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How to handle kids in pandemic times

Rwituja Gomes Mookherjee

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Children enjoy school, especially in their early years. Their lives revolve around the travel, friendships, eating together, sharing stories, creating things, playing, interacting with teachers, class participation, etc. There’s a lot more that children do in school other than learning.

The pandemic changed everything. Parents realised that with no clear end date in sight, children needed to quickly adapt to online schooling. But children’s initial excitement soon turned to boredom. What felt like a relief for most parents that their children could continue schooling within the safety of the home, gradually became a struggle.

Schooling from ‘home’

Unlike parents, with earlier experiences of working from home, most children had nothing to build on this novel experience. Besides, from their perspective, home and school are completely different physical structures, location and spaces. They represent different things and expectations from them are also distinct. This posed a hindrance to juxtapose life in school with schooling from home.

Earlier children had limited access to their parents’ devices. They used them judiciously for entertainment. With online classes, most children were given personal devices with the intent that they’re used exclusively for learning purposes. This shift from entertainment devices to learning devices was conflicting. Thus, parents occasionally found their children watching videos or playing games during online sessions.

Structure and discipline

Children need discipline and structure in their lives. Structure helps them understand what is expected of them, predict how adults will react to them and in turn how they should behave. Clear and consistent structure creates helpful boundaries.

Both the school and home provide these but differently. There’s flexibility at home and discipline changes form depending on each family member. At school, structures are rigorous, and they’re treated similarly based on established protocol.

Roles and responsibilities

Parents and teachers play different roles in children’s lives. Teachers prepare them to learn academic skills by creating lesson plans and assignments. Parents ensure children complete them timely and sometimes enrich their experience with tutoring and learning games. Schools were more responsible for the child’s education with parental support. Post pandemic, parental roles have increased significantly due to paucity of class timings and the need to safeguard them from excessive exposure to devices.

Anxiety

Children emotionally express themselves before developing the language to articulate their feelings. They quickly learn to manipulate emotions to strategically cope and manage their parents and environment. E.g., crying might work with one parent while whining works with another.

Teachers have a uniformed teaching style. Parents’ are emotionally lenient, and their personal styles are reflected when teaching. This difference confuses children so they inherently pick-up cues from teachers as they spend a significant amount of time at school. With online classes, parents have had to take the lead, while balancing work from home. This anxiety-provoking environment leads to conflict. Parenting role emphasises on being right and disagreements discourage them from giving in. This makes children feel compelled with no right to exercise their choice.

Parents equate this pandemic year as losing a year of schooling. They’re unable to demarcate between its short-term and long-term impact. Worries about the future overwhelm them and they resist sharing their fears and anxieties.

Social Skills

School participation and social gatherings build camaraderie and essential life skills. Children feel upset, lonely when isolated from their peers. During online sessions, their need to be heard aren’t satisfactorily met. Some push ahead while self-doubt of being judged make others apprehensive of class participation. Curiosity and experimentation help develop a thinking mindset. Also, building on each other’s competencies encourages teamwork. With restricted access to peers, children feel insecure and struggle under stress.

How can parents help? 1. Routine gives children direction and encourages independent behaviour. Parents should redefine schedules and routine. Children shouldn’t be allowed to wake up or go to bed late because they’re attending online classes. 2. Involve kids to create a comfortable and personalised desk space for school. With siblings and parents vying for room and space, children struggle to create boundary and ownership. 3. Set timings for gaming and TV. Restrictions and inability to participate in outdoor activities have forced kids to withdraw and create outlets online. 4. Children don’t think like adults. For them, gratification is mostly instantaneous. The language and tone used are important. What is said and what children hear can be very different. “Finish work now and play later,” may sound like their playtime is being restricted making the time to finish work seem longer. Be flexible and encourage children to define their future rewards. 5. When angry, parents exhibit certain patterns of behaviour or tend to repeat arguments. It’s important to choose one’s battles to retain the potency of an argument. 6. Conversations about behaviour change should happen when children are satiated, rested and attentive. It’s imperative to focus on the problem rather than being right. Too often parents believe that when children misbehave, it reflects their failure as “good” parents.

The writer is a mental health counsellor and blogger.

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Spiritually Speaking

Sanatana Dharma: Eternal occupation of the living entity

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The Sanskrit word Sanatana means “eternal” and the word Dharma means “occupation.” Therefore the term “Sanatana Dharma” can be taken to mean our eternal occupation. The Supreme Lord and His transcendental abode are both Sanatana, eternal, as are the living entities, and the combined association of the Supreme Lord and the living entities in the Sanatana abode (the spiritual world) is the perfection of human life.

Krishna is very kind to the living entities because they are His sons. Krishna declares in the Bhagavad Gita that, “I am the father of all.” There are many different types of living entities according to their different karma, and Krishna declares He is the father of them all. Therefore, time and time again, the Lord descends to this material world to reclaim all of these fallen, conditioned souls to call them back to the Sanatana, eternal, sky so that the Sanatana living entities may regain their original eternal positions in association with the Lord. Thus Krishna comes in different incarnations, or He sends His confidential servants as sons or acharyas to reclaim the conditioned souls.

Therefore Sanatana Dharma does not refer to any sectarian process of religion. It is the eternal function of the eternal living entities in relationship with the eternal Supreme Lord. Sanatana Dharma refers, as stated previously, to the eternal occupation of the living entity.

The English word “religion” is a little different from Sanatana Dharma. Religion conveys the idea of faith, and faith may change. One may have faith in a particular process, and he may change this faith and adopt another, but Sanatana Dharma refers to that activity that cannot be changed. For instance, liquidity cannot be taken from the water, nor can heat be taken from fire. Similarly, the eternal function of the eternal living entity cannot be taken from the living entity. Sanatana Dharma is eternally integral to the living entity. When we speak of Sanatana Dharma, then, we must take it for granted that it has no beginning or end.

That which has neither beginning nor end cannot be sectarian, for it cannot be limited by any boundaries. Yet those belonging to some sectarian faith will wrongly consider that Sanatana Dharma is also sectarian, but if we go deeper into the matter and consider it in the light of modern science, we can see that Sanatana Dharma is the business of all people of the world–nay, of all the living entities of the universe. Non-Sanatana religious faith may have some beginning in the annals of human history, but there is no beginning to the history of Sanatana Dharma because it remains eternally with the living entities.

The Bhagavad Gita states that the living entity has neither birth nor death, he is eternal and indestructible, and he continues to live after the destruction of his temporary material body.

To understand the concept of Sanatana Dharma, we must first try to understand the concept of religion from the Sanskrit root meaning of the word. Dharma refers to that which constantly exists with the particular object. We conclude that there is heat and light along with the fire; without heat and light, there is no meaning to the word fire. Similarly, we must discover the essential part of the living being, that part which is his constant companion. That constant companion is his eternal quality, and that eternal quality is his eternal religion.

When Sanatana Gosvami asked Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu about the constitutional position of the living being He replied that it is the rendering of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If we look at what is happening around us in the world we can easily see every living being is constantly engaged in rendering service to another living being. We can see that one friend serves another friend, the mother serves the son, the wife serves the husband, the husband serves the wife and so on. If we go on searching in this spirit, it will be seen that there is no exception in the society of living beings to the activity of service. The politician presents his manifesto for the public to convince them of his service capacity. The voters, therefore, give the politician their valuable votes, thinking that he will render valuable service to society. The shopkeeper serves the customer, and the artisan serves the capitalist. The capitalist serves the family, and the family serves the state. In this way, we can see that no living being is exempt from rendering service to other living beings, and therefore we can safely conclude that service is the constant companion of the living being and that the rendering of service is the eternal religion of the living being.

Factually we are related to the Supreme Lord in service. The Supreme Lord is the supreme enjoyer, and we living entities are His servitors. We are created for His enjoyment, and if we participate in that eternal enjoyment with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we become happy. We cannot become happy otherwise. It is not possible to be happy independently, just as no one part of the body can be happy without cooperating with the stomach. It is not possible for the living entity to be happy without rendering transcendental loving service unto the Supreme Lord. Therefore, to summarise, the Sanatana Dharma of every living entity is the rendering of service. No matter what religion one professes to belong to, this eternal occupation of rendering service remains with the living entity. To perfect one’s life, one simply requires the redirection of this service. Instead of serving in the material world, he can serve Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This process, transforming one’s service from persons and objects in the material world to the service of Krishna in the spiritual world, is the art of Krishna consciousness and as we progress in this newsletter we will discover how we can easily transform seemingly material activities into liberating transcendental activities, by performing them for the pleasure of Krishna.

Gauranga Sundar Das is Iskconinc Communication Director and SM IT Head. 

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Spiritually Speaking

THE UNIQUE YUG PURUSH SWAMI CHINMAYANANDA

Prarthna Saran

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Swami Chinmayananda Ji was not just one of the greatest saints of the 20th century, but a towering spiritual giant, a social reformer, a missionary, a freedom fighter, and a Vedantic teacher of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Geeta par excellence. He brought about an unprecedented awakening, a renaissance in Hinduism. The Upanishads were a hidden treasure for most of the Hindus till they were simplified and unravelled to the educated English speaking elite of the world. He appeared on the scene when India was still ruled by the British, and the colonial impact of mental slavery was so strong on Indian minds, that almost all Indians wanted to ape the west as they were made to believe that they were uncultured uncivilised people and anything and everything British was worth graduating to.

Born in a highly placed aristocratic family, with a post-graduation degree in English and Law, he first joined The National Herald as a brilliant young journalist in Lucknow. Possessed with an extremely sharp mind and a questioning intellect, he rebelled against all unexplained, seemingly illogical traditions and ritualistic practices of Hinduism. His fiery young mind was restless and refused to practise seemingly meaningless pujas, japas, and havans etc. He found a certain intellectual honesty in atheistic thought. In his own words to me, he once said, “I used to write regularly against Hinduism. Some of the most vitriolic attacks on Hinduism have been made by me.” So, as a journalist, he reached Shivanand Ashram in Rishikesh and even told Swami Shivanandaji that he had come to do an expose on the ashrams and Swamis, and “how they keep up the bluff among the masses.” Swamiji invited him to stay at the ashram, watch all the activities closely so that he can uncover the “inside story”. So, while working on the ‘inside story’ for his paper, the ‘outsider ‘ became a true ‘ insider’. The ordinary journalist, Bal Krishna Menon, slowly evolved into the world revered saint Swami Chinmayananda. He taught tirelessly for decades even while his body had to have oxygen support, he worked for a renaissance in Hinduism. He opened the eyes of Hindus to Hinduism. He infused new meaning in Hindu thought, that was sustainable, logical, and easily comprehensible. Thus, acceptable to modern man, helping him to rise, evolve, and then help others to lift themselves out of centuries of inferiority, and slavish thought. He helped so many people to pull themselves out of the dense darkness of ignorance into the life endowing light of our scriptures.

His contribution to the world of modern spiritual thought is profound yet highly practical. His advice was always in sync with the Geeta teachings. “Roll up your sleeves and work hard in the world…. the lord loves the smell of sweat.”

This unique sanyasi taught by example, working and teaching tirelessly till the last. A few months before his Maha Samadhi (leaving his body) he was very sick in Bombay. The doctors advised him not to speak at all and get admitted to the best Bombay hospital. Gurudev was ready to conduct a camp of 600 youngsters in a remote village in Sidhabari, a small hamlet of Himachal, where there was barely any medical aid. When the doctors warned him that the trip to Himachal could prove to be fatal, he shot back, “ Why? Does no one die in Bombay?” Nothing happened to him in Sidhabari, where he took two talks a day on the Geeta. After the talk, he used to be wheelchaired off the stage with oxygen clamped on him. After about a month, he gave up his body in the USA, in one of their specialised hospitals under the care of a renowned heart surgeon. Even with his last breath, he taught: The body will fall when and where it has to!

Prarthna Saran is the President of Delhi Chinmaya Mission.

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How to be fearless in Covid times

We can defocus from the turmoil of our surroundings through meditation and connect with our soul which is a part of God, the source of all love and joy.

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These are stressful and confusing times for many of us. Fear and anxiety  can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in people. Daily life is disrupted completely for everyone across the globe. People are feeling uncertain about what could happen in the coming weeks. Feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and fear are very common today. People are worried about their own health and the health of their loved ones. How can we deal with all our fears under the current circumstances? Let’s first understand:

Why do we have fear?

Fear arises from doubt and the unknown. When we have doubts about how something is going to turn out, it opens the door to fear. When we doubt ourselves, we fear making a wrong decision or making a mistake. When we doubt whether an outcome will turn out right, we fear the consequences. If we doubt the existence of controlling power, we live in fear of chance occurrences and accidents.

We fear being weak. The young boy or girl on the school playground fears the bully. Each day as he or she walks home from school, the weak child lives in fear of being physically attacked by the bigger children. At work, the employee fears the employer. The employer holds the future of our salary and job in his or her hands. We may feel weak and powerless to speak up for injustices on the job because those who hold the power may retaliate and punish us for doing so.

We are more afraid of our thoughts of what is out there than of what is actually out there. Those who fear death, in actuality, fear the unknown. The fear is always trying to eat us up in one manner or another. People fear the unknown because it may be unpleasant or painful. Since they do not know what to expect, anxiety and fear build within them.

How can we achieve fearlessness?

Our soul, which is totally conscious, is a part of God and, therefore, is without fear. Since God is all-consciousness, and the soul is one with the Lord, it is God in a microcosm. God is without fear, and the soul is also without fear. It is only when we are out of touch with our soul that we begin to be afraid. The soul is truth; the soul is totally conscious. Being in connection with absolute truth means there is no fear. Thus, there is no fear in the soul.

 The soul’s quality of wisdom gives it access to the knowledge of all that is. There is nothing potentially unknown to the soul. It knows what is and what is to be. What has it to fear? Those who have been in touch with their soul-the saints, mystics, prophets, and enlightened beings-have experienced it.

Becoming Desensitised

 In medicine, to desensitise someone is to give one small dose of the substance to which one is allergic. By learning to tolerate small doses, the body builds resistance and can handle larger doses of the irritating substance. If we begin to practice fearlessness in small situations, we can grow in our ability to handle greater and greater challenges. To practice fearlessness, we must come in contact with our empowered soul.

How can we experience our empowered soul and fearlessness?

We need to learn that our empowered soul is the one who is really facing our challenges. If we connect with our empowered soul, we will overcome all fears and gain a lasting sense of peace and security. Our empowered soul, being one with God, is there for us. It is there to help us through the challenges of life. We just need to sit in silence and experience our empowered soul.

Meditation is the process by which we take our attention away from the world outside and focus it on ourselves. In doing so, we defocus from the turmoil of our surroundings and connect with our soul which is a part of God, the source of all love and joy.

What can we do in the current times?

We cannot put an end to life’s challenges. We have no control over the outer universe. We cannot say for certain that we will not lose our job, our home, our wealth, or a loved one. What we can do is face these challenges with a sense of fearlessness so that we are not incapacitated by fear and despair. What we can do is take a break from reading, watching or listening to news stories, including social media and spend time in meditation and experiencing our empowered soul.

Once we become aware of our spiritual nature and experience our soul, we will find that our lives will be filled with love, joy, fearlessness, acceptance, and trust.

The author is the Head of the Sawan Kirpal Ruhani Mission. 

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BLESSINGS DO WHAT MONEY CANNOT

B.K. Shivani

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There are times when some families face a situation that cannot be resolved even if they spend all their money on it. In contrast, some other families easily come through seemingly insurmountable problems, as if by a miracle. But miracles do not happen. Those families had earned a lot of goodwill and blessings from others, and these helped tide them over the difficulty.

We all get the fruit of what we have done in the past. If we have accumulated a large stock of good wishes, we receive help from unexpected quarters that takes us across tough times.

Blessings are an intangible commodity, so we underrate them. We value what is visible: wealth, achievements, personal connections. It is essential to have money, and there is no harm in earning large amounts of it, but it helps to collect some blessings as well. They are invisible but have the energy to make the impossible happen.

If we are not getting blessings from others, in all likelihood something else is coming our way. When we are warm and friendly with someone, the other person responds in kind, and we receive pure and positive energy, or what we call blessings. But if we are cold or discourteous, or harbour ill-feeling for them, their thoughts about us are unlikely to be nice. We engage in such karmic transactions every day, investing in good or bad thoughts and feelings, and getting the return of that. But we overlook this — at great cost.

Suppose we get angry with someone and shout at them for a minute. How long are they going to take to get over the bad feelings and emotional upheaval we caused? Probably a lifetime. A minute’s investment of anger brings us a lifetime of ill-feeling from the other person.

We invest money with great care, checking beforehand what the return will be, but give little thought to karmic investments and end up receiving things we had not bargained for. Then we wonder why we are not happy even though everything in our life seems to be fine. We are earning loads of money and have everything we want, but we are still not content. That empty feeling inside is the result of the harmful vibrations we have attracted by hurting others knowingly or otherwise.

Karmic investments call for more prudence than business deals. If we pay no attention to the quality of our actions, the corrosive effect of bad karma, which stems from — and reinforces — our character flaws, will corrupt our mind and the decisions it makes.

When we invest intelligently, that too brings lifelong returns, in the form of goodwill, cooperation, and friendship. Suppose someone has made a mistake and is expecting to get an earful from me, but instead of exploding with rage I just gently tell them to be more careful in future. They are going to remember my conduct for a long time, with some gratitude.

Can we always speak and act in ways that keep others happy and content? This calls for understanding, tolerance, and tact. If can we do this, the blessings will keep rolling in and we will always find ourselves in good spirits. Where there are abundant blessings, there is joy, health and loving relationships. Money cannot buy any of these.

There is another important aspect to money: the thought behind earning it. We work hard and put aside something, thinking that it will come in handy in the event of a serious illness. If we earmark money for that purpose, that is where it will most likely go, because that is the thought energy we have put into it, which will create that reality. Why not accumulate good wishes instead, which will keep us healthy?

We err in assuming that material success will help us have peace, joy and contentment. For these, we can spend some time taking care of our mind so that we know how to manage our thoughts and emotions. Once we have learnt this subtle art, life will be much easier and more enjoyable.

B.K. Shivani is a well-known motivational speaker and Rajyoga teacher.

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THE BENEFITS OF CONCENTRATION

B.K. Usha

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To have the mind remain stable in one thought is the highest level of concentration. If we develop this degree of focus, our attention and energies will be applied fully and accurately to any task, leading to easy success. The power of concentration automatically brings mental clarity, an elevated state of mind, and several other powers, including discernment, decision-making, and judgment. Because of this, if there is a difficult situation, even one individual with good concentration can find a solution to it.

When someone is deeply absorbed in one thought, they forget everything else and that thought is their world. Powerful concentration focuses our mental energy in such a way that we can convey our ideas to others clearly so that they can understand what we are thinking, and why. This helps to create concord and unity of purpose in a group.

It is one thing to attain such concentration by strenuous effort, and quite another to remain constantly and naturally focused. To achieve the latter stage, one needs solitude and long-term practice of focusing one’s mind. With dedicated and sustained practice one can acquire the ability to remain calm and focused even when there is commotion all around.

This ability not only helps us remain stable but also enables us to help others in times of distress. One whose mind is undisturbed and still is a source of hope and courage for those who are in the grip of anxiety, fear, confusion and depression.

Many of us think it is impossible to find time in our busy schedule to sit down and practise concentration. It is not that difficult. The key is to practise, even if for a short while, whenever we have time. When we do this repeatedly, the mind will become habituated to being focused, and concentration will gradually become easier.

Concentration power developed in this way keeps us tranquil even in a difficult situation. Furthermore, it prevents wastage of mental energy in unnecessary thinking. A focused mind is, therefore, a powerful mind that can do more in less time. Such a mind is the key to quick progress on the path of self-improvement.

B.K. Usha is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.

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COURAGE AND HONESTY ENSURE OUR SUCCESS

Dadi Janki

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Success means reaching such a constant level of positive thoughts that pure actions happen naturally. Pure actions are like good seeds which, when planted, produce healthy, sweet fruit. “As you sow, so shall you reap”.

Concern for the quality of my actions today ensures the success of my tomorrow. Virtues are the mainstay in this because success like this requires hope, and hope, in today’s world, requires courage. It is a matter of working from the strength of your convictions which is a spiritual kind of honesty. Balance these qualities and your path will be easy. You will move forward. Your success will be assured.

Courage alone does not bring success. If there is only courage, there will be ego. It is courage plus honesty which brings God’s help and that is what guarantees success. “God is getting it done through me”, “I am simply an instrument in this task”, these are honest thoughts that elicit God’s help and protection.

Humility is the result of such honesty and courage. A life of enthusiasm, courage, honesty and humility is inspirational. It is a way of helping others become successful, too.

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