As the whole world comes to a halt and we withdraw into our shells, I have taken some time to ask myself: How can I prepare myself to handle a situation for which I have no previous experience? It is an unprecedented situation so how can I leverage all that I have learned in my life so far. We are in week one of partial lockdown in Switzerland; weather is great, birds are chirping, all loved ones are healthy, fridge is stocked and I can still breathe deeply.
In week one my family and I are still enjoying and discovering the novelties of pressing pause on our busy lives. Our teenage children are forced to stay home with us and we happily adjust and allow room for each other but my instinct tells me week two or three of this will be harder. What if I am impacted? What if our loved ones are impacted? What if my parents who are highly immuno-compromised seniors in India are impacted? With the travel ban we cannot even be by their side. STOP. Just these thoughts are enough to send me into a panic and I feel my power ebbing away. I want and need to raise my vibration, my energy. I want to feel strong so that I can face any challenge in life with grace and wisdom.
So whilst things are still calm, I take the time to withdraw into my shell and get clear on the person I want to be in a situation like this. What follows are some reflections from my self-inquiry and the promises I make to myself.
From my years in Human Resources, high potential performers were identified by their resilience and agility when operating in a rapidly changing environment. Resilience is the ability to quickly recover from difficult situations and agility to move quickly and easily within a difficult situation. The situation we are in is no different, overnight things have changed and there is no certainty about the future. No certainty about the future…even writing that sentence feels unreal. I believe we will make it through if we adhere to the guidelines, however will life ever be the old normal after such a global crisis? I believe our resilience and agility is going to be the key to get through this and what comes after. So how can I develop my resilience and agility?
By being in charge of myself. I am a lover of all religions and a follower of none in particular, I like to pick and mix concepts that resonate with me from different offerings. Belonging to JAIN religion, it is indeed closest to my heart. The word JAIN comes from the word JINA, which means ‘the Conqueror of Self’. The one who conquers their passions, emotions and fears can think and act clearly. Well that sounds quite good to me and quite in line with resilience and agility. The concept of being a self-conqueror for me was best demonstrated in the 20th century by Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor, in his book Man’s search for Meaning, Viktor shares his experience and learnings from being at Auschwitz. A quote by him resonates with the JINA in me:
“Everything can be taken away from you, your clothes, your dignity, your identity but no one can take away your freedom to choose your attitude in any situation.”
I feel called to re-read this book to remind myself of all that I would love to live by. So my next question to myself is: What is the attitude I want to cultivate now?
I want to feel strong and victorious. I want to play the leader and not the victim, find opportunities and not flaws, be grateful and not complain, respond and not react and if in my last moments I want to be able to surrender with grace.
As per Jainism, Jina or a Self Conqueror lives as per the Ratnatraya (the three jewels) Right Knowledge, Right Beliefs, and Right Conduct. This framework resonates with me.
What do I need to know? What are the reliable sources of information? What do I need to refrain from? How much is enough? Being rightly informed will guide my actions and refraining from irrelevant sources will help with managing my vibration.
My beliefs shape my attitude and actions. With so much uncertainty, fear of the loss of loved ones, financial insecurity and even fear of death. We are in a situation which is out of our control. As Viktor Frankl writes “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
My belief system is being challenged. I find myself revisiting my views on life and death, creating What if? scenarios but mostly I want to believe that we will make it through. Worrying will not solve the problem. Why worry when I am not there yet? I tell myself to live in the moment. It is scientifically proven that when we worry, our body feels the emotions of the thought and our subconscious mind cannot differentiate between reality and imagination. So with just our thoughts we can send our nervous system to stress mode and what happens when we stress? It impacts our immunity and what do we need the most right now? A strong immune system. I refuse to let negative, painful thoughts impact my immunity. I am observing carefully my inner mental dialogue and course correcting along the way.
Yoga philosophy recommends “Sakshi Bhava”, or become the witness. Don’t get lost in the thought or the emotion, become the observer, the witness, the seer, recognize the thought or the belief and the sensations it creates in the body. I am more than my body, my thoughts, my emotions, I am the one who is witnessing my experience. This one can be a difficult concept to grasp. Simply said, catch the bad feeling thought and nip it in the bud. My mind is fertile land, I can choose whether I plant weeds or seeds. What beliefs do I need to let go of? What new beliefs will serve me?
I am safe, strong and healthy. My loved ones are safe strong and healthy. Our world is healing and healthy. This too shall pass.
My new beliefs are my affirmations, my prayer, my mantra that I repeat with conviction almost 5 times a day like the Muslims do their Namaaz.
The third jewel, Right Conduct, is the implementation of all the above. Doing the right thing with the right attitude. Our routines have been unsettled and we find ourselves challenged with operating differently. Key for staying grounded and feeling strong is my commitment to my self-care rituals. To strengthen my immune system and my mind, I will ensure that I am sleeping deeply, moving enough, nourishing myself, detoxing my space and cultivating healthy relationships.
Generations before us were forced to go to war, communities were destroyed by bombs. Millions have been uprooted and placed in refugee camps. My parents were forced to move to a different continent with a baby in their arms and no money. Medics around the world are now working non-stop in dangerous environments to protect the innocent or save the infected. If these brave souls can endure such extreme hardships, I can for sure manage my perspective through this uncertainty.
We so easily say that the next generation feels so entitled but actually didn’t I feel entitled to my freedom, my indulgences and quality of life? Was I not used to my comforts and luxuries? Why should I be more deserving than any other generation? I am grateful for this reminder and I want to practise more gratitude. I am going to cherish each meal, reduce wastage, enjoy the extra cooking and cleaning that this brings and much more. So whenever my vibration goes down, I am going to find something to be grateful for in the situation to bounce it back up.
“Those who have a Why to live can bear with almost any How to live.” Viktor Frankl inspires me to find meaning in my current situation. As I am not yet fighting for survival, I will still aim to thrive. How can I still live with purpose and be in service to my community? He found meaning at Auschwitz by offering his medical services to other prisoners.
“For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”
I will discover my purpose in this given situation by volunteering my talents and skills and finding ways to help my community, even if to just one person. I will reflect back on the grudges I hold, forgive and seek forgiveness. I will help others find meaning in their own situations. I would love to spread joy, love and laughter despite the circumstances.
I am choosing my attitude. I will be mindful of my breath, be graceful in my actions and wise with my words. I will show resilience when things do not go as planned and be agile when accepting new ways. I will practice self-care, be grateful for the smallest things and live my life daily with purpose.
I feel I am living my purpose in the moment by sharing this intimate reflection with you, bearing my soul and in doing so, if it helps even one of you find some inspiration, then that would mean my work is done.
So what would be the note you would write to yourself?