Connection to our inner system of being is now a necessity as we are confronted with the spiraling disintegration of external systems. Systems that once provided security, zones of comfort, that today are battle zones as economic, social and political collapses -- minor or major -- confront our sensibilities daily. In many parts of the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas, systems are in tatters. They are in states of dissolution because the value principles they once espoused with sincerity have turned into a glib adherence. Globally, there are far, far more talkers than walkers these days. The gap keeps widening and only a change in mentality can bridge the chasm between the saying and the doing, the ideal and the reality.
How to survive? However, it is not a matter of surviving but of living. Well-being for the individual, society and the planet is not a system of "rat race" tactics. Well-being is comprehensive, and does not espouse the "survival of the fittest" formula. Often, I am told: "It's a rat race." However, "I am not a rat!" I exclaim in reply.
We are the human family. We cannot resign ourselves to the maxim, "It's a dog-eat-dog world." Spirituality is the consciousness that takes all of us above such a mercenary level of existence. Spirituality gives us another set of eyes through which we cherish difference, cultivate happiness and have access to equal opportunity as the modus operandi for creating a livable life. Insecurities, on whatever level, create fears that generate ruthlessness in life that is contrary to our innate humanness. A society that instills and extols the value of a blind zealous ambition to achieve social glory in the eyes of the self and others -- either through name, money, race, religion, position, or power -- is dead. It becomes too noxious to keep existing. A crisis must happen, as it is the only possible means for exit.
There is now a call to reactivate the inner system of our being. The inner system has variously been called the soul or the spirit, but whatever word we may use, it pinpoints a core energy that is unique and natural, where our blueprint for living humanely resides. From time to time this system is forgotten in societies, so individuals appear whose task it is to reawaken its awareness. In history these are called the great teachers, the enlightened ones who bring us back to a state of remembrance of who we are and why we are.
The reminder that an inner system exists has always been necessary, which explains why throughout the course of time so many spiritual paths have emerged. However, it seems that now the universe is issuing an urgent mandate for everyone everywhere to remember the relevance of this spiritual system as the world's external systems are disintegrating at a colossal speed. A shower of power that relaxes, refreshes, recharges the discharged, damaged battery of our being is necessary. Someone may think more than just a shower is needed, that actually a torrent is required! Yes, we need a lot of inner power; however, it's essential to start gently. Too much too soon can be counterproductive. Starting with a little recharging each day can slowly and gradually empower our being. The first step for this is silence. All new things begin from a reflective space.
Many are seeking silence, a space of quietness where the self can meet the self . Meditation is viewed more and more as a genuine method for emotional, mental and physical well-being. To release stress, anxiety, and bad feelings, and to be at true peace with the self is the basis for functioning in the outer world of relationships. External systems start to be healed, start to rejuvenate when the internal system of each individual begins to resurrect. We reach the inside of ourselves through silence.
To take time out for silence on a daily basis becomes a smart method to facilitate the change from survival mode to living mode. Some ask what silence is. Here are a few possible perspectives:
- A place of quarantine: to recognize the germs of resentments, tensions, and pressures, and then decide to clean them out of our systems. Spiritual immunization on a daily basis.
- A place of deep rest where, in that quietness, we rest both physically and mentally -- otherwise, when we push mind and body to extremes, they start to dysfunction.
- A place of peace where there is contentment and ease, which gives rise to a greater clarity in my thoughts. A clarity that facilitates appropriate responses to people and situations rather than knee-jerk reactions.
- A place of grace where connection with the divine assists regeneration.
This inner place of renewal can be created by practicing four steps each day. (Of course, there may be other steps, but just to keep things manageable I have written about four):
1) Each Morning: Awake and Appreciate.
On awakening, take the self out of the bedroom because the vibrations of sleep may put one back to sleep if trying to meditate. Sitting in a quiet corner, I create my first thoughts: "Gently, lovingly, I connect with my soul-self. I am a being of peace and harmony. I appreciate this new day of my life, for there will be fresh opportunities and new learning. I am at peace with myself. I am peace." Taking this shower of positive thoughts in the morning, I am empowered for the day. Length of time in meditation depends on the individual, but most important is complete concentration, not to be distracted by anything, otherwise the energy disperses and the empowering does not take place. One can gently repeat the same thoughts as often as one needs and then come to a stillness where thinking is not necessary. That stillness showers the self with great inner serenity.
2) Daytime: Stop and Link Six or Seven Times.
Take time to create time, even just a minute. For a minute or even 30 seconds, I stop and link in silence to my inner self. With a breath, relax, slowly concentrating on these thoughts: "I relax. I am peaceful... calm... free. I am peaceful. I relax. I am peace." When these thoughts seep into my consciousness, it eases tension. Repeating these thoughts slowly and deeply and becoming stil,l I can feel that shower of peaceful power inside. If done with deep attentiveness and ease, this exercise removes fatigue and refreshes. It's a mind nap that restores energy, especially when one can hold the stillness during after the thoughts.
3) Daytime: Check, Change and Enjoy.
Check habitual negative reactions such as anxiety, anger, labeling and critical conclusions about the self or others. Discern. I dialogue with the self: "Take another route, as you know such thoughts and attitudes entangle you in the same mindset over and over again. Today I will do myself a great favor and stop this." Decide, for without determined decisions, nothing will change for the better. Consistent mindfulness changes self-sabotaging patterns and new patterns of respectfulness create joy in me and others.
4) Each Evening: Evaluate and Rest.
For a deep and relaxing sleep, what can help is to assess the day and ask the self two questions:
- What specific thing did I do better today?
- What specific thing could have I done better?
So one hand, appreciate the changes in the self, while simultaneously watching out for improvement. Both are necessary for mature and balanced progress. Going too much one way or the other one can become unrealistic -- either becoming too hard on the self, or thinking, "I have changed enough, let others do it now!"
After this evaluation I become silent, connecting to my inner system, to that original serenity of self. Going beyond thoughts, beyond the day and remaining in the awareness of "I am." In this evening meditation, we use "om shanti." Om means, "I am a soul. I am peace." This "I am" consciousness anchors me in the present -- no deflections to past or future, but centered in this moment of time. Such anchoring in the moment releases all tensions, and peace flows through all my being. In this state of total relaxation I am ready for a good night's sleep. The "om shanti" meditation can also be used first thing in the morning, and also at the minute stops during the day.
This exercise should be done not in the bedroom but in the same meditation corner as the morning. It's the final shower of the day. Our last thought of the day is linked to the first thought of the next day. I go to sleep clean, I will wake up clean.
Positive results are simply a matter of consistent practice. So to take showers of positive thoughts and practices, create a better me and consequently a better friend, a better colleague and a better person to others.
To finish with the words of one 96-year-old yogi from India, Dadi Janki, who at the very beginning of my journey 35 years ago gave me this simple but clear direction:
What is the difference between peace and silence?
Peace is something we want inside. Silence is when we leave the world outside, to go inside. When we go inside we are able to find the peace that we have lost. We have not actually lost peace but we have forgotten that it is inside. Only through silence can we find it again. It's a daily journey of stopping, becoming quiet and remembering.
Her words reminded me of the meaning of the Greek word for truth "alithea," which literally means "not to forget" -- each day, to remember who, where and why we are. This is the mindfulness that keeps us in the right space and generates confidence irrespective of what is happening around us. In silence, we are in a state of remembering. That remembrance becomes experience, which creates the energy to renew, heal, reconcile, hope and envision.
For Just-a Minute meditations: www.just-a-minute.org
For more by Anthony Strano, click here.
For more on meditation, click here.
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