Watching the national and international news channels sharing country-wise scorecards every day on COVID19 status just scares me beyond my wits. Though it’s promising to look at how governments and citizens around the world are joining hands to help each other get back on their knees during this situation, I cannot help but think of people around the world who are affected more intensely than the rest of us during these challenging times.
- People who have contracted the disease
- People who lost loved ones to the disease
- People who are working on the frontlines
- People who are homeless, jobless, or unwell without access to healthcare.
How can you help others help themselves?
- Tackle The Pain with The Purpose
- Practice Metta, The loving-kindness
- Differentiate Pain Vs. Suffering
Why consult with Buddha on tiding over the pandemic?!? Good question.
Buddha started his spiritual journey in search of freedom from all sufferings. Whether it’s world peace or peaceful living at home, Buddha’s answer to the sufferings of the world is “Conscious Awareness of The Self”. He shared simple and powerful spiritual practices for all, both saints and the common people. Though they’re several centuries old, they prove to be quite helpful now more than ever.
Your mind is where you spend a huge part of your time all your life. So, let’s explore how Buddha’s teachings can help us overcome the side-effects of fighting against the COVID19 pandemic in 2020.
#1: Tackle The Pain with The Purpose
“Like a skilled carpenter who knocks out a coarse peg with a fine peg, so a person removes a pain-triggering thought with a beautiful one.”
In Buddha’s words, Vitakkasanthana Sutta
Whether you sit to meditate or simply journal your thoughts in silence, practice it every day to become more aware of your thoughts. You’ll slowly but surely transform your painful thoughts to purposeful thoughts only with regular practice. Make time, make effort!
Your daily practice is the key to make positive thinking a habit. You might be experiencing painful memories and feel anxious/depressing thoughts as a result of your past. Simple, daily practices like Daily affirmations and Gratitude Journaling are quite effective to counter unhealthy thoughts with healthy thoughts.
#1.1 Daily Affirmation
You can start and finish your day with a positive affirmation. Drop-in a positive note to yourself when you’re left alone at home or work during self-isolating days. It’s you telling yourself, “All is Well” when things aren’t.
Most daily affirmations are short, meaningful, and said in the present tense as below. The power of an affirmation is in your intention and words. Say every affirmation with a deep conviction that it is and will be the ultimate reality. So, it is!
Daily Affirmation Prompts:
“I’m safe and healthy”.
“My family and friends are safe and healthy”.
“I trust the Divine Timing of the universe”.
P.S: You can either create your own daily affirmations to suit your life or take inspiration from the positive affirmations of the renowned American Author, Louise Hay who wrote the book, Heal Your Body.
#1.2 Gratitude Journaling
How about writing a “Thank you” list every day for 365 days? It might sound like a great feat but is quite simple once you actually start writing it. On the first day of your journaling, all you got to do is to write one thing that you’re thankful for in your life. Then, write one thing that you’re thankful for each day, every day.
Gratitude journaling will shift your focus, first. You will move away from finding faults in yourself, others, and the world towards finding the good in yourself, others, and the world. Then, it will change your overall perspective about yourself, others, and the world. The “thank you” journal can make you realize you’re living a purposeful life and become more grateful for all the good things you have in spite of all the unexpected problems that you might face during a pandemic.
Simply, start thanking life right. Pen down the good things that you are thankful for. Here’s how you can do it.
Gratitude Journaling Prompts:
“Thank you Mother Nature for the sun-kissed flowers on the lawn”.
“Thank you to my home for keeping me safe and secure”.
“Thank you to the milkman braving the dangers to deliver milk on time”.
P.S: Is gratitude journaling worth your time? A lot of research has been done on this subject both scientifically and spiritually. Here’s an article from Psychology Today to prove the point to your questioning mind.
#2: Practice Metta, The loving-kindness
“Even as a mother protects with her life. Her child, her only child. So with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings; Radiating kindness over the entire world: Spreading upwards to the skies, And downwards to the depths; Outwards and unbounded”
– In Buddha’s words, Metta Sutta
Metta, the act of loving-kindness starts with self-love and being kind to oneself, first. It starts with yourself and spreads to include the whole of humanity and all living beings in the world.
Think loving and kind thoughts. Speak loving and kind words. Be loving and kind to yourself, others, and the community that you live in even while maintaining social distancing.
The Metta Bhavana Prayer and Metta Meditation are originally adapted from Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification) by Buddhaghosa which is a compilation of Buddha’s teachings.
Metta Bhavana Prayer
The Prayer with Loving-kindness
For the Self,
Aham avero homi
(May I be free from danger)
(May I be free from mental suffering)
(May I be free from physical suffering)
Sukhi attanam pariharami
(May I take care of myself, happily)
For the Others,
Aham avero hontu
(May you be free from danger)
(May you be free from mental suffering)
(May you be free from physical suffering)
Sukhi attanam pariharantu
(May you take care of yourself, happily)
Prayer is the essence of your intentions and thoughts. It gives you a sense of relief as you narrate your trials and tribulations to the all-powerful creator. The human mind finds peace in sharing its burden and benefits to someone other than the self. It could be another human or God who is listening to your intentions and thoughts.
The universe doesn’t discriminate or judge the good or the bad. It’s important for you to be clear about your intentions and thoughts as they will come back to you, manifold. When you wish for nothing but the loving-kindness for oneself and the others then everything else will follow.
The Metta Meditation
The meditation awakens loving-kindness in you and spreads it to the world.
A simple step-by-step guide to practice Metta Meditation. Do away with all prejudices and embrace the loving-kindness in you.
- Sit still.
- Breathe slowly and gently.
- Calm your body slowly & patiently.
- Focus on your breath slowly and gently.
- Calm your mind slowly & patiently.
- Breathe naturally.
- Calm your heart slowly & patiently.
- Chant the Metta Bhavana Prayer, silently.
- Experience the loving-kindness in your heart.
A step-by-step walkthrough on how to pray with loving-kindness according to the Buddhist teachings. Experience a shift of perceptions within you as you say the “Metta Prayer”.
- The first prayer is for you.
- The second prayer is for someone you like.
- The third prayer is for someone neutral to you.
- The fourth prayer is for someone you love.
- The fifth prayer is for someone you dislike or rather, hate.
- Include your neighborhood community, your city, your state, your country, your continent & the world.
It takes time & practice to extend and expand your loving-kindness to one and all. Experience the loving-kindness in its true essence. Be empowered and free!
#3: Differentiate Pain Vs. Suffering
“When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental. Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, were to shoot him with another one, so that he would feel the pains of two arrows; in the same way, when touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental”.
– In Buddha’s words, Sallatha Sutta
In Sallatha Sutta, Buddha asks you to observe your pain which he rightly highlights as being different from your suffering. For instance, when you face a misfortune you’re struck first with an arrow of pain. It’s real at the moment and you should accept and embrace this pain as part of your current situation. But then, the second arrow of suffering strikes you when you remember and relive your pain again and again in your mind. It’s now turned into an illusion and affects your mind while showing up as illnesses in your body.
#3.1 Self-Awareness Meditation
Become consciously aware of how your past, present, and future are interconnected.
The First Arrow
- Observe! Are you becoming defensive or offended when you’re hit with painful situations?
- Are you going back to any painful memories in your mind without living in the present?
- Be consciously aware of the present.
- Spend time to experience and process the pain in your own way.
- Save solutions to your problems to the end once you have better clarity.
- Differentiate painful situations meeting you in the present and painful memories visiting you from the past.
Take A Pause
- Do not avoid, ignore, or suppress your memories and thoughts when you’re feeling hurt.
- Express your thoughts in a creative way.
- It’s okay to not be productive when you’re feeling low. Be kind and patient with yourself.
- Meditate/journal/attend to your garden, or simply walk in silence while dealing with your pain.
- I try to speak and record my own experiences while feeling hurt and lost. It helps me feel like I got the pain out of my heart while keeping it completely private. Later, I listen to the recordings when I’m feeling better and learn from my own feelings and experiences.
The Second Arrow
Have you noticed that you gain more clarity with time?
- Take time to rest, rethink your perceptions, and reinvent your life.
- Extend the period between the moment when the pain hits you and the moment when you react to the pain. This period is often filled with suffering which results from sad memories, self-doubt, and the infamous, “blame game”. (I’ve been there, done that!)
- Identify how your emotions are connected to your reality right now. Anger crops up from regrets, guilt, or helplessness.
- Self-awareness comes with time and practice. Most of Buddha’s teachings speak of “conscious self-awareness” as the gateway to freedom from all sufferings.
Remember, the period of suffering is an experience. Every event in your life; happy or painful will create an experience. Painful events bring the experience of suffering. If you see it for what it is, then suffering cannot and should not define you or your life.
Think about it. How can experience or a series of experiences define you or your life? It’s good to learn from your experiences. Still, it’s no good to hang on to them.
In the beginning, you’ll have to take baby steps towards identifying suffering from pain. We often confuse them both as one and the same. But, conscious awareness and practice can help you overcome this confusion and achieve more clarity.
Take one step at a time. First, accept and learn from the first arrow of pain. Slowly, be aware of the second arrow of suffering as and when it strikes you. Ask yourself – Am I suffering because of what is happening right now in my life? Or, Am I suffering for what happened in the past?
Tackle pain with a purpose. Practice Metta, the loving-kindness. Differentiate pain from suffering. Yes, your mind needs a bit of exercise and training to deal with pain and suffering every day. Once you practice Buddha’s teachings in your daily life, you’ll be able to handle all life challenges with ease.
Are you ready for the workout?
Share these simple and powerful daily spiritual practices from Buddha’s teachings to the world for the greater good of all.