Handling the Mind during Isolation

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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.