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Handling the Mind during Isolation

Mind-The toughest thing to handle

Namaste. Quar­an­tine, is a peri­od that is pret­ty tough to han­dle. Agreed. But hav­ing been on self-quara­tine for more than 100 days, which in oth­er words is also called mau­na tapasya. So mau­na is self-quar­an­tine, you iso­late your­selves not because of exter­nal cir­cum­stances, but because you are moti­vat­ed to go deep with­in, to research, so that can also be looked at as quar­an­tine. So in these tough times of imposed quar­an­tine, not self-imposed, but the out­er cir­cum­stances have imposed on us this quar­an­tine peri­od. How do we han­dle our­selves? How do we han­dle the mind, because that is the great­est chal­lenge. The rea­son why the great­est effort that a human being can put in, in the Indi­an tra­di­tion, is con­sid­ered han­dling one’s own mind. Reg­u­lat­ing one’s own mind. That is con­sid­ered the great­est effort, great­est chal­lenge. And that is very true, even now. So how do we han­dle our mind dur­ing this peri­od? So some prac­ti­cal insights that I can share through my own expe­ri­ence.

Responding to External Stimuli

One of the things that hap­pens is the mind, in reg­u­lar cir­cum­stances there are stim­u­lus, exter­nal stim­uli that stim­u­late us and we react or respond to exter­nal stim­uli. Now, dur­ing quar­an­tine, there are stim­uli com­ing from inter­net, social media, and so on. But it is impor­tant to reg­u­late that response. If that capa­bil­i­ty is not built, then you might over­re­act and that will become a big prob­lem. That will cre­ate con­flict with­in and with­out, in very lim­it­ed cir­cum­stances. Now, in reg­u­lar real­i­ty, there is suf­fi­cient diver­si­ty, and hence you can dis­si­pate that kind of reac­tion. But when you are in quar­an­tine, it is very lim­it­ed play­ing ground. So you need to han­dle this appro­pri­ate­ly. So towards that the first step is a state of sak­shi, sak­shi means a wit­ness. Being a silent wit­ness to what­ev­er stim­uli comes in, either through social media that caus­es fear, inse­cu­ri­ty, what­ev­er, hand­ing it with a bal­anced mind. Towards that devel­op­ing a sak­shi bha­va becomes very very impor­tant. So how does one do it, it is a state of non-reac­tion. Non-reac­tive­ness. You get stim­uli, but you stay put. You allow it to be, not jump­ing into it. So towards it, you will need to look at, one thing is food, are you tak­ing in too many stim­u­lants? For exam­ple, tea, cof­fee, an over­dosage of tea and cof­fee is like strong stim­u­la­tion to the ner­vous sys­tem. But in quar­an­tine peri­od there is no scope for expres­sion. Aee you doing that? If so, you will need to shift towards a more bal­anced diet, sattvic diet that does not over­stim­u­late your ner­vous sys­tem.

So one such diet is poha. It is a very prac­ti­cal thing…all over India, ide­al vra­ta food, a quar­an­tine food is poha. And its deriv­a­tives. So recipes of poha, so those become very use­ful. In Tamil Nadu, it is called aval. So out­side all Muru­gan tem­ples you will find aval, pori, pori kadalai, these are stan­dard self-quar­an­tine diet. And they are very pow­er­ful, because they don’t stim­u­late. They ener­gize you but they don’t stim­u­late, and hence you’d be able to main­tain your bal­ance of mind. Even in the face of stim­uli. So that sak­shi bha­va is very crit­i­cal.

Handling Boredom

The sec­ond aspect is han­dling bore­dom. What do you….? Because gen­er­al­ly in reg­u­lar life you have so many stim­u­lat­ing things. And it is very engag­ing. You’d like to engage with dif­fer­ent kinds of stim­uli, if we can look at it that way; we are look­ing at prin­ci­ples. In quar­an­tine, you don’t have that, it is more like vir­tu­al stim­uli. So through social media, through this, through that, so vir­tu­al stim­uli. This is like an abstrac­tion, so when this under­stood, then you see, our sense of bore­dom is because we expect that diverse stim­uli that we are used to in reg­u­lar life, but not hav­ing that now. So how do we sim­u­late this stim­u­la­tion. That is the key thing. How do we sim­u­late this diver­si­ty of stim­uli. If you are able to sim­u­late it, then you are any­how engaged, even dur­ing quar­an­tine. So in vir­tu­al real­i­ty, through social media and so on, how do you cre­ative­ly stim­u­late your­selves? There, mak­ing sure that you have a diver­si­ty of activ­i­ties with­in home is very use­ful. So start with a good exer­cise rou­tine, now is the time to get into yoga asanas, pranaya­ma, a lit­tle bit of med­i­ta­tion, a lit­tle bit of visu­al­iza­tion, a lit­tle chant­i­ng, some exer­cise for your brain in terms of some art, learn­ing some instru­ments, say even math, puz­zles. Stim­u­lat­ing your brain activ­i­ty. And of course there is work. Neg­a­tiv­i­ty is not a stim­u­la­tion. Neg­a­tiv­i­ty is just not worth it. Both receiv­ing neg­a­tiv­i­ty and spread­ing neg­a­tiv­i­ty just does not serve the pur­pose. So cre­ative­ly engag­ing your­selves is a very impor­tant anti­dote for bore­dom.

Idle Cycles of the Brain: Mantra Japa

And one very impor­tant thing is, you can­not always engage your­selves, and hence in com­put­er sci­ence we have this won­der­ful con­cept called idle cycles. The proces­sor, when it is not doing any­thing spe­cif­ic, it is doing idle cycles. So it is also doing these idle cycles. So these idle cycles, idle com­mands, these idle instruc­tions, keep on going. They occu­py proces­sor time. So that is a very use­ful con­cept to under­stand. Even while in the traf­fic sig­nal, the vehi­cle is idling, it is not into a spe­cif­ic gear but it is idling. Like­wise, you will need to idle the mind. Now you would have stud­ied that an idle mind is a devil’s work­shop. So that is not doing idle. I am talk­ing about doing idle. So how do you do idle? It is through mantra japa. One of the utmost effec­tive ways. So you chant your mantra, syn­chro­nize it with your breath­ing, with a smile, and keep on with it. Then you have a stim­uli that is com­ing in, you need to respond to it, you act, and back again to your mantra. Then you get on to your action, back again to your mantra. Get onto action, back again into your mantra. The mantra pro­vides the back­drop, the sta­ble back­drop where the mind is engaged, does not go into neg­a­tiv­i­ty, but is not doing any­thing spe­cif­ic. Unless and until there is a spe­cif­ic response that is required. This is some­thing very use­ful to under­stand. Then, the quar­an­tine peri­od you will see, is a pow­er­ful mech­a­nism for self-intro­spec­tion. Because now you have the time with you to intro­spect, to look at what has hap­pened to you in your lives, and see how do you wish to go ahead, what all you can cor­rect, so that you don’t need to repeat the mis­takes of the past, you can build on your strengths, over­come your weak­ness­es. All of that cre­ative build­ing strength can hap­pen dur­ing this peri­od. That is the pow­er of quar­an­tine. That is the rea­son why peo­ple under­take mau­na tapasya, to come out strong. When you come out of this quar­an­tine peri­od, you will emerge strong. You will be able to suc­ceed at what­ev­er you take up. You will be a much bet­ter human being than you were before. And that all is a pos­si­bil­i­ty dur­ing this quar­an­tine. Namaste.


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