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What a difference a week makes. As we take steps out of the shadow of the pandemic, we find ourselves in an equally long, if not longer shadow — the shadow of another Cold War. The stress levels for millions of people went up so rapidly that one could feel the energy shift palpably towards fear, angst, anxiety, grief and disorientation. By Thursday evening, my mind was perturbed enough that I decided to shut off the faucet for a day or so. It was time to take a ‘mental health’ day and try and restore a bit of inner peace. 

I didn’t really imagine that this unraveling would be happening in our world, and happening so quickly. We live in a hyper-connected world of supply chains, social media, travel, food and energy dependencies, global partnerships and more. I have been asking some questions. How did we get here? How prepared are we to cope with these unprecedented stresses? How can we support each other better in these times?

It seems like we are all being given a stress test of the mind, the heart and our spirit. It reminds me of engineering school, where we used to perform stress tests on materials to determine their ‘breaking point’. There were tensile tests to measure stretchability, compression tests for crushability, torsion tests for bendability, and more. In medical science, we have stress tests to assess the heart’s health and functionality. What serves as a good stress test for our spirituality? 

A good stress test will stretch us, bend us, squeeze us, and maybe even break us in some ways.  It will make us question the efficacy of our practices, our ability to maintain inner peace.  On my ‘mental health day’, I shut down social media, the news stayed off, and I stayed off the internet at large. These steps helped stanch the inflow of stress-producing inputs, and yet, it wasn’t enough to reduce the effect of the accumulated peace-disrupting thoughts from the week gone by. I realized that I had to do some additional work to start restoring my equanimity. 

The work began by adopting a contemplative attitude, by asking questions. How could I, as an individual, influence the outcomes of the events that were stress-testing my mind? This contemplation led me to regain some focus of those things that I could indeed influence through my actions. Regaining focus led me to ask — what are my core, go-to practices, that best help to calm my mind? The four-fold answer was relaxation, meditation, inner cleaning, and prayer. Any and all of these practices work well to help me de-escalate stress when my mind is under attack. 

In the past twenty four hours, every time my mind has tended to wander off into the field of stress-inducing thoughts, I have used my awareness to pause and contemplate. What can I control? How many details do I need to know? Is this bit of information a consumer or a contributor to my vital life-force? With every contemplation, I develop a higher sensitivity to what is happening outside and within me. With greater sensitivity, I feel that I have better answers to respond to life’s stress tests. With better answers, I can create better outcomes, trust myself more, and orient my awareness towards peace, which creates happiness. 

Maybe the occasional stress-test is a good thing. Maybe I need to be grateful for the gifts of courage and resilience that stress tests bring with them? They can help me give me a reality check on how much spiritual progress I am really making! I don’t know of any curriculum that will prepare me for all of life’s stress tests. Awareness that love, truth and inner peace are all worth fighting for — perhaps remembering that is preparation enough?

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly twitter chat with the #SpiritChat community, Sunday, March 6 at 9am ET / 2pm GMT. We hope to gather and share techniques to pass our stress-tests with flying colors. Namaste – @AjmaniK

Nature often uses symmetry to cope with her stresses… or so it appears…

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