Article in the Mindscape Section of the January 2017 Issue of Stayfit Magazine by Vinesh Sukumaran
I’m sure a lot of us have heard the story of the Zen master and the earthquake. A Zen master was having dinner one evening with his disciples. A major earthquake struck and while everything shook and swayed, the disciples ran frantically to other rooms and to different parts of the monastery. Some even ran right out of the monastery in an attempt to save their lives. In a while, the earthquake settled down and the tremors stopped. So the disciples started to find their way back to the monastery and eventually into the room where the dinner was served. They found the Zen master still seated in silence with a calm and peaceful look on his face. When the disciples asked him how come he didn’t run out to save his life, he replied that the quake was everywhere. In that room, the next room and even outside the monastery. So the only place you could actually escape to was into yourself. And that’s what the Zen master did.
We sometimes don’t realize that we all have access to a place like this. A room where no one and nothing can affect you. A place where you can be in a state of absolute bliss, despite the earthquakes and hurricanes of life that might surround you. But before you start gaining access to this room you need to identify it and if you can’t do that; at least build one for yourself.
There are some of us who are lucky enough to have found that sacred space early on in life. Either through practicing a form of art or music or meditation or through writing or even just by knowing how to relax. These are the people who almost have a readymade room and the journey they take is just about drifting gracefully in their mental or spiritual space to find that room. And lets also accept the fact that some of us might have come into this world without a blessed space to go to or might be so far removed from that peaceful room that it would be far smarter for us to build a new room from scratch. Here’s what you could keep in mind if you wanted to build your own room of bliss.
First of all, spend time every day, doing something that you absolutely love. Read a book, workout, take a walk in the park, write, practice martial arts, go on a bike ride, meditate or do whatever makes you feel good. Try to pick activities that take you inward rather than keep you distracted from your inner self and take you further away from your center. So things like drinking, drugs, gambling, gaming or television are bad options. When you do the things you love often enough, you’ll notice that the intensity of the good feeling that you experience starts to expand and become more intense. That’s when you realize that your room is slowly getting built. Secondly, you’ll notice that some activities work better for you than others. For some, meditating for an hour might get them into a quiet and serene space while for some others sitting in a café reading a book for a while might make them feel tranquil. Choose what works best for you and stick with it. This is like finding the right entrance to your serene space. Thirdly, repeat your favorite activity frequently. This does not mean quitting your job and doing it all the time. There is great power in spaced repetition. Each time you enter your peaceful room, the more definite it becomes. First you identify a spot, then you mark it, then the walls get built, then the ceiling and interiors and lights and fragrances. The more often you go into this room, the more robust your room becomes.
A final thought is that once you identify your room or build one for yourself, don’t abandon it. I’ve met a lot of people who’ve had a really calm mental space that they could go to whenever they wanted to. One that their parents inculcated or ushered them into or perhaps one that they themselves identified in the process of growing up. But as they grow older and get caught up in the natural disasters of everyday life, they stop going to this room and eventually this room gets abandoned or forgotten altogether. Finally at some point they’re having a midlife crisis or experiencing severe job stress and they don’t know where to go.
So once you know your safe haven, respect it, guard it and enjoy it for life. It’s a place where nothing can affect you.