Today is a day to focus on serenity. I will remove those things from my life that are not contributing to my serenity and sense of calm. Actions, thoughts, habits, people, places, things – whatever does not contribute to my sense of calm and balance will be replaced with actions, thoughts, habits, people, places, and things that keep me poised and calm and serene.
I know that I did my best today to focus on staying calm and serene. Tonight I will rest knowing that I can sleep serenely. Those things in my life that were keeping me unbalanced have no power over me and I am serene, calm, and tranquil.
-From the book ‘A Daily Book Of Pagan Prayer ‘ by Megan Day
No harm befalls me, for a divine presence attends my way and guards me into the All Good. Loving-kindness awaits me at every turn of life’s road. Guidance is mine along the pathway of experience, and an infallible power protects me. eternal source itself and no other is my keeper. I proclaim this for me.
Emotions play an important role in life. They help you evaluate situations and respond to threats and opportunities. However, the mechanism is somewhat imperfect. Therefore, you do not always get the right results. Sometimes you overreact, sometimes under react, and in both cases you lose focus and balance. At times, you may also confront situations with inappropriate responses and expose yourself to further problems. On the positive side, emotions make you human. They help you feel things and experience the richness of life. It is one redeeming feature about emotions.
One of the common suggestions about controlling emotions is that when problems arise you should think rationally, rather than give in to your emotions by counting numbers or taking a deep breath. Theoretically, those responses are very appropriate, but you know that you cannot always do it. When emotions arise, you seem to lose control over your rationality and let them out. You may feel guilty afterwards for what happened, but it does not guarantee that it will not happen again.
In real life situations, emotions are common human experience. People do not feel peace until they let them out and say or do according to their bidding. It is certainly not a sign of weakness. It is what it is, human nature. We are wired that way. There are two parts in the human brain, the primitive brain, which is the seat of emotions and instincts, and the evolved one which is responsible for most executive functions.
In all situations, invariably it is the primitive brain which responds first. When a problem or a threat presents itself, your primitive brain reacts first and engages your whole attention to the perceived problem or threat by releasing chemicals into your bloodstream and invoking in you strong emotions. It does it with mechanical precision and most efficiently, and gives you little or no opportunity to think about the situation or process the information.
Therefore, it is practically impossible not to feel any emotions or to suppress them. Besides, it may not be wise to do, since they are vital to your survival. The best way to deal with your emotions is to feel them, know them, understand them, and become familiar with them. You should let them rise and fall, without damaging your inner poise. It is a tough call, but it can be practiced.
Think of the ocean. Can you imagine an ocean without waves? The same is true with your mind. You cannot imagine a mind without emotions, except in deep sleep. Waves disturb the surface of the ocean only. Deep inside, the ocean is calm. The same should be the case with your mind and emotions. Emotions may rise and fall in the surface of your mind, but deep inside you should remain calm. Here are a few suggestions to cultivate the oceanic inner poise, without suppressing your emotions.
1. Practice meditation. It gives you an opportunity to observe your own thoughts and emotions and become familiar with them. Regular practice will help you become more introspective, observant, mindful, and sensitive to your own thoughts and feelings and notice them when there are major shifts in your moods or how you feel about yourself or others in different situations.
2. Label your emotions. When emotions arise try to identify them and label them. Many times emotions linger in your consciousness, which you may not notice because you have grown accustomed to them. Many people do not pay attention to themselves and cannot identify their own emotions. They become so engrossed with the life outside or winning the approval and acceptance of others that they ignore their own feelings. It is important to know your emotions and acknowledge them when they arise.
3. Practice visualization. Visualize situations that trouble you or disturb you. Mentally play out various scenarios to see how you can deal with them so that you can gain control over your responses and remain undisturbed in situations that normally tend to destabilize you in real life. It will also help you break your habitual mental responses and routine behavior, and learn new ways to think and act, and correct your behavior and attitude.
4. Cultivate detachment. The things that you love most are the ones that can potentially cause much emotional turmoil. Your attachments make you vulnerable to emotions. Therefore practice detachment and learn to let go of things so that when you are drawn into unpleasant situations you can become a passive observer of your own mind and consciously experience your emotions without being disturbed by them. The best way to cultivate detachment is to know your likes and dislikes and maintain a healthy distance from both of them.
5. Broaden your thinking and outlook. An open mind helps you keep your negativity under control. Consider all viewpoints, possibilities and alternatives before rushing to judgment. When you view life from a broader perspective, you will learn to absorb a lot of information without being disturbed by it and grow comfortable with the conflicts, inconsistencies, instability, loss and gain, and contradictions of life.
6. Keep your mind clean. Your mind has many demons of hunger and thirst. If you are not disciplined, they will let all types of thoughts and intentions enter it and potentially disturb your peace. It is important to be true to yourself and be honest with yourself. You should be clear about your intentions and basic morality and stay away from wrong paths and questionable choices. Practice right thinking, right perception, right awareness, and right discernment, which will lead you in the right direction.
7. Keep smiling. A smile, even an artificial one, can change your moods. It can lift your mind and instantly change your emotional states. Bring cheer into your life by forcing yourself to smile frequently. Even if it is an artificial smile, do not mind. Keep smiling at every opportunity. People usually reciprocate a smile with a smile. When you smile, you will radiate a lot of positive energy and evoke similar emotions in others. It will create a very energetic and cheerful atmosphere around you.
Suppressing your emotions is not the right choice, neither ignoring them nor escaping from them. One can drown oneself in sorrow or drink oneself to numbness. They are destructive choices, which will create further emotional problems. The right way to deal with your emotions is to let them do their job and not feel disturbed by them. Accept your emotions as an integral part of your consciousness and behavior. Try to know them and become familiar with them. Express positive emotions as often as possible to experience the richness of life. Use the power of meditation to gain right knowledge about yourself and your emotions. Meditation is the art of thinking, or not thinking. With its practice you become self-aware, thoughtful, observant, stable and peaceful. It does not matter where you live, what you do, or which faith you practice. If you are not practicing it for any reason, you are probably missing a great opportunity to experience peace and stability.
In western traditions, you will find a clear wedge between spiritualism and materialism. It is not so in eastern traditions, especially in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Hinduism is rightly called a way of life, because it advocates a God centric life in which we are expected to integrate our materialistic and spiritual aspirations around a central purpose, which is attaining liberation (moksha) from the cycle of births and deaths.
Although Buddhism does not believe in the existence of God, it projects a way of life in which the practice of Eightfold Path is an important and essential component.
Both the religions uphold a holistic way of life, in which you are slowly and gradually drawn to spiritual life, while performing your obligatory duties and your day to day responsibilities.
Both the religions agree that until you are ready for complete renunciation, you should lead a responsible and virtuous life, preparing yourself for the next stage of your liberation.
It is not difficult to lead a holistic way of life, which is complete and in which you will have ample opportunities to fulfill both your material and spiritual aspirations. It is not necessary that to lead a spiritual life you need to become a monk or an ascetic.
You can be whoever you want to be and yet spiritual, because you can with some practice make it your essential nature. You may think that you are a physical entity, but as every religion declares you are a spiritual being.
To lead a spiritual life, you do not have to seek salvation in a faraway place. Although seclusion helps you stabilize your mind, you can create opportunities to create your own spiritual zone.
For the same reasons, you do not have to go to a forest or a mountain cave to find peace in your heart or find God. You can experience them wherever you are, through the things that you seek and the actions that you perform.
To live a life that is wholesome, spiritual and peaceful, you need awareness, sincerity, commitment and sensitivity to the deeper and not so apparent aspects of life. You should remain mindful and attentive to what happens around you and inside you. You have to train your mind and senses and change your mindset, so that you can discern the reality beyond the illusions.
Cultivate the qualities that are essential to lead a divine and holistic life. Holistic means, you consider every aspect of your personality, not just your mind and body to resolve the problem of your life and work for your salvation. In this regard the following suggestions are helpful.
Think deeply about your perceptions and experiences that matter to you most as they happen. It helps you to be reflective and cultivate deeper awareness.
Observe life and people without letting your emotions and judgments interfere with it to develop understanding, insight, intuition, and empathy.
Practice silence so that you can learn to use your speech wisely and remain secluded even amidst people and the world as and when needed.
Keep your negative thoughts under check and do not allow them to influence your actions and decisions.
Feel grateful for the very opportunity to be alive and experience life in all its colors.
Learn from your negative experiences so that you will become wiser and better.
Spirituality is a deeply personal subject. The purpose or the aim of spiritual life is to become free from whatever that holds you in bondage and fear. Therefore, aim to free yourself from the illusions and shackles of the world and find freedom from them.
My feet do not falter, for they are kept upon the path of life through the power of the eternal spirit. Guide my feet; compel my way; direct my paths and keep me in your presence. My feet are guarded, and I am guided into the All Good. Divine Love guides my feet.
A flower has no purpose aim or motive in spreading its fragrance. It is its nature to be so and to do so. Be like a flower in the wind. Jayaram V
To be like a flower in the winds of life can mean many things, depending upon your thinking and expectations. To spiritual aspirants it may mean you have to be like a flower, sacrificing yourself with no expectations and with no clear advantage or benefit to you.
In many ways, it exemplifies the life of a renunciant (sanyasi). It is difficult, but not an impossible task to live that way. For over 6000 years it has been practiced in the Indian subcontinent by millions of ascetic people. The Buddha and Mahavira exemplified it in their teachings. So did numerous other ascetic traditions that originated in India. Their logic was simple. Desires made humans selfish. Selfish actions produced karma and suffering. The problem was therefore with desires. If you wanted to be free from suffering, first, you must be free from desires.
The renunciant path
For generations, people with spiritual inclinations and distaste for worldly life believed in this simple and straightforward approach to gain control over their lives and destinies. They went to great lengths to overcome their desires and escape from the problem of suffering. In extreme cases, some ascetic groups allowed their members to self-immolate themselves in fire to burn away the last remnants of their desires and attachments.
A true renunciant does not live with definite aims, intentions or purpose. He is a wanderer on the path of life, enjoying the moment, surrendering his will to God. He lives with deeper awareness, trying to make sense of God’s creation, and fully yields to the forces and elements of the world, giving up even the desire to live or the longing for life (abhinivesa). You can see in him how the five elements of creation come to life.
Like fire he burns his desires and attachments in the heat of detachment and renunciation.
Like water he remains flexible, adaptable, and humble, finding comfort in whatever space, comfort or discomfort life offers to him.
Like earth, he bears the burdens of life with incredible forbearance and allows himself to be trampled by the problems and difficulties of life.
Like wind, he breathes freely with no encumbrances in whichever way the winds of fate move him.
Like space, he extends his vision into the universe and embraces his identity as the infinite, invisible, universal, eternal Self.
However, living like a flower in the winds of life does not necessarily mean you have to live like a flower or a vegetable. You are a human, not a plant or a tree. Therefore, in a worldly sense it means you have to bring out the best of yourself and live accordingly. You have to manifest your essential human nature (manava dharma) or essential purpose, being genuine and authentic, honest to your core values, without being pretentious, and without leading a double life or trying to be what you are not.
Living and manifesting your dharma
In Nature most life forms live and act according to their dharma or natural, inborn instincts. They do not pretend or deceive, or try to be other than what they are, except as a natural instinct to survive or evade their predators. Even when they do it, they do so instinctually without being aware of its moral or spiritual ramifications.
Nature intends them to be natural and to manifest their natural behavior (prakriti svabhavam). A flower does not act like a tree or a tree does not act like an animal. It makes life somewhat predictable and bearable. Every living being strives to excel in being itself and fulfill the aims of natural evolution by being the fittest. If they do not fit into the pattern or fulfill their dharma, Nature will either discard them or evolve them into better species.
In case of human beings, the equation does not work the same way. Human beings can corrupt their essential nature by indulging in selfishness and desire driven actions. They can defy nature and serve their own ends. They can not only adapt to their environment but also manipulate it or modify it if necessary.
You have therefore a genuine problem with humans when it comes to their natural, human duties, which they are supposed to render in creation to ensure its order and regularity. As the Bhagavadgita declares, the self is the friend of the self and the self is the enemy of the self.
The triple alternatives
In humans, Nature manifests fully. They are endowed with both lower and higher natures. The gross, physical body and the senses constitute the lower nature. The mind, the ego, and the intelligence constitute the higher nature. Beyond them there is their spiritual nature or the eternal Self.
The lower nature is vulnerable to grossness, desires, passions, and natural instincts, while the higher nature gives them the ability to be self-aware, use their intelligence and exercise their discretion and judgment to control their thinking and actions. Depending upon circumstances, human beings have three major alternatives to choose from to shape their lives and destinies.
They can strengthen their demonic nature by acting according to their baser instincts and indulge in the worst of human passions, immorality, cruelty, selfishness, evil and lustful behavior. It usually leads to their increased grossness (tamas) and spiritual downfall.
They can strengthen their human nature by living responsibly according to their dharmas and playing their dutiful roles in creation to manifest the will of God and ensure the order and regularity of the world. It leads to increased happiness, peace and prosperity upon earth, while at the same time it may keep them worldly and bound to the mortal world.
They can strengthen their divine nature by stabilizing their minds in the thoughts of the Self, cultivating divine qualities through self-purification, and living according to the best of moral and spiritual values. It leads to suppression of baser human nature, detachment, desirelessness and transcendental state of self-absorption.
Thus, human beings have the freedom, the privilege, and the discretion to manifest their essential nature (dharma) according to their interests, desires and inclinations or according to the will of god. They can live like the Asuras, humans or gods and manifest the best or the worst of human nature. They can be guided by their lower nature, indulging in desires and passions or by their higher nature inspired by their values and morals. They have to possess the right discretion (buddhi) to make right choices.
The lower human nature is driven by desires. As the Buddha declared, which is also affirmed in almost every scripture of Hinduism, it is responsible for human suffering. If people want to be free from it, they should take refuge in their higher nature and live accordingly, cultivating virtues, restraining themselves and living righteously as modelled in the Eightfold Path or Jnana, Karma and Sanyasa yogas, so that they can simultaneously manifest the will of God, the intent of Nature, and the ultimate purpose of life.