Positive thinking: Grace under pressure
‘Have a bomb-blast free Eid’ is one of the Eid greetings I received this time. A rather unusual and sad greeting. With news of skyrocketing inflation, shaky economy, target killings and bomb blasts… it is quite easy to let it all go and slip into a state of depression thinking that your world is going to the dogs.
And yet upon a closer inspection, are we really that unique in our complaining?
Consider the following. 12th century. Balkh — (present day Afghanistan) Moulana Rumi’s father, Bahauddin Walad sat perturbed — he had seen in a dream that an invasion was on its way which involved bloodshed, pillage and destruction. A certain Halaku Khan prided himself on building towers of skulls. How safe could the people of that era have felt knowing a barbaric army was on its way? Or the people who lived through the World Wars? Or any wars? Or the people who still live in war zones? They all must have thought just like us that the world wais going to the dogs.
Is this in any way implying that we behave like ostriches-in-the-sand and pretend that everything is ok when it’s not? A kind of New-Age ‘All is well’? We know it is no fun when you get up in the morning (if a call or sms from an exuberant friend hasn’t already informed you in the night) to realise that there is ‘tension’ in the city. So, what might Grace Under Pressure mean in these circumstances? Could it possibly mean that we take a deep breath, tell ourselves yes, it’s bad and that due to some mysterious reason in energy, time, space and matter, we find ourselves living in these troublesome times (and not some idyllic village in an exotic land); but that other people have had it and continue to have it worse and that should give us the courage to get on with things.
Once the futility of dwelling on the senselessness of it all sinks in — what are some of the things we can practically do to ‘get on’ with things — choosing to limit the amount of news we absorb could be one of the foremost choices. It’s important to be informed to stay safe; however, being inundated is a sure way of allowing negativity to swamp us. With vested interests everywhere, with stories and counter stories, and politicians screaming at each other like mad on talk shows, just what and who does one believe? And then we add to the drama… bad news without any verification gets communicated and re-lived relentlessly. Whining, complaining and moaning is in fashion — the more you do the more fashionable you are; or so you think.
Turning away from the media’s morbid fascination is a task in itself and the vaccum needs to be filled — a turn towards healthier alternatives. Would one dare to suggest that you do whatever makes you feel better? A hobby, an interest, a pursuit? Selfish? Why not, I ask. Perhaps more ‘better feeling’ individuals in society will come up with calmer, saner solutions to all that surrounds us.
And to still counter any lingering feelings of ‘selfishness’ — would we like to think of compassion and contribution in any form, way, means we can? We don’t need to save the world but perhaps just those parts of the world that are present in our vicinity… the mali, the masi, friend in need, co-worker could all do with just a little compassion. Feelings of care and compassion help create hormonal shifts, so feeling better is not just in our heads, it’s happening in real time.
In addition, it can create some healthy alternatives in our minds — the unfairness happening all around us is so senseless and so out of our control but volunteering our time and energy to doing just our little bit — wherever it may be — gives us a sense of control, some sense to all this senselessness.
When things outside are so chaotic and a feeling of helplessness pervades, might it be a good option to turn inward towards the more esoteric practices of prayer and meditation? Coupled with deep breathing, these help in calming the stress chemistry. Practised on a daily basis they may allow more of us to believe that although hope seems to be fading… yet we could allow ourselves to hang in there and dwell on the possibility that there could be a chance of things “being turned upside down to become right side up” (Doc Childre). That eleventh hours do end, and that the hour is darkest and coldest just before dawn.