It’s been a year of upheavals, especially for couples cooped up at home. Their dynamics changed deeply impacting their view of each other, the relationship, and their respective positions within the relationship. They were forced to manage a crisis—sudden decision to work from home (WFH), online classes, no house help, restricted accessibility, etc.
As tensions increased couples found themselves constantly trying to make fair or right decisions and create backup survival plans. These provoked feelings of insecurity and a desperate need to reconnect and preserve one’s identity.
Ideally, when disaster strikes, it requires couples to discuss, share fears and concerns and negotiate their strategy— how bad is it? Is this as bad as it can get? Will it get worse? Often, they position themselves with different answers to these angst-ridden questions. They begin questioning themselves and suspect that their partner doesn’t understand thereby initiating the destructive pattern of taking out their frustrations on each other!
Pre-pandemic the physical act of leaving home for work meant that couples could transition from their marriage mode (at home) to work mode (at the office) effectively. Often, the tendency was to give their best at work while the leftovers came home. With WFH, this became more challenging.
Here’s what can help when rebuilding the relationship to ensure that WFH is an enjoyable experience.
• Emotional check-in: WFH calls for quick toggling between multiple roles. This can feel emotionally exhausting. Even though couples might admire or be aware of what their partners are doing, they fail to consciously and vocally be attentive. This makes the partner feel less important and alone. The loneliness increases when they see them checking in on their colleagues or friends and asking how they’re doing or feeling and how they can help. It’s not like they’re thinking about them more. It’s just that they’re doing a better job of accepting the vulnerabilities of others.
• Be there: Partners do value each other’s attitude towards work and their desire to achieve their goals. Their internal struggles (competing with a colleague, fending off a manager, feeling others are smarter or doing better, am I relevant, do I belong, am I good enough, can I catch up) can feel unsettling. Instead of leaving them feeling troubled and neglected, a partner’s presence can bring relief and calmness.
• Say it: You’re both equally busy so clearly ask for what you need physically, emotionally or otherwise. Don’t expect your partner to assume or understand the unsaid. When things feel frightening or become difficult, knowing you can ask for help makes you feel grounded and less vulnerable. You don’t need to solve anything and perhaps your partner isn’t even looking for them. They just need you to acknowledge their experience and feelings.
• Share chores: Every couple needs to deal with the practicalities of life and the mundane tasks that must get done. These include household chores, managing finances, the upbringing of children and caring for elderly parents etc. For dual-career couples, this is a challenge and can lead to friction and resentment. List the tasks, drop the unnecessary ones, claim to do the ones you love, outsource others and then divide the rest or take turns. Clarity builds harmonious relationships.
• Fixed meal-times: Depending on work demands, the simple ritual of eating together as a family provides a sense of closeness and relaxation.
• Inform: WFH doesn’t mean that your partner will know your work schedule. It’s necessary to keep them informed about calls or meetings and deadlines. This ensures that the partner feels connected and can help to keep the family away or share responsibilities or provide the support needed. It also gives the notion of being a team.
• Spend quality time: Own this time for yourselves without children or the family. It can mean sharing a drink or walking after dinner or watching a movie or simply sitting and talking. It’s not about what you do, how much time you spend or the time of the day you choose. What’s important is to be together without interruption. Put in the effort till it becomes organic. Asking for attention might make you feel needy but if it’s a ritual then you’re exempt from minimising your needs.
• Get intimate: When you find yourself at a loss of words or don’t know how to react to a partner’s stress, use hugs and kisses freely. It will not only make them feel better but show how much you care and want things to work out for them. It’s a great way to repair a bad moment or interrupt a potential destructive pattern. Feeling the warmth in silence can make you feel calmer, closer and supported.
In a relationship, you connect, disconnect, and then reconnect again. Unfortunately, when there’s no reconnect, then the arguments and disagreements tend to go over on repeat making partners stay away from each other.
The writer is a mental health counsellor
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EXERCISE AND DIET CONTROL FOR THE MIND
Almost all over the world, physical ailments related to poor lifestyles are ravaging the health of a large section of the population. These diseases including diabetes, coronary artery disease, and hypertension, are prevalent in the young and old alike.
Recognising the root cause of these ailments, doctors are advising lesser dependence on medicines and stressing on exercise and diet control for maintaining physical health.
A wrong lifestyle can lead to several ailments, and such a lifestyle is rooted in the mind and seeded in the soul. Medical research has found that 85% of all diseases are psychosomatic: They are caused or aggravated by a mental factor such as internal conflict or stress.
To nip the problem in the bud, it is necessary to address it at the root level. This involves checking and changing the pattern of our thoughts.
This is what meditation is all about. If we sit down quietly for a while and observe the thoughts that arise in our mind, we will get an idea of where our mind is going. We will also recognise what kind of thoughts give us joy and which ones give us pain. Invariably, thoughts associated with positive qualities such as love, compassion, happiness, and knowledge, help us feel better. On the other hand, thoughts linked to vices such as anger, ego, hatred, and jealousy, produce discomfort and agitation.
Thoughts also trigger biochemical changes in the body by influencing hormonal processes. Positive thoughts sustained over a long time have positive health effects, while negative thoughts ultimately lead to disease.
After observing the thoughts, the next step is to give them a positive direction so that we can remain happy and healthy.
Having control over our thoughts means having the ability to focus the mind where we want, keep it there for as long as we want, and withdraw it at will.
Practising this frequently, starting with even a few seconds at first, helps us gradually develop control over the mind. This also reduces waste thoughts, which consume a lot of our time and energy.
While that is a rudimentary exercise to improve our concentration, gaining mastery over the mind requires some spiritual knowledge and exercise.
It helps to know that we are souls, not bodies. The mind and intellect are faculties of the soul. The brain, which is part of the body, is the hardware that enables the soul to control the body.
Exercising the mind involves taking our attention away from the physical body and the physical world, and directing it to our spiritual self, the soul. This is me—a sentient point of light and energy, separate from the body but dwelling in it. I, the soul, am the one who feels, thinks, speaks, and acts through the medium of the body. Doing this exercise regularly strengthens our awareness of our true identity and control over our mental and physical faculties.
Diet control goes with this exercise. Pure thoughts are the healthy diet of the mind. Creative thoughts are like vitamins, as they maintain our zeal and enthusiasm.
Positive thoughts, like proteins, build willpower, while thoughts of serving others are like carbohydrates, and provide energy to the mind.
Waste thoughts deplete mental energy and leave us weak. Negative thoughts are toxic and wreck mental health, eroding our ability to make the right judgment, take correct decisions, tolerate negative situations or face adversity. Such thoughts arise from body-consciousness but are seeded in the soul in the form of vices such as lust, anger, greed, and ego.
The most elevated thoughts arise during the practice of Rajyoga meditation when the soul lovingly remembers God, the father of all souls, the ocean of virtues.
Through this link the mind fills with purity, peace, power, and contentment, making us healthy and whole.
B.K. Sheilu is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.
This is what meditation is all about. If we sit down quietly for a while and observe the thoughts that arise in our mind, we will get an idea of where our mind is going. We will also recognise what kind of thoughts give us joy and which ones give us pain.
One of the hardest experiences in life is to watch the suffering of someone we love. Our intense desire to help is frustrated by an equally intense feeling of helplessness. When faced with the discomfort of this inner intensity, I have often jumped inside the circle of sorrow to stand next to my loved one. Although I experienced a momentary relief from feeling helpless, I was not very useful to them. The energy of my own sorrow, pity and worry stole my strength, weakened my words of encouragement, and made my presence a bit wobbly.
In French, the word for heart is ‘coeur’. It is the root of the word ‘courage’ and the verb ‘to encourage’. To encourage someone is to give them heart. I have discovered that the only way I can encourage another person is if my heart is strong. When I detach from my inner struggle and their sorrow, I can reclaim the wholeness of my heart and bring its strength to my loved ones. Then my words of encouragement and my presence are more powerful.
Through the journey of meditation, I am learning to stand next to my loved ones without stepping inside their sorrow. I am learning to give respectful space for the other person’s heart to beat at its own rate. My focus is on keeping my heart steady, calm and strong by connecting with my eternal nature of peace and love. This slight separation between my heart and theirs allows God’s energy to enter for healing.
As I strengthen spiritually by absorbing God’s love and power in silence, my presence brings soothing comfort and strength to others who are suffering. I have learned in Rajyoga that it is possible, over time, to become spiritually strong enough to be able to stand next to someone without absorbing their pain at all. As my pain heals, I have more energy to offer others in the form of encouragement and strength. When they feel this strength, they find the resources inside themselves to do what is needed to move forward.
Judy Johnson coordinates the activities of the Brahma Kumaris meditation centre in Atlantic Canada.
HONESTY CREATES PURE FEELINGS
Love is connected to virtues. Virtues create love within the self and within others. When virtues reduce, the quality of love is also reduced. When all virtues are present, there is complete and pure love. Out of all the virtues, the main one is honesty. If we feel someone is not being honest with us, our love breaks. Whether it is our mother, father, husband, wife or friend, if we feel they are being dishonest, love breaks. In terms of our relationship with God, if we are honest with God, we will draw His love. If we are not, that love will break. Even if we have no virtue other than honesty, we will be able to draw God’s love.
The first kind of honesty is honesty with myself. If I am honest with myself, there need be no situation in which I am not honest with others. If someone distrusts my honesty, perhaps it is a sign that I need to become more honest.
Honesty means to be very clear about everything going on inside us. Where there is honesty, feelings become pure and clean. Such clarity is reflected in our words; they will be filled with the power of truth and spoken with ease and without hesitation. The genuine honesty cultivated within us is what will reach out and touch others.
Creating our destiny
The question of whether a man is bound by fate or has free will has exercised the human mind for ages. Many believe that everything in life is predetermined and there is nothing we can do about it. Others dismiss this as fatalism and hold that we have all the freedom to do and be whatever we want.
Which of these beliefs is true, or does the truth lie somewhere in between? Some people say that our destiny is determined by God. Others believe that each person is born under the influence of certain stars or planets, which decide their destiny. Destiny, they think, is an overwhelming force against which struggle is futile.
The fact is that we create our destiny by our actions. Our present condition is the result of past actions, whether of this life or earlier ones. Our future depends on what we think and do in the present. So we have the power to determine our fate. We can make it great by doing great things, or choose to be ordinary, or bring about our downfall with wrong actions. We have the freedom of choice; once we make that choice, it becomes our destiny.
Of course, there are some things we cannot change, such as the body we are born with, or our family or race. But even these result from past karma. We are born in a certain place and family because we have karmic accounts to settle in that place, and with others in the family.
All situations in our life that are seemingly caused by factors beyond our control are the result of past actions. Nothing is accidental or a product of what people commonly call luck. Each and every soul in this world is reaping the fruit—good or bad—of their actions.
This does not mean we are slaves of our past. We cannot change the past and we do not even know what all we have done in our earlier lives, but we can choose how we react when faced with the consequences of our actions. When we accept all situations in life as products of our ac-tions, we are saved from much worry and sorrow. A clear understanding of the law of karma brings the realisation that we are getting exactly what we deserve. Then we do not blame God or other people for our problems. Instead of grumbling or grieving, we can take heart from the fact that our accounts are being settled.
Such acceptance does not mean being passive. We can do all in our power to change things for the better. At the very least we can develop patience, tolerance and fortitude by facing adversi-ties—all these qualities make us stronger.
The law of karma operates even at the level of thoughts. When thoughts are acted upon, a bigger karmic account is created. As they say, “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny”.
Thus, if we want a good future for ourselves, we need to start with good thoughts. This is a con-scious choice subject to our will.
Some people complain that they want to be positive but negative thoughts brought about by their circumstances thwart them. This is where meditation comes in.
Rajyoga meditation teaches us to transform our thinking and, thereby, our life. It begins with re-minding ourselves that we are souls, and dwelling on the soul’s innate qualities of peace, purity, love, and joy. We also remember that we are children of the Supreme Soul, our loving, benevo-lent, and Almighty parent.
Regular practice of Rajyoga helps us experience the peace and love within us, and draw more of the same from our Father, who is an inexhaustible source of virtues. When the soul is repeatedly imbued with goodness, one feels content and fulfilled, and damaging habits of the past lose their hold on us. As the quality of our consciousness changes, so do our actions, and, ultimately, our destiny.
B.K. Asha is director of the Brahma Kumaris’ Om Shanti Retreat Centre in Gurugram, Haryana.
HAS MAN STILL NOT LEARNT TO PRAY?
Man is searching for some dependence. Man needs dependence. He is frenetically searching for dependence. Someone takes to dependence in counting the beads and someone wants to find a path to God and someone wants to possess everything to lend him dependence. And someone gets ready to drink the whole ocean of life.
Let some assumption of God give you dependence. Let some deities lend you dependence. Let possession of wealth lend you dependence. Dependence is in fact your insecurity. Your God becomes your insecurity. Your mantra becomes your dependence. Your religion becomes your dependence. That does not let you drink the ocean of life to make you independent.
Why man is searching for dependence? Because man is afraid of the unknown. Whatever pleasurable he has known he wants to replicate in future. The mind works in future. Whatever that you need now you can get now. But your mind makes planning not just this life but the next ones. You ask which one of the Gods, the deities should one believe and follow. Hindus have millions of Gods. You ask which one is the right one to believe and follow. You are asking which Guru you should believe and follow.
You are walking on the path. In fact, you do not know where this path will lead you to. Because you don’t know where you are headed. Therefore you need dependence. You need maps if you wish to go. But your dependence on your mind is absolute. It does not need any external dependence. All external dependence call it wealth, kingdom, fame, and God are poor copies of mind.
Have you noticed, during the pandemic, how the arrangement of Gods that mankind developed falls? You do not go to temples or places of worship when you need to worship God the most. Then it is said God is everywhere. Atheists believe that God is not there. And theists believe that God is there. But both have not encountered God. An atheist is far truthful than the so-called theist who believes first and wants an encounter with God later to believe.
Theists believe and repeat words written in the scriptures to believe in God. That’s dependence. When a man dies. Hindus chant ‘Ram Naam Satya Hai’-Thy name is the truth. If someone asks them whether they believe that ‘thy name is the truth’. They say yes without knowing and understanding ‘thy name is the truth’. Because to know ‘thy name is the truth’, an encounter with That-Which-Is is needed. Mere repetitions of words fall far short of an encounter. It’s like a picture of the universe vis-à-vis the universe. The picture is far different from the universe.
In the name of God, we have memorised words that were once spoken by seers who encountered That-Which-Is. But even after 5000 years, we keep repeating words without encountering God. Repetition of words does not denote any meanings to us that would once denote to seers. For us, they are dead words loaded with fear. A bird is singing and you rejoicing the birdsong is godliness than repeating dead words which have lost meanings in the temple is ungodliness.
During a pandemic the one who is wealthy and powerful have access to hospitals, medical science does not survive. At the time of a pandemic, we have lost all trust in money, modern medicine, Ayurveda all kinds of occultism and we have nothing else in our hands to try on. We fall back upon God to help. The only link that we have with God is repeating words used by seers. Nothing helps. What is the reason?
Man has forgotten to make prayers, religious conditioning has lent man irreligious. Prayers that were once said to God or in the praise of existence by the seers of Vedas were the first-person account of prayerfulness. But in the name of teaching Vedas, scholars began to repeat them. Prayerfulness was slowly lost into the overwhelming language.
Buddha asks us for being prayerful. Buddha tells us what does prayer mean? How does one pray and to who does one pray to? You have made all kinds of rituals but you have forgotten to pray. Who is the one who wants to pray? Buddha says before making prayer understand the one who is the one who wants to pray. Because the one who wants to make prayer is fast asleep. How does the one who is asleep make prayer? To begin the prayer know who wants to pray.
Buddha asks you first to know the one who wants to pray. Then first trust the one who you want to pray. Don’t search for dependence on protocols of praying. You learn to be prayerful without knowing who you pray to. You keep asking which God to pray to and how to pray to that God because the organisation of religions have told you that God has books of protocols for making prayers without which you may antagonize that God. Buddha says first trust the one who wants to pray. And then trust the one who you want to pray to.
But man is crazy. After Buddha had gone. People turned Buddha into God and started to make prayers to Buddha as God and they started believing in Buddha and bred new theism out of Buddha. Buddha began his journey as an anti-thesis to God. But once gone, Buddha has been turned into a sanctuary for millions of fast asleep ones searching for dependence in Buddha. Buddham Shranam Gachchami means that ‘I go to the refuge of the awakening’.
What we call life is a pandemic. There is no bigger pandemic than life. It terminates everyone in the end. When you trust the one who wants to pray, your whole being is filled with prayerfulness. Your trust in existence disperses your doubts. And when it disperses all your doubts the ocean of existence comes to you and you can drink the whole ocean to be one with it.
But man has made his life death-like. Death has become our religion. Our belief is in a pandemic than in our own existence. Your being is the temple and all your prayers are the prayers made to the one who is seated in the temple. Without the one who is there in you, your temple will no more be a temple. This body is the temple in which your prayerfulness flowers.
Remember our religious conditioning has set all types of protocols rituals for making prayers. But in them, we are not able to make a prayer. In the sanctum sanctorum of you, the temple of existence is abounding in prayerfulness. The whole universe is in deep prayerfulness. Oceans rise withdraws in prayerfulness. Sun, moon, stars lit in prayerfulness. Existence is pouring consciousness everywhere including you. When prayerfulness exists in that prime enormity, one who wants to pray can do nothing but express humble inability—‘how to pray’. That is when you become prayerful, that is when existence fills you up with prayerfulness. When you empty yourself in that total emptiness prayerfulness dawns on you. That is when you drink the ocean of life to be free from dependence.
The author is a spiritual teacher.
YOGA KEEPS YOUR HEART HEALTHY
For more than a decade now, every 29 September has been celebrated as ‘World Heart Day’ to raise awareness against heart-related diseases. But the latest survey conducted by a private company with a sample size of more than 1,12,000 over urban centres in India doesn’t portray an encouraging picture of Indians’ hearts. It says, 70% urban Indians are having a risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). 75% men between 30-34 have CVD risk followed by a similar percentage of men in the 35-39 age group, while among females 66% women are at CVD risk. 55% women in their 30s are at CVD risk. The survey mentions the following factors responsible for CVD risk:
• Diabetes/ Smoking / Cholesterol reading of 200 or more.
• HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein or good Cholesterol) reading of 50mg/dL or less.
• BMI of 23 or more (Overweight).
• BP reading of 140mmHG or more.
Earlier this year, Apollo Hospitals designed and IMRV surveyed heart diseases in India which covered 10 cities. The survey reveals that Indians are more prone to heart diseases due to their smaller calibrated arteries which are mostly responsible for the early deposition of lipids inside arteries and causing Atherosclerosis. While the size of the aorta for an Indian is 1 to 1.25mm, it is 2.5 to 3mm for those living in western countries. Thus, it is clear we Indians are genetically prone to heart diseases. The survey points out the following reasons for the same:
• Poor Stress Management
• Very little or no exercise
• Sedentary Lifestyle
• Consumption of Fat-rich food.
It also reveals that one-fifth of the deaths in India are from coronary heart disease. But by 2020, it will account for one third and a majority of them will be youngsters below the age of 40. WHO has identified India as the country which will have the largest cardiovascular disease burden in the world by 2020. Dr Bansal, head of cardiology department at JJ Hospital, says, “We Indians have bad genetics and we worsen it with our lifestyle that is becoming increasingly westernised and the diet is becoming too high in sodium and fat.”
But he added that it’s not too late to change the trend. Countries like Sweden have recorded lowered heart problems because of stringent efforts both by the state and individuals. He said that prevention of heart disease is as simple as consuming only cow’s milk, avoiding yolk of the egg, sticking to lean meat and eating many colourful fruits and vegetables. He opined “Indians have a wrong notion that only walks in the morning helps. Brisk walking at any time of the day is good exercise. People should at least take up yoga.
BENEFITS OF YOGA ON HEART DISEASE
A project carried for an year on 71 heart patients in a study group and 42 patients in a control group by Santacruz Yoga institute, Mumbai in 2004, with the aim of evaluating the role of lifestyle modification on yoga techniques, stress management, and dietary modification in retardation of coronary artery disease, concluded that yoga-based lifestyle modifications helped in regression of coronary lesions and in improving myocardial perfusion. The study group patients were given a family-based yoga program which included control of risk factors, dietary modifications, and stress management for an year. These were the results:
• Reduction of total cholesterol by 23.3% in study group patients as compared to 4.4% in the control group.
• Reduction of serum LDL cholesterol by 26% in study group patients as compared to 2.6% in the control group.
• Regression of heart disease by 43.7% of study group patients vs. 31% control group on MPI and 70.4% of study group vs. 28% of the control group on angiography.
•Arrest of progression
A good preventive program suggested by Dr P Namjoshi, preventive cardiologist, to tackle heart diseases includes:
• Education about the heart
• Effective Stress Management
• A healthy diet – high in antioxidants, low in fat and carbohydrates and high in fibre and quality protein
• Yoga for improved blood circulation and pranayama for better breathing
•Meditation for mental relaxation and rejuvenation.
• Exercises to improve collateral circulation and an annual heart check-up
Yoga assists in restoring equilibrium to the body and mind so that good health can flourish. It is particularly effective at dealing with stress-related disorders as it works at both physical and mental level. The asanas (body postures) works on the physical body and the meditation practices help to control and calm the mind. Regular yoga helps in preventing heart diseases and also assists in reducing the afflictions once heart disease is diagnosed. The benefits of regular yoga practices are many which have been understood by western countries also. Though yoga was invented in India, it is spreading rapidly in western countries in comparison to India. The estimated number of people in the US who practice yoga are sometimes as high as 20 million and it is a $6 billion industry there. Now the above surveys and available solutions should make the Indians wake up and embrace Yoga for better heart and health.
Arun Kumar Ghosh is Sri Sri Yoga Teacher.
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