As part of our Home & Living series, Simran Mehra, delves deep into the depth of meditation, a practice that is important always but now more than ever, as we find ourselves in the grips of a Black Swan event – the COVID crisis of 2019.
Simran Mehra is a healing practitioner, specialising in Chakra meditation, an ancient Indian technique of balancing and aligning the energy centres of the body, as a means of attaining optimal health and well-being.
What is a Black Swan?
For one of the most influential authors of our time, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Black Swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions, epidemics, to events in our personal lives.
There are three principle characteristics of a Black Swan: it is unpredictable; it has a massive impact on humanity; and after it has happened, our desire to make it look less random and more predictable than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a Black Swan, so was 9/11 and so is the current COVID crisis of 2019/2020.
We can never be fully prepared for such events – because fundamentally, they are absolutely unpredictable and catch us off-guard. However, speaking from experience, there is the one skill which can ensure that we remain resourceful and grounded in such times. Meditation.
“Meditation is not something you do, it is a state”
– Sadhguru Vausdev Jaggi
If an EEG were to monitor the frequency of brain waves of a person in meditation, it would detect the same frequency as measured in a sleeping state: theta or delta wave frequency. The only difference being that in meditation, a person is not asleep – he is Awake. And therein lies the beauty of this state.
It is the state in which the internal pharmacy of the body is active: it is the state in which the body produces hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin, melatonin and growth hormones – the internal boosts which are as healing as they are happiness-inducing
Setting the Stage for the “STATE”
- Cut the noise: The two main sources of noise which contribute to the voices in our head are news and social media. It is essential to minimise the time spent on collecting data points that are not going to help you. In times of uncertainty, it is precisely these forms of noise which fuel the anxiety, worry and fear that are already naturally present within us.
- Breathing exercises: Our breathing rhythm is a direct reflection of the state of our mind. If, in a moment of extreme anxiety or rage, you were to sit down and focus solely on breathing in and breathing out slowly, you will see that those emotions that had consumed you, have automatically subsided. Pranayama, for this reason is one of the best preparations for meditation
- Visualisation exercises: In moments of uncertainty or stress, the power of visualisation can work wonders on your state of mind. The ability to visualise a positive/beautiful future and experience those emotions, will actually make your body create those happy hormones in the present moment. One of the visualisation exercises I love are that of Joe Disepanza: It is sure to uplift your mood!
- Gratitude exercises: Where we focus our energy/thought is going to determine how we feel. If we choose to focus our thoughts on all that is troubling us, we are very simply going to be troubled. A simple exercise that is extremely effective, is to wake up each morning and think of one reason to be grateful that day. Every time you feel you are being pulled down, by reminding yourself of what you are grateful for, you switch the negative thought pattern to something positive. It is a sure shot way of taking back control of your thoughts and reality.
Meditate to Transform
For the sake of simplicity, I have categorised the three steps by which meditation can transform us and thereby transform our life:
- Create self-awareness: Meditation creates awareness of our emotions and the underlying reasons for those feelings. It is highly likely that a lot of these emotions come to surface while you start the practice – and you should absolutely acknowledge and release them. This can be through exhaling deeply, or by merely visualising these emotions as being released from the body – whatever you feel most comfortable with.
- Delay time between stimulus and response: Our responses to environmental ‘triggers’ are controlled by unconscious patterns, that are sometimes unpleasant and unnecessary. What meditation does is it delays the time between the stimulus/trigger and the response. It gives you the empowering ability to evaluate situations from a non-judgmental perspective and choose how you react and respond to any given situation. This is a life-changing act in itself.
It is a fallacy to believe that a meditator does not feel angry, or does not feel anxious. The difference lies in the ability to recognise it and to recognise that the nature of response is a choice.
- Reduce conflict and create an environment of peace and serenity within and outside: Needless to say, once we start choosing peace over conflict, and recognising our emotions and responding with a state of awareness, we reduce the conflict within us; and the conflict impeding our relationships. In times of uncertainty, it is natural to feel anxious and concerned. After all, as human beings we are not wired to deal well with uncertainty. However, by acknowledging that we are anxious, we automatically take away the power the anxiety has to control our mind space- and we can channelise that energy toward something that can make us a lot more resourceful.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing- the last of human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”
– Victor E. Frankl.
In any given situation in life where we feel trapped and helpless – the current scenario being a great example – it helps to remind ourselves that we still have the power to choose what we want to make of it.