Pandemic Panic

At least this time, it’s familiar.  You’ve felt this panic before, triggered by the same pandemic, only a few months ago.  Here you are again, though this time you have more skills.  I’ve gotten so accustomed to wearing a mask that I sometimes forget to remove it.

Plus now there is more information about the virus and how to protect ourselves.  While staying home is hard, especially during the year-end holidays, it’s clearly dharma.  In other words, can you do the right thing without having to be panicked?

It would be nice to think that yogis, being healthier overall, have less risk from the virus.  Yet I know yogis who’ve had it, so clearly yoga doesn’t make you immune.  Nobody wants to die, and especially not a painful and inglorious death.  So fear of death plays a part in your pandemic panic.  Perhaps your finances have also been affected, another anxiety trigger.  How many triggers does it take to put you over the edge?  2020 has them in abundance.

The problem is that your edge is too close; you live on the edge of panic too much of the time.  Even when things are good, you’re able to conjure up fears all by yourself.  Yoga improves your health, yes — and yoga makes you more peaceful specifically by reducing your fear level.  In fact, the most important thing yoga gives you is freedom from fear.

This is one of the descriptions of the state of enlightenment, “freedom from fear.”   To live without the internal static of fear disrupting your mental processes is a great freedom.  It also relieves you of the physical effects of fear, which include stress hormones, impaired digestion and breathing, disruption of sleep and the inability to think clearly.  Freedom from fear is a great start on how to live more fully and more freely.

I would describe enlightenment in more fulfilling terms:  “centered clarity and empowerment” and “bliss-based living.”  When you’re centered, based in the bliss of your own inherent essence, there’s no room for fear to intrude.  The day-to-day, even moment-to-moment question is whether you’re blissful and centered enough to handle what’s happening.  And if you’re not, what do you do?  You know the answer to this:  more yoga, of course.

Here’s how it works.  If you’re scared and you try to remove the fear, it’s like trying to scrub dark off the walls of a dark room.  Instead, simply bring in a single candle flame.  Instantly the dark is banished; the fear dissolves away.  Yoga does this for you by bringing in the light of your own being.  Your own inner radiance shines through, not only to inspire others but also to take care of you.

Right now you’re using the fear to keep from doing stupid things.  You’re keeping a low profile, taking care of yourself and loved ones.  Good.  You can do these things even when you’re not afraid.  It’s mere intelligence.  You don’t need fear to motivate your dharmic acts.  You can choose to do them because it’s the right thing.  In fact, fear lowers your intelligence.  Being centered, peaceful and blissful actually increases your IQ.  Every athlete knows this.

So what do you do now?  Do more yoga.

Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati leads Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram in Downingtown PA.  An American yogi, she is an inspiring teacher with a loving manner and a great sense of humor.  Before becoming a swami (yoga monk), as Rama Berch, she served the yoga community as the founding president of Yoga Alliance.  Traveling and teaching nationally and internationally, she is authorized to initiate people into deep meditation through Shaktipat, as did Swami Muktananda, her own Guru.  The Ashram website features extensive Freebies, including articles and audio recordings on the principles of consciousness as taught by the sages of India, as well as how to apply them in your life today.

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