“How are you coping with the lockdown restrictions?” This is a common question these days. Many of us are faced with things like isolation, changes in daily routines, inability to get food and supplies, loss of income, and confinement at home. Any or all of these can take their toll.
Yet we needn’t feel as if we’re being punished by our mother who’s saying, “You need to stay in your room now.” Instead we can see it as our Divine Mother saying, “Stay in your true home within, and you will find happiness there.”
If we approach it wisely, we can use this time to improve the quality of our life, deepen our spiritual commitment, and increase our level of joy. Here are four things to move your experience from lockdown to lift-off:
1. See Everything as Service to God
We’re all faced with many demanding chores at home which may seem more onerous now that we’re confined there. How can we do them in a way that increases our energy and joy?
One of the most popular offerings at The Expanding Light, Ananda Village’s retreat center, is the Karma Yoga program. Participants learn the principles of karma yoga: serving with concentration and focus; bringing enthusiasm and joy into everything they do; non-attachment to the fruits of their labor; seeing all activities as service to God. Mentally chanting or repeating a mantra while serving also helps to transform their experience.
One woman from a wealthy family commented about her experience here as a karma yogi washing dishes and cleaning guest rooms, “At home I have servants to do these things, but here it’s actually fun!”
So remember: No task is so menial or unimportant that it can’t joyfully be offered to God. When you do, you’ll feel His energy flowing to and through you in all your activities.
2. Find Joy in Simple Pleasures
If you are in lockdown with family members, take the time to enjoy their company. Get to know your children, spouse, or parents on a deeper level. Have those personal conversations you’ve been hoping for, in which you share what’s important in your life.
Often people tell me, “I wish I had taken the time to know my children (or parents) better while we were still living together.” This is your opportunity.
If you’re alone, find creative, fun things to do. Jyotish is working on a beautiful new painting which we’ll show you when he’s done. I’m cooking up a storm and on the lookout for new recipes to try. Good books are wonderful companions, especially those that bring inspiration.
3. Offer Support and Strength to Others
When we shift our focus from “How am I doing?” to “How are you doing?” a whole new world of opportunity opens up. Reach out to those who are struggling, sick, or alone. Call them, write them, let them know you care. Pray for them and for the whole world. If we can act as channels of support and strength for others, we are the ones ultimately who are most blessed. In this spirit, we invite you to join us for Ananda’s weekly worldwide prayer campaign, “Be a Warrior for the Light.”
4. Change Isolation into Inner Stillness
A friend in quarantine asked us recently, “I’m discouraged because I feel my devotion is wavering. What can I do?” One cause of diminished devotion is allowing the mind to become restless and externalized. There’s a natural tendency towards restlessness when we can’t leave home or engage in normal activities. To counter this, give more quality time and energy to your meditation practice. When we feel God’s presence in still, interior awareness, devotion is automatically awakened.
Try to avoid reading too much news or watching too many movies. These things keep us restlessly stimulated so that we can’t perceive God’s subtle vibrations.
Remember to pause at certain points of the day and observe your breath. A friend told us that with every inhalation he feels he is drawing in God’s love, and with every exhalation sharing that love with the world. Try practicing this for a few minutes throughout the day.
Paramhansa Yogananda offered us this beautiful prayer:
“In the solitude of my mind my devotion bursts to hear Thy voice. Take away every dream-memory of earthly sounds that yet lurks in my mind. I want to hear Thy still voice, ever singing in the silence of my soul.”
Finally, cast aside fear and have faith in God’s all-protecting power. Be always ready for the moment when you know that nothing in this world has the power to hold you down. Then you’ll experience the thrill of an unimpeded lift-off towards the unchanging joy of God.