How to rise rather than drown in the face of great challenges
In this unprecedented time, we are facing great challenges, collectively and individually. Wherever we turn, we are bombarded with disquieting news about the pandemic, the election in the US, political polarisation and strife or environmental disasters. There is a general sense of urgency that creates feelings of worry and anxiety. We experience the weight of our individual mind as well as the collective mind like a heavy cloud hanging over us.
When we don't know the functioning of the human mind, every thought about these issues enters our system and is treated as real. We then add our own interpretations and conclusions to the information and thus "feed the beast" of worry, fear and agitation. As our mind gets more and more anxious, the body gets more stressed and our general wellbeing is jeopardised.
As Meditators we have not just a different vision, but we have a choice. Being able to watch our minds and knowing that we are not its content, we have the possibility to withdraw our attention from the worrisome thoughts. More importantly we know where to direct our attention. The Watcher or Knower of the mind and its movement is the source of attention. When we draw the attention back from being lost in the thoughts to watching them, we are that Knower. As the Knower or Self, we are aware of the presence of thoughts and their meaning, yet we are not affected by them. Being free from the weight of the thoughts and their offspring in the form feelings, we can take action or refrain from acting. We can get involved or not. Our action or absence thereof will not spring from fear or anxiety, but from the freedom of knowing what is best for everybody, including ourselves.
The ability to draw our attention inward, to identify with the Self and its inherent Peace and Stillness is one of the great gifts of Meditation. In a situation as distressing as the current one, we can use this gift to rise above the heavy clouds of fear and worry. Every time we see distressing information become a story in our mind, we can use it to shift our attention to the Self. We can make this challenging situation into an opportunity to supercharge our practice of knowing who we truly are. If at every unsettling thought we take a deep breath and redirect our attention to the Self (I use the mantr Amaram Hum Madhuram Hum to do that) we will quickly notice that we are no longer in the space of agitation of the mind, but we actually enter the peaceful dimension of the Self. The abundance of difficult information will become and abundance of moments of Peace. The more we do it, the more continuous the sense of Peace will be.
The gift of Meditation allows us to see that even the most dire situation can be transformed into something that is in our favour; it can become our ally in knowing and remembering our True Nature, the Self, Pure, Free Forever.