The Secret to Staying Centered and Happy in a Troubled World
Many of us are probably so used to crisis in the world that it has become a natural part of our mental scenery. We've grown accustomed to living in a world where acts of bitter conflict, unrest, and inhumanity are everyday things, and their constant contradiction with our essential values almost seems normal.
But are we really aware of the effect that these daily messages have on our minds and attitudes, on our inner life? How do we deal with our real feelings about the war, terrorism, the elections, the environment, and other issues? Do we even know those feelings are, aside from our general opinion? It's surprisingly easy to carry silent resentment, fear, and deep anxiety about these things without even realizing it.
Everyone knows it's important for any individual to stay balanced, but how can one do it when the pressure is on, when one is assaulted by negative messages from all sides?
Get in Touch with yourself.
People are usually much more willing to analyze an external issue and give opinions than to look inside themselves. Take a moment to get in touch with your inner response to a much talked about and urgent current event. Use some adjectives to describe your personal way of relating to the events you are aware of, and write them down on a piece of paper. Do you feel concerned, combative, hopeful, disgusted, despondent or numb? Are the feelings obvious or vague? Allowing your feelings to become clear to you gives you more power to influence them.
Decide what gets inside your head.
Every day, Americans are bombarded by information from advertisements and the media. Maybe in years past, news about world events used to come at a slower pace, often by word of mouth, but nowadays it's easy to overdose before finishing breakfast, on information about events occurring on the other side of the world.
Just as you make choices about the foods you eat, be judicious about what you allow to enter your mind. What you hear and see affect what you think, and what you think over time determines the quality and substance of your life. How necessary is it to read the entire newspaper every day, or to listen to and share office or family gossip? What other possibilities can you think of for your valuable time?
Train yourself to consistently stay on guard, and watchful of the external messages constantly contending for your precious attention. Make it a point to actively allow or deny them entrance, according to your best judgment. Over time, this kind of work on yourself will help you be freer of the invasion of external messages, and to help you think more clearly and precisely.
Invest in your personal Vitality (Wind your Clock)
Much like a car depends on gas, everything you do in life is made possible by your level of vitality or energy, especially the decision to remain inwardly balanced and happy. Surprisingly, your energy comes from many more sources than just the food you eat.
For example, in Hypsoconsciousness by John Baines, a book of consciousness-developing exercises, the author describes a consciousness building exercise where the individual moves very slowly and carefully, in a relaxed manner, mentally concentrating on the movement. Any physical movement (such as writing or walking) works and is performed at an exaggeratingly slow pace for five to ten minutes, and sometimes more. After practicing this exercise, you should feel an increase in vitality, presence, and greater mental clarity. Try this exercise when you feel fatigued, and see how it makes you feel.
Take life as a Challenge
When life is taken as a healthy challenge, difficulties seem more like an engaging game; it becomes more intense, joyful, and real. To spend most of our lifetime fearfully avoiding problems ultimately doesn't work, because fear contaminates our every act, and in the end, we have to deal with even more problems. Things take a different color when we accept difficulties as normal, patiently work through them, and don't assign so much negative emotional weight to them. This takes development of the will.
Try this suggestion: Set one small goal for yourself this week. For example, if you hate washing dishes, set yourself the challenge of washing the dishes with a light, cheery attitude for the entire week. If you tend to be shy around people, go to a party with the specific aim of chatting comfortably with a few strangers. Whether you succeed or not, if you take the right attitude with this exercise, you will see yourself and your possibilities differently. Remember to take small steps - making the challenge too difficult or too easy defeats the purpose.
Seeing the Big Picture
Have you ever been positively influenced by a person who had some quality you admired? Sometimes just one well balanced and positive person can affect a great number of people just by the way he or she "is". It's been said: "If you want to change the world, start with yourself." Though it's tough to accept at first, each of us who is concerned about the world can make a contribution with our own development, with our own growth. It's easy to feel powerless in the face of negative events on a global scale, to give up, to contaminate each other with opinions, or to avoid how we feel. These things only make matters worse, on the inside and out. The most potent tool each person has for attaining genuine happiness is his or her potential for self development, and the greater the number of people who work on themselves, the greater the effect on the world.
Junod Etienne is a Workshop Presenter at the Institute for Hermetic Philosophy in New York. The ideas and exercises in this article originate from the Teachings of philosopher and author Dario Salas Sommer, who writes under the pen name John Baines. For more information about the Institute, consider attending an upcoming Workshop.