom, for example. No one wants to surrender to something that is untrue, or undependable.
But although stillness is a mystery, and will remain a mystery most likely as far as our mind is concerned, it can be experienced. And as you do experience it, the more you will realize how truly safe it is -- and the more your ability to stay calm -- and to stay calm under pressure -- will increase.
Stillness is actually the only thing that is safe. It's also, incidentally, the only place where we can meet each other in a truly profitable and creative way.
Step 2 to stay calm: Spend time with Nature
One of the things that tends to happen when we get overly busy or overwhelmed is that we get more and more engrossed with what is bothering us -- and more and more out of touch with nature.
Nature never stops giving. Hasn't yet anyway. Taking a moment to commune with some aspect of the natural world is one of the easiest and quickest and sweetest ways I know to remind yourself of the calm that is naturally present at the core of all being.
Yesterday morning I came downstairs, got my morning cup of tea, and sat down to have a look at the newspapers. There it was, the world, in all its craziness and busyness and beauty, reaching out immediately to engulf me.
But something made me look up and gaze through our patio doors to the bird bath.
One of my favorite creatures, a robin, had just landed there. I have seen the same scene countless times before. But this time, after taking a drink, the bird hopped down to the side of the patio and began busily stuffing its beak with some tufts of old, decaying grass.
No question about it. As I watched the innocent scene -- and thought about the strong possibility there will be more robins in our garden soon -- my happiness level definitely took an uptick.
Step 3 to stay calm: Turn off the TV and be still
TV can be a wonderful addition to our life.
But it can also be our mortal enemy if it is used as a means to distract ourselves from what is truly important, so that we continually overlook the perfection that is always present with us at the core of our being.
Don't throw your TV out the window.
But if you want to truly blossom and be happy in these difficult times don't be afraid to take a few moments now and then to simply stop, and be still -- those moments add up. Pretty soon they develop their own momentum, and the pleasure of simply BEING expands exponentially.
I don't know of any more beautiful words than the words of the Psalmist: "Be still, and know that I am God."
Step 4 to stay calm: Go for a walk
About five years ago I was in the grip of a terrible depression. I'm not sure 'depression' is quite the right word -- 'spiritual crisis' might be more accurate -- but whatever we call it, it nearly took my life.
As the months went by, and the depression deepened its hold on me, my weight went down to a low of 128 pounds, and as I say I truly wondered if I would survive. One of the things that helped me survive -- and heal -- was my lifelong love of walking.
Much has been written about the virtues and benefits of walking in recent years, and I don't need to add to that. But walking remains, in my experience, one of the most effective ways to engender calm -- a victorious attitude -- in troubled times.
Step 5 to stay calm: See the "light" in others
We are one being -- one whole -- and anything that reminds us of this inherent oneness automatically helps us stay centered and calm.
It’s so easy to make a snap judgment of others based on their outer appearance -- for example, on whether they look 'intelligent', or friendly, or kind hearted and so on.
But such foolish labels are a form of clutter. They keep us bound in prisons of our own making. It is a very freeing thing to let go of them -- and touch the love which is the core of our existence.
When you walk into the grocery, or down the street, or meet someone new, remind yourself, "It is myself that I see -- an aspect of myself."
Step 6 to stay calm: Abdominal breathing every evening
I have been doing abdominal breathing every evening for two or three years now. I do it for about 15 minutes, and I find the feeling of calm and relaxation that comes with this practice is enormous. (I believe it improves my blood pressure too).
I won't take time to go into the technique of "therapeutic breathing," as it is also sometimes called, because there are some very good explanations readily available on the Internet.
What helps you to stay calm?
So, six simple steps toward greater serenity.
I hope they are not so simple and well known that I have taken up your time in vain. But they work for me. They help keep me anchored in love for what is of true value in my life to the extent this is so.
What helps you find calm in YOUR life in these difficult and challenging times?