These are the times when I see every medium, be it the TV, the Internet, even the fifth estate speaking of the stress in the lives of everyone; most of it is being attributed to the contraction we are facing in the economy. I happened to listen to an audio book on my business trip last week, one part of which had a very interesting anecdote from the speaker on how to deal with stress and it delved into the psychological aspects (the not so apparent sources of stress).
Scholar: Are you familiar with Sahitya (literature)?
Boatman: No, Sir, rowing the boat is my sole means of livelihood and I have had no opportunity to become familiar with it.
S: A quarter of your life is wasted then; have you at least encountered Alankaara Shastra, which is a very deeply regarded aspect of human lives?
B: No Swamiji, I am not familiar with it…
S: Then another quarter of your life is wasted because it is a beautiful thing you have missed in life. Are you at least familiar with the language – Sanskrit – which is the language of understanding and describing intelligent aspects of the world?
B: No Sir, I am not familiar with it…
S: Then another quarter of your life is wasted for you haven’t had a chance to touch upon any of these divine literary pieces.
<The boatman continued to row, understanding the scholar doesn’t understand his position in life….a little while later, the boatman sees a hole in their boat>
B: Sir, are you familiar with “tharana vidhya” (for those who aren’t aware, this is the art of swimming!)
S: No, I am not…
B: Then, Sir, your full life is wasted for we have a hole which is allowing water to seep in….
And then the boatman jumps overboard onto the river and swims his way to safety while apparently the scholar drowns. The speaker in the audio book used this as an example to say that one might be an expert in physics, botany, whatever. But, if one does not have the knowledge to cross over the sorrow and the stress and have what it takes to tide over it, then all of the other acquired knowledge is useless.
What is this stress?
I do not wish to go into the specifics of the entire discourse for this would become a book instead of an article! Essentially, the speaker categorizes the answer to this question into 3 areas – (1) understanding oneself and realizing what materialism (distinguishing between wants and needs) is for there is richness in poverty and poverty in richness; (2) the aspect of living in a state of joy by staying in the present at all times; (3) operating from a sense of emptiness and fullness according to the situation on hand.
If I were to summarize it all in one simple sentence – we should begin to think of every thought we have as not affecting us but rather looking at ourselves as an empty space where thoughts come and go, it leads to a sense of not being attached to emotions. He uses another aspect of daily life to explain this -
“When you are at home, you think of work; when at work, you think of elsewhere and so on……”. By this, one is not able to be in the moment and experience the moment.
Apparently, the story behind “Chidambara Rahasya” (“rahasya” means secret; for those who aren’t aware, it refers to the empty spot behind the Nataraja statue within the Chidambaram temple in South India) is that it is the symbolic reference to the operating with emptiness. When you have a thought that is negative, it symbolizes a need to have an emptiness, which is a state that you need to take on so that it is the thought that visits you and leaves you, and the thought itself does not become you.
This, according to this expert on people behavior, is the best approach to tackling stress. The beauty of this approach is that it automatically addresses a number of things: – looking at other people and actions as just that and not making inferences, objective approach to every situation, not carrying baggage from the past, isolating negative thoughts from influencing actions, and most importantly helping deal with daily obstacles in life.
I don’t mean to say that it’s a simple open and close book case or a simple matter of solving a logical puzzle. I personally tried practicing this “staying in the moment” in the past week or so (part of the reason behind my abstinence from posting any article in this period as I wanted to try this before preaching it) and tried to really consciously stay in the moment every single second that I was awake.
It was really hard at the beginning as I found my thoughts wandering all the time but I found that once I was able to exert control onto myself consciously in the form of being in the moment, I started looking at possible approaches to daily situations that I am not sure I would have thought of, earlier. Those who know me would say I am not of the kind that gets stressed very easily, but I can honestly see the positive impact this simple approach has had in my life already.
I have by no means perfected it yet. I am sharing this in the hope that it really makes someone’s day, or goes at least some level towards alleviating the stress of someone reading this article – that, my friends, would make my day!!!
Image Credit: Jiths