Borders closed, unrealistic immigration rules, dwindling job market is what life in the post-COVID era looks like.
While life is meant to be unpredictable, heightened restrictions on traveling and working has made uncertainty an inevitable part of our routine lives. These are the time times when passionate career goals have melted down to survival goals and people are chasing jobs to put food on their plate and pay their bills, anxiety and stress have become normal words for us. It’s hard to believe that it took a virus to show the so-called scientific, technologically advanced, and intellectual human race the true value and meaning of life.
This reminds me of the famous lines drafted by Saint Kabir-
मत कर माया को अहंकार, मत कर काया को अभिमान, काया गार से काची
Mat Kar Maya Ko Ahankar,
Mat Kar Kaya Ko Abhiman Kaya Gar Se Kachi,
Don’t be deluded by illusions. Don’t take pride in the body!
The body is as fragile as clay.
ओ काया गार से काची , हो जैसे ओस रा मोती,
झोंका पवन का लग जाए, झपका पवन का लग जाए,
काया धूल हो जासी |
Ho Kaya Gar Se Kachi Re Jaise Os Ra Moti,
Jhonka Pawan Ka Lag Jaye, Jhapaka Pawan Ka Lag Jaye,
Kaya Dhool Ho Jasi, Kaya Teri Dhool Ho Jasi,
It’s as fragile as clay, Like a drop of dew,
A blast of wind… Just a little gust,
And the body will turn to dust.
You can read the full lyrics here.
I love this audio version by Siddharth Mohan from The Art of Living:
Through past experiences, I understand that every situation is bound to change no matter how easy or hard it appears to be. However, the mind continues to be deluded with difficult circumstances over and over again. As they say, knowledge cannot be implemented, it can only happen to you naturally. It’s hard to deal with the mind only through logical explanations and advice. If that was the case, mental health wouldn’t have been a problem for anyone in the world.
A lot of us are dealing with fear and panic in these uncertain times. This is where the practices of yoga and meditation have been helping me to cope up with it.
I was initiated into the spiritual path in my early 20s and since then yoga and meditation have been a consistent part of my life. The knowledge from ancient Indian scriptures and the experiences through meditation have helped me to handle my state of mind and maintain equanimity. I have been lucky enough to walk this path with teachers and gurus who have provided me with the right knowledge at the right time.
As an amateur on the spiritual path, I was fascinated with the idea of मोक्ष (liberation). Back then, liberation to me meant freedom from all kinds of desires, boundaries, and being able to do whatever I want to.
“I want to fly, I don’t want to be stuck working in one job or company, and I want to travel endlessly to make this world a better place”. Those were my words to my first meditation teacher. I was 22 then who loved the rush of adrenaline, had the least of patience, and wanted to know it all.
My teacher listened to me with the curiosity of a child and smiled at my idea of liberation. She asked me, “What if your idea of liberation isn’t fulfilled?”
I didn’t know how to answer that. I was expecting her to say that meditation will definitely fulfill all my desires. Instead, she questioned my entire idea of liberation with a single question.
After few moments of silence, she said, ”you are already liberated except if you choose otherwise. You can have desires and still be liberated. You can travel or be bound by household chores and you can still feel freedom.” Her words made no sense to me back then. “Why would I want to be stuck in household chores and think this is great freedom?” I murmured to myself with discomfort in my mind. Years passed after that conversation but I never make sense of what she told me.
I always thought freedom and happiness can be felt when you are able to do what you want to do. If one has to do something because of circumstances then it definitely is a curse. During the lockdown, I came across this beautiful Sanskrit quote on the website ReSanskrit.com
आकिञ्चन्ये न मोक्षोऽस्ति किञ्चन्ये नास्ति बन्धनम्। किञ्चन्ये चेतरे चैव जन्तुर्ज्ञानेन मुच्यते॥
English Translation: There is no redemption in poverty and no binding in prosperity. Whether there is poverty or prosperity, an individual gets liberation by conscience.
It reminded me of what my teacher had told me years ago. During a silent meditation course last year in lockdown, my teacher said this phrase after we had completed an hour long meditation. He said, ”These times are as hard as you want them to be. You can still be in equanimity with this situation if you accept it as it is. Your liberation isn’t bound by circumstances”. It was a moment of awe for me. From last few days before the meditation course, I had been questioning the lockdown and the changes that followed it. It was in that moment that I actually accepted the ongoing situation without questioning it. For once, my mind was at peace. It did make my lockdown time period easy and I could spend time learning new food recipes, writing, meditation, and talking over phone with family and friends.
The knowledge which my teacher had given me years ago had actually turned into realization at that moment. As they say, knowledge will happen to you only when it’s your time. Before that, it’s merely a piece of information.
I cannot deny the fact that there have been a number of moments after that which have filled my mind with negativity. In fact, few months ago, I got so frustrated that I called one of my teachers and said that I have decided to discontinue my practices because I haven’t been able to achieve a stable state of mind even after years of practice. What’s the use of doing meditation when negativity will overpower me again?
My teacher said, “Stop brushing your teeth from tomorrow. What’s the use of brushing them everyday when they get dirty? What’s the use of eating everyday when you will be hungry again?”
“You come across different situations and people. Everything leaves an impression on your mind which eventually affects your state of mind. Just like you fuel your body after a long working day with healthy food, you must continue to fuel your mind with your meditation practices for its wellbeing. Don’t analyze the results of meditation everyday.”
The answer was crystal clear and didn’t leave me with any other alternative than to continue my practices.
All of us are experiencing unexpected changes and situations in our life right now. While some are struggling financially, there are others who are experiencing emotional turmoil due to loneliness. It’s best to stay in touch with our very own practices of faith, culture, and know that there is a higher power working with all of us.
Here are some of the lines which fascinated me from my current readings during my work commute. It is from the book Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda.
Swamiji, I am puzzled about following your instruction. Suppose I never ask for food, and nobody gives me any. I should starve to death.”
“Die, then!” This alarming counsel split the air. “Die if you must, Mukunda! Never believe that you live by the power of food and not by the power of God! He who has created every form of nourishment, He who has bestowed appetite, will inevitably see His devotee is maintained. Do not imagine that rice sustains you nor that money or men support you. Could they aid if the Lord withdraws your life breath? They are His instructions merely. Is it by any skills of your that food digests in your stomach? Use the sword of your discrimination, Mukunda!”
I wish your faith continues to instill courage in you to sail during these uncertain times!