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The Tao of immunity: Keeping stress at bay

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5:38 am IST

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The world is seething under constant misery. Around 2,500 years ago, Gautam Buddha while describing misery as “dukha” said, “There is dukha but there is a way to go out of it.” Now, look at a normal being, ask him what will make him happy. And he has a long list of “this and that” which makes him happy. His idea of being happy hangs in the future. Someone asked Bhikku what would make him happy? In his reply, Bhikku questioned, “How can you presume that I am unhappy, am I not here?” In fact, the delivery list is your misery.

Today when the Covid-19 pandemic has erupted around the globe, disrupting three broad types of plans to earn wealth or to be someone or to do something, and has stopped the motor of “civilization” spurring at full speed. Quarantine has added new miseries. The space between fulfilment and desire is misery and constant being in the state of misery is stress. Chronic stress is the opposite of immunity. And what is pandemic? If I say that pandemic is a kind of stress-related bio-disorder, it would be far nearer the truth. How? Stress begins when you hang your today into the future. You get stressed now for non-fulfilment of your plans in the future, and you enter into chronic anxiety. So, you are not here and nowhere. Be here now.

It is like you lend an equal amount of stress from the future that you create for yourself. It is like how a bank lends you money. You have to give that money back with interest! Your body suffers now, not in future. Pandemic is the cost humanity is paying for not dealing with chronic stress caused by greed and obsession — both are futuristic forms of anxieties. Bhikku calls such people “runners” — those with a sense of never having enough would loathe that they did not run as much as they should have and failed miserably.

Immunity is like biological awareness of body cells. A doctor who performs organ transplant injects the patient with immunosuppressant, which is given to lower the ability of the immune system to reject the transplanted organ. Otherwise the immune system would reject it. Stressful one releases cortisol: a steroid hormone, produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress from adrenal gland into the blood transporting it to the circulatory system. Immunosuppressant performs the same function of releasing cortisol. In fact, immunosuppression is caused in the body due to release of cortisol concentrations. So, stress is actually a type of immunosuppressant that lowers immunity.

 Your sense of never having enough is your misery. The moment you say you want more money, you become poorer by thinking that you don’t have enough today. Sense of not having enough is your misery. Read the short story by Leo Tolstoy How Much Land Does a Man Need? Still read if you have read it earlier. Objects could be money, power, prestige, land, milliondollar club, billion-dollar club, trillion-dollar club, etc.

Sanitising anything that enters the house will not make you immune. It can, to some degree, reduce your exposure to disease but how long? A migrant worker still has courage to go back to Bihar on foot. He works whole day intense labour and sleeps well. No worries of the future stored. But a wealthy man is fearful of his future, activating constant fight or flight mode in the brain causing anxiety and stress that lowers immunity. Fight and flight mode are an early adaptation of ancient hunter gatherer. On seeing a wild beast, he would either run or fight. The mode has been adopted by our bodies so deeply and in place of wild beasts today we have desires, boss, bank, taxman, police, courts, diseases, viruses and thoughts.

Buddha said every thought would become a thing. You keep asking: “Covid put me into loss”, “what will happen to the economy?”, “why the government put lockdown?”, “why no beds in hospitals?” Thoughts are miseries. Be careful in consuming thoughts and creating thoughts because they will then turn into stress. Death stories, humans, hospital laxity, fear of being caught with virus, are all thoughts. Whole day you keep consuming and forwarding on WhatsApp. Just switch off your system and stop consuming social media rambling.

Fearful and agitated debates on television, social media mongering, rumours, virus ghosting our cities and over-publicity and overdrive of authorities to contain the virus often trigger fear. I feel it is important to share a parable Osho would say. “Once, a mystic lived outside a town. At night he saw a huge fiery shadow entering the town. The shadow said, ‘I am plague. I am going to kill one thousand bad people.’ And it entered the city. The plague spread and killed many thousands. When the shadow returned the mystic said, ‘Stop you deceived me, you lied to me. You said you will kill only one thousand but you have killed many thousands.’ The shadow said, ‘I killed only one thousand people; the remaining many thousands were dead out of fear, they are themselves responsible for their death’.” That’s self-inflicting terror.

To switch off fight and flight mode, look at trees, flowers, birds, listen to live birdsongs, if you live in cities with no access to them then look at the clear sky. Lie down on the rooftop and keep looking at the morning evening sky or even night sky. Download apps that create such an environment, the sound and music of nature around you. Learn to play guitar. Just close your eyes, pick up guitar or keep it on the ground, darken the room and let your body orient to the sound. Pull a string and let the vibrating ripple enter into each cell of your body — top to down, and let the sound immerse into your being. Play it every time. Quantum biology describes how atoms of fragrances, or particles, tunnel into our bodies as sounds. Everybody has its distinct immunity and every cell has its system to hear, see, feel, touch and smell. On windy or rainy days, let children just go out and run. We did it.

Close your eyes and think less. Don’t start the day with a burdensome feeling. Instead, close your eyes, stop blaming authorities, the virus, the carriers, the air, the water, the food, your habits, medical science, pharma companies, vaccine scientists or protocols. Just close your eyes and smile will automatically be there on your lips. Don’t look at it, feel it, immerse into it. Be it. You are turning inward and will eventually turn off the switch of fight and flight mode and stress will slowly be a thing of the past.

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