How to keep a cool head


The India-born author and poet Rudyard Kipling famously described emotional stability in his poem If: A Father’s Advice to His Son. The poem begins: ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs – and blaming it on you.’

The poem contains much timeless wisdom, but to many of us today it would seem like an impossible ideal.

When we meet an emotionally stable person, however, they do seem to have an enviable aura of calm around them. We feel they are in balance, and that if we present them with any kind of problem, they will give carefully considered answers towards a solution.

People like this are good to have around in a family or a workplace. They appear slightly detached from the ‘goings on’, and yet sympathetic and warm.

Meditation is a wonderful instrument for developing this state of mind, but even those well on the way to such stability can sometimes be knocked off balance. Overwork can do it, brought on by an inability to delegate when needed, or feelings of anxiety when a huge ‘to do’ list seems never to be completed.

In a desperate attempt to regain our composure, we sometimes start to dwell on negative emotions, finding a strange kind of security in that because of the response it brings – sympathy, a kindly ear, or words of encouragement. But we cannot play that card too often, or people will get fed up with us.

Sometimes, a little trigger can cause a big reaction. That ‘little’ thing may be a catalyst for unravelling a whole ribbon of deeper issues that really need our attention. When we feel desperate to help another, or have many negative thoughts and ideas circulating in the mind about others, it is time to put things into perspective. We cannot fight everyone’s battles, but we can regain our composure.

It may start with sitting quietly, relaxing, maybe with a cup of tea, stepping back a little and deliberately tuning into a different, peaceful frame of mind. If it is within our ability to help the person or situation, then we can resolve to do so, but if it is beyond our ability to help directly we need to recognise that. At least by regaining our composure, we can use the mind to transmit powerful feelings of benevolence and goodwill.

A truly emotionally stable person has learned the art of mastering thoughts and feelings. When the power to do this is missing, it can be regained through connecting our own mind to the mind of the Supreme Being, the pure and bodiless one from whom we all came, and to whom we will all one day return. This is the essence of Rajyoga meditation.

Becoming emotionally out of control is unappealing, and can destroy relationships. One of the most beautiful qualities of an emotionally stable person is their dignity. Once regained, it feels a very precious quality to have, to be maintained and protected with calm composure, love, empathy, and determination.

Maureen Goodman is the Programme Director for the Brahma Kumaris UK, and BK NGO representative to the United Nations in Vienna.