Living a wholesome lifestyle in today’s world is highly challenging. We breathlessly run through packed schedules, convinced that we need to get ahead to survive. Driving in traffic, working long days, driving the kids around, making – often painstakingly trying – to make healthy food decisions and to establish good exercise practices throughout it all. Simultaneously, we are juggling with different types of relationships, inner turmoil, and behavioral patterns that have been ingrained in us since we learned how to walk. Day in, day out we repeat this game, trying to keep our heads above the water and slowly exhausting ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
We live in a world of chaos, constantly demanding that we focus on the people and events happening outside of us. We are upset when we don’t hear the alarm in the morning because we stayed out too late the night before, subconsciously drowning out the pain inside with intoxicants. We are upset when our superior suddenly approaches us with unexpected and mind-boggling work, wondering deep inside if this will be the event that pushes us over the edge. We are upset when the kids come back from school with written notes from the professor explaining unaccepted behavior.
Whatever it is, we are being pulled out of ourselves by this perceived “need” to act upon this external reality of ours. To control it and shape it according to our imaginary conception of what “should” be. Then we are constantly disappointed because we keep failing at it. We keep failing at controlling the outside world, which drains us of our vital energy even more so than the striving to control it. The misery is multiplied, stacked on top of itself. Layer upon layer of intertwined expectations and clinging to imaginary realities and comforts.
For many of us, a day comes when we wonder how we can possibly keep going like this. A small voice deep within screams at us to stop, stop, stop. To breathe for a moment, struggling through the anxiety sitting heavily in our chest. We wonder what we are doing with our lives. Why all these horrible things are happening to us. What we did to deserve it. We cycle through negative thoughts trying to figure it out, not knowing that we are actually moving further away from our answer, slowly spiraling downwards into depression.
At this point, we need to understand the importance of changing something. Clearly, this is not working. We start being more aware of other people that might be feeling the same way. So many of us are. And so many of us are working on trying to find ways to regain our vitality. We realize that those people are tending to themselves holistically, often engaging in community activities, spending more time out in nature, being creative, and or practicing some kind of spirituality.
This chaotic world of ours is shaped by consumerism held hand-in-hand with money-making systems. We are conditioned from a young age that the answers to all of our questions lie in the external world and that the institutions are there to help us. There comes a point when we understand that at the actual level, these institutions are there to keep us entangled in their systems, pulling us away from ourselves.
Pulling us away from ourselves – this is the key element missing here. We need to look within. More and more, people from all over the world are turning to meditation to break free from this suffering. Even scientific studies are turning to this ancient practice present in all cultures and civilizations of this world. As rational beings, humans have the natural tendency to search for meaning, provided that our inner wisdom is not completely crushed by this materialistic society. When we hear that small inner voice, screaming for help, it is imperative to listen.
When I started practicing meditation, I felt immediate relief. Finally, there was space. I could breathe; a weight that I didn’t even know was there was lifted off my shoulders. I started noticing a difference in my temperament. I became calm, patient and forgiving. I didn’t find myself running breathlessly from one scheduled item to the other; instead, I found myself being fully engaged in what I was doing, feeling my body performing the action and my mind peacefully guiding me.
My interactions with the people around me changed as well. Again, I found space. I was able to notice when someone’s words or behavior triggered frustration, hurt, or other unwanted emotions before letting them affect me. That way, I could respond to them in a compassionate way, knowing that I am in control of my own inner state of being and that they are only causing themselves harm with wrong speech and or action.
My practiced deepened more than ever when I took a Vipassana meditation course; a 10-day course that teaches a non-dogmatic technique, open to all types of religions and spiritualities as long as the student is willing to temporarily put their other practices on hold to give full trial to the technique. The whole course is held in silence, which enables one to focus one’s mind like never before. Courses are accessible to everyone and held everywhere in the world. You can visit dhamma.org for more information on the technique, the courses, and nearest centers.
In this world of chaos, there is always an island of inner peace within, readily available. This inner space of light, unconditional love and wisdom provide tremendous strength in times of hardship. This light reminds us of the sacredness of being human and holistically taking care of ourselves. This light reminds us that there is more to this world than it seems. This light reminds us that there is so much more to this life. So, so much.