The polar caps are melting. The ozone layer is thinning. The global climate is changing. Do any of those challenges cause you stress? Sure, those issues may make you feel concerned, yet not stressed, unless of course they have made you suffer some personal loss directly.
Otherwise, for most of us, the source of our stress is simply people. To be specific, merely a few people! It is their behavior which builds all the pressure, tension and worries in the mind resulting in the experience of stress.
These people could be:
- Social contacts
- Family members
- And even you, yourself
Different people have different ways of thinking. They may possess a varied mental orientation. As a result situations of conflict get created because two or more people may be thinking differently about one given situation.
In my previous write-up on the subject of stress, I suggested that if possible, one must leave all such people with whom conflicts seem to arise too frequently due to your divergent ways of thinking. Now, in that context, if it’s about co-workers, you can probably change the job. Among social contacts you could choose a different set of people. However, what if these people happen to be close family members?
Relationship problems certainly account for a big chunk of cases suffering from the problem of stress all over the globe.
Family is supposed to be the basic unit of emotional stability. Nevertheless, if that part itself is ridden with conflicts, for any reason, then the whole life begins to stagnate.
The question is: Can yogic procedures like meditation help in this immensely sensitive matter?
Well let’s see…
I will bring forth the point with the help of a short Q&A collection.
What happens when you go into nature? How do you feel being in a garden or a forest or over a mountain or by a water body?
Well, the answer would be obvious and possibly this is the big difference between the people who are able to ward-off their stress and those who get buckled under it.
One of the key differences in this context would be their connection with the nature. People who live closer to the nature, you will find, can handle the challenges of life more harmoniously as compared to those why stay away from it.
Certainly, the new-age-gadgets-filled-air-conditioned life has a role to play in this matter. This is also why stress is called a modern phenomenon.
Why being in the nature helps you to stay relatively stress-free?
When you are out in the open among trees, flowers, lakes, etc. then your 5 sense capabilities are automatically refreshed.
- The eyes see something pleasing. (Say greenery etc.)
- Ears hear sounds that are inherently peaceful. (For example birds chirping or water flowing, etc.)
- Nose smells the fresh air along with the soft fragrance of the soil, vegetation or the ocean.
- Skin feels rejuvenated by the touch of the same breeze…
- And that makes your taste buds demand some good nutritious food.
Overall these experiences make you forget your junk at least for a while and instead you begin to feel fresh and full of strength.
What additional miracle do yogic or meditative procedures perform above this?
Well, disciplines like yoga and meditation integrate you further with the nature. This work primarily happens via your breathing, which with the regular practice of any procedure of yoga or meditation becomes balanced, regulated and smooth.
Once your quality of breathing improves, then the first beneficiary of this new development is your neurological system, which is in turn calmed and rejuvenated.
This calming of the neurological system brings peace to the mind. In this context, a peaceful mind is also a strengthened mind. So, once the mind starts feeling strengthened, it stops slipping into negative thoughts, even when provoked by others.
Instead it inspires you to seek practical solutions to your stress-causing situations.
Do challenges in life ever end?
The answer is no. Every life has to continue to face some challenge always until one is alive in this world. No person can be free of them completely at any time.
Yet, with regular practice of disciplines like yoga and meditation one can improve their capability of handling their challenges and thus gradually learn to prevail over them, in process nullifying their stress.
So, can we still do without leaving all the people who bring us stress, essentially if they are close family?
Well, that would be a subjective question. The answer shall vary from person to person. If someone is burning your very fabric, then you must certainly leave them. The other way around of course is to increase your stress-handling capabilities. The support path for that objective would be procedures of yoga or meditation.
At this point, let me share a few practical experiences.
If you recall, we have been discussing a specific meditative procedure in our current series of write-ups, where we have been listening to the chirping of the birds for our meditative experience. Today, I will show you how this simple method helped me change my outlook and my attitude towards handling difficult relationships.
My first conscious experience of listening to the chirping of the birds happened a few years ago, when one early morning I was sitting deep in my meditation and then suddenly the rattling noise made by the Mumbai auto-rickshaw violently broke my spell of blissful silence.
Naturally, I had a genuine reason to feel disturbed. It was certainly an unpleasant situation. Though, very interestingly, as my thoughts were about to go down the negative lane, I heard a cuckoo bird sing somewhere in the distance. That sound was tremendously sweet and pleasing.
Now when I listened, I heard other birds chirping enthusiastically in parallel, since it was the dawn hour. Though each one made its own sound independently, yet I experienced that the overall impact was extremely soothing. And then the cuckoo bird sang again.
This experience suddenly made me realize that I had a choice. So while there were crooked sounds in the eco-system that were unpleasant to listen to or stressful; yet at the same time there were also sounds that brought delight; sounds that were inherently peaceful.
Like this I began waiting for cuckoo bird to sing again along with the other members of its species. From that day onwards, this became my recovery mechanism for any kind of disturbance faced during meditation.
Simultaneously on the outside, in life, I found the same principle helping me in my various relationship situations. Thus now when I face anyone who I know has a varied mental orientation than that to mine or who possess a different way of thinking, I simply try to stay patient and let them pass.
Further, whenever I do this, I find invariably that someone supportive also came around from somewhere.
Plus, gradually as my own perceptions have transformed, so also has my behavior and that has allowed me to be more peaceful under the same situation.
This was one example to showcase how regular practice of even a simple yogic or meditative procedure can help you transform your own attitude and situation in the truly practical sense.
Surprisingly, for most of our so-called ‘stress-causing’ situations, we don’t require big or complex solutions. Instead merely simple practical methods would be good enough. These methods will include practices or works that let you:
- Connect back to the nature
- Smoothen your respiratory cycle
- A yogic or meditative procedure that strengthens the mind by binding the loose thoughts.
Rest of the progress is all about repeated practice of the above methods. Practice will indeed be needed because otherwise the old habits won’t stop. Mind will continue slipping into the negative zones on slightest provocation causing whirlpools of unwanted thoughts resulting in stress.
In contrast, regular practice of a yogic procedure will allow you to see the bigger picture behind the situation and that would gradually let you prevail over the lower order emotions with the help of higher order thoughts.
The world of emotions is the trickiest space to conquer in a human constitution.
This is because emotions seldom follow any rules or logic which may be applicable elsewhere. Hence, handling emotions is similar to handling wild horses.
Yet, the way, wild horses can be tamed, the same way emotions can be brought under control. For this purpose meditation or meditative methods can be an ideal route.
The other important point that must be remembered for relationship related challenges is that you cannot change others even if they may be your close family members. Plus a desire or effort to change others may lead to greater conflicts. Hence, the most practical way is to bring a change in your capabilities and become more inclusive.
That certainly would be the ideal way under such situations. Rest of course would be a matter of personal choice and individual discretion.
A special note here for the emotionally sensitive people:
Friends, you have to learn to be emotionally strong. That is the only way. Otherwise stressful relationships within close family can be extremely difficult situations and you already would know about that.
Still, to have some extended help in the matter, here are a few additional clues:
Most encounters in such relationships would follow a pattern.
Thus for example, fights or arguments: If you will analyze a little closely then you will find that they would be happening after a definite interval.
Or else they may be happening on occurrence of certain specific event/s. Sometimes these heated discussions might be happening in reference to some specific person or a specific subject.
Thus once you have identified these patterns, then accordingly you can be mentally ready in advance to face these situations. Regular practice of disciplines like yoga, meditation would continue strengthening your mind gradually and that will also improve your situation handling skills.
In most such relationships, the type of arguments would be standard.
Most of the times, your weak points will be attacked, repeatedly. On many occasions you too would lose your temper. So, what may help you evade that trap? Two disciplines:
- Regular practice of yoga/meditation in general
- Finding a strong sense of purpose in specific.
This is tremendously crucial. If trapped in such a relationship/s, then devote your life to a cause. Don’t live merely for yourself. Instead live for a cause. Worry not, if that cause is small, big or may seem impossible or insignificant; just make sure that it is simply an impersonal mission.
I quote here example of a close friend. On his every birthday he goes and donates his blood in a blood bank. He does it silently, without speaking or boasting to anyone about it. Same ways, you may choose any impersonal cause of your liking.
This way you will slowly be able to clean your karmic baggage as well.
The law of karma very firmly says that what may be happening to you now, is the outcome of your past karma; hence if you change your present karma, then the outcome in the future shall change as well.
Karma is thought + action. In this context, once you have found for yourself a strong sense of purpose, then along with the regular practice of some yogic/meditative discipline, you can easily take care of both, your thoughts as well as your actions, for both of them to be positive, inspiring and enlightened.
This coincidentally is also the path of emotional freedom via karma yoga.
Finally, all difficult relationships have only two possible endings:
- Either you will find a way towards mutual harmony
- Or you will walk away your separate ways
How your relationship would unfold, this no one can predict. Yet, if you take support of the yogic or meditative path, then one thing is firmly assured that irrespective of the outcome of the relationship, you will come out as a much brighter, stronger and focused human being.Rest, the path is to be walked and discovered.
Originally published on Medium on Nov 6, 2018.
Next Week: Insomnia, Anxiety & Meditation.