Sitting in the corner, I felt my heart pounding. The dark gray skies were painting a clear picture of destruction. Trees were dancing erratically. The winds, which deceived some with an early breeze, were howling and gave way to a cacophony that lasted hours. The storm was giving signs of what was yet to come.
While I had prepared for the storm — had all my supplies ready, had sheltered myself somewhere safe — in the end, I had to admit that we (I as well as many others affected) were never completely prepared for this type of situation. Fear, anxiety, and uncertainty settled in. I just couldn’t wait for it to be over.
Then came the aftermath, which was even worse. Although not as bad as we anticipated, it was still heart-wrenching. Some areas were walloped.
While trying to find ways to help others and cope with the devastation, I was reflecting on the readings of the book The Journey Within: Exploring the Path of Bhakti, A Contemporary Guide to Yoga Ancient Wisdom by Radhanath Swami.
As a yogi, these concepts never became so real. I realized that even small steps could help us come a long way and make a huge difference our lives.
1. Practice gratitude.
I learned that the power of self-realization is within us. While we can’t prevent external factors from influencing our lives, we can choose how we respond to them. This is all in our mindset.
By practicing gratitude, we connect with the Almighty. We acknowledge we are all beings in essence, and we are thankful for the opportunities the Creator provided us for our advancement.
We can practice gratitude in many ways. It can be through the practicing of Bhakti — which in essence is love and devotion to God — as the book explains. It can be in the form of appreciating the little things in our life. It can be in a way of an organized religion or not. It can be during yoga practice or other activity of choice. There is no right or wrong answer so long as gratitude is part of our daily practices.
For a few years, I have been nurturing two ways of practicing gratitude. First, through prayer meditation, in which I reserve a time of the day, usually before bedtime, to disconnect from all types of influences and distractions. This particular time is reserved to “detox” and “detach,” giving me a chance to look deep into my soul, join with the Creator, and be thankful for everything. The other way I practice gratitude is by being thankful to people and events, regardless if they seem good or bad. The point is to acknowledge that even the sliver of opportunity in our everyday life has a purpose, and regardless of the outcome, it makes us better human beings. If we put that into practice and believe, we will see it.
The power of gratitude can bring wonders to our life.
Be grateful for everything — the good, the bad, and everything in between. I know, it is easier said than done sometimes, but it is worth it. Even our bad experiences teach us lessons that make us better human beings.
Though I had to drive by six gas stations and wait forty minutes to fill up my tank, when I finally found gas, I was immensely grateful. I was grateful because I was not in an evacuation zone. No trees fell on my roof. Except for a ripped screened patio, there were no damages to the property I was living in. I was not part of the millions of households that lost power. Above all, I didn’t lose my life.
2. Be mindful of the other.
I learned that by doing a soul searching and nurturing the love for ourselves, we can also spread love to others, whether it is by helping our neighbors or those in need.
While I saw the best in humanity — people helping others board up their homes; neighbors distributing hot meals or ice packs during long-lasting days without power — I also witnessed what despair could do.
Despair can lead us to extremes. As if our minds get enveloped by fog, we lose sight of reality. Our egotistic selves start taking over, and we detach ourselves from other people. Whether it is in the form of an unkind word, snapping at another person, or being hurtful to a loved one, it leads us to act in ways we usually don’t. It can lead to physical altercation or even putting one’s life in danger.
During the storm, patience was running low when people realized there was a shortage of supplies. At the gas stations that had gas, the lines were turning around the block. Bottles of water, along with other essentials, vanished from the shelves.
The world was not built in one day, and neither did we recover in one day. Sometimes it’s healthy and recommended to take a step back and give ourselves grace. This provides us with the opportunity to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes and be compassionate toward the other person.
Simple acts of kindness go a long way.
3. Be gentle to your body and soul.
I learned the importance of getting involved in healthy practices, including meditation.
Through meditation, we can calm our minds down. This brings us focus and clarity. Not only that, but it helps us connect with our inner self and with the Almighty. We just need to find a quiet space, sit comfortably, and start by taking deep breaths. Inhale for three counts, hold for one, and exhale for three counts. This can be hard when we are not used to it or when we are surrounded by everyday distractions. But the more we practice, the better we get deeper into it.
In the book, Radhanath Swami reminds us that our body is a sacred place lent to us by the higher power to fulfill our mission on Earth. We ought to be mindful, gentle to ourselves, and take care of this exterior cover by living a healthy, balanced life — eat well, exercise, get rid of stress, and when possible, meditate.
Sometimes we play the superhuman role, whether as moms, fathers, caregivers, bosses, or friends. We all want to get it right and give our all, but sometimes we push too hard. This effort doesn’t have to be detrimental to our health.
Because our body feels any strain we put on it, any sign of unbalance shows up in different forms, some even imperceptible to the eyes.
At the end of the day, we know ourselves better than anybody else. So, giving ourselves grace and being mindful of our limitations is a healthy way to find balance.
4. Embrace changes.
I learned that changes are good and healthy. My yoga instructor, who is always pushing me to become the best version of myself usually says, “What doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you.” I keep this reminder with me every single day.
Changes can come in many forms, and it can be rather terrifying for many of us. The idea of moving cross-country (or even abroad), changing jobs, learning a new procedure, or swapping schools might not sit well, and consequently, it can raise a lot of resistance. But at the end, when we look back, we realize that all the apparent struggles were worth it and came for a reason.
Change makes us get out of our comfort zone. It propels us to improve ourselves and find the best in other people.
Where I live, some people are rebuilding their homes. Others, their entire life. But whatever position they are in, this is a chance to build a better life for themselves and their loved ones.
Sometimes it is not easy, but no matter what, we should always see change as an opportunity for growth.
We are all here in this world on a mission. For us to accomplish our purpose on this planet, we will have to tame obstacles and overcome hurdles. Changes can be both.
All in all, the storm was a shake-up and foreshadow of a time to rebuild, an opportunity to review the previous concepts and get enlightened with the power of mindfulness.
It brought up the importance of being true to myself and even kinder to other people and the universe.
Visit Kelly at Reviews ByTheBanks.com.