What we’re facing now is unprecedented in living memory.
Covid-19 is affecting all of us, even as businesses begin to open back up and states and countries enter different phases to resume everyday life. We still don’t know what the future holds and what the new normal will look like six months from now.
Numerous studies have repeatedly shown that social isolation contributes to elevated blood pressure, morning spikes in cortisol levels, and disrupted sleep.
A 2019 study conducted by the University of Michigan reported that adults ages 50-80 years old feel lonely due to social isolation. And apart from increasing loneliness caused by the global quarantine, more and more people are reporting high levels of post-traumatic stress disorders across the world.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
“Understand that we all can be radiantly alive, even in hardship.”– Srikumar Rao
Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of leading personal growth company Mindvalley, recently interviewed bestselling author and educator Srikumar Rao on the Mindvalley podcast to uncover the best way to live amidst all this uncertainty.
In order to better understand this and to illustrate the universal human potential we all possess, Rao shared the story of a wandering pilgrim who lived in Siberia in the late 19th century. This story only became known when they found his journal:
He was a mere peasant who had nothing but a torn wool coat and a copy of The Bible.
On top of being destitute, he also suffered from a dislocated shoulder and was constantly in pain.
But if you read through his diary, despite suffering these hardships, he led a happy and fulfilled life. He focused on the good in his life, and managed to ‘live radiantly’.
This story serves as a reminder of how empowered all of us actually are, and how we can live from a place of inner peace and profound gratitude, even in difficult times.
But what does it really mean to be radiantly alive?
Rao says, “In short it means you feel terrific. It means having a very deep feeling of wellbeing that permeates every cell of your body.”
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…and this radiance is independent of physical health.
It’s possible for you to be suffering from the flu, running a fever, or dealing with some kind of constant physical pain, and yet still be fully alive – because you’re not identifying yourself with the things that are wrong with your body.
What you’re doing is focusing on all the positive things that you do have at the moment, which usually encompass much more than we realize.
And while Rao admits this may not be easy, focusing on the positive can be absolutely achievable to live a meaningful life in the midst of adversity.
Here he shares 4 powerful steps to becoming radiantly alive even in the midst of a pandemic.
1. Be Aware Of Your Mental Chatter
If you’ve ever been afraid of getting infected, or you start to wonder whether you might lose your job or be evicted from your home…
That’s mental chatter.
Rao describes mental chatter as worst-case scenarios that probably might not happen to most people, and yet we fear them anyway.
In other words, mental chatter is just ‘fake news’.
For a majority of people, we create scenarios in our heads of all the terrible things that can happen, and then we live in that space. Remember — you create the matrix you live in.
While the Coronavirus has caused many deaths and it’s possible that some of us could fall seriously ill, the odds are that you’ll likely recover from it and life will go on.
“It’s a tragedy of the worst possible dimension, and I’m not trying to downplay it,” Rao adds.
Indeed, for some people, the worst scenario has come true: people have lost their jobs, and people close to you may have fallen ill.
But even if that happens, your life isn’t over. It’s easy to focus on the bad and be trapped by it. But if you open your mind, you can focus on the good too.
Regardless of what happens, your inner ability to keep a radiantly alive mindset is not impaired. If you experience the worst-case scenario, Rao suggests adopting ‘radical acceptance’.
2. Accept And Embrace Change
We’ve all experienced hardship in our lives, and most of the time it comes unexpectedly (just like this pandemic).
So what do you do when life throws a curveball at you?
Rao asserts that the answer is radical acceptance – the ability to recognize that you have no control over the universe and embracing this actually leads to a sense of freedom.
When stuff happens, you can either resist it and suffer psychologically, or you can accept it and focus on “what do I do now?”
One of the most important lessons we learn in life is to let go of the notion that the world has to be a certain way to make us feel good. We have zero control over life’s unpredictable nature. Recognize that there is no single external event that can impair your ability to be radiantly alive.
Once you stop resisting and accept the situation for what it is, your mind is completely free to focus on the many other ways in which the universe is actually unfolding the way you would like it to. And from this emotional domain of appreciation and gratitude, you then address the things in your life that you would like to change.
3. Focus On Things You Can Change
Awareness is like a flashlight that illuminates whatever you shine it on.– Srikumar Rao
Your mind is like a flashlight – it shines on one thing at a time. Most of the time you shine it on the things that you think are wrong in your life. But you can change this…just like a flashlight, you can redirect that light and shine it on something positive.
Train your mind to focus on the joy of being alive and on all the good that surrounds you.
If you can consistently shine your flashlight on that, you’ll find that whatever is “wrong” in life will be dealt with from the space of being radiantly alive. The concept is simple, but admittedly it takes practice to adopt this mindset.
Think of it like in times of war. All of a sudden you’re forced to step up to a need and you realize you’re capable of doing things you never thought you could do before. Your awareness is a flashlight and it refuses to shine on things that make you feel full of despair.
Instead, constantly, consciously and deliberately shine the flashlight of your awareness on what is good and what you can do.
In fact, one of the best things to do in the midst of this pandemic and in moments of despair is to focus on other people you can help. You may not be able to help everyone, or make a big difference – but remember, it’s not the magnitude or the outcome, it’s about the process.
4. Invest Your Energy Into The Process
We all had goals pre-Coronavirus, and it may seem as if they’ve all been left behind. How can we revive these goals and keep pursuing them against all the odds?
The answer is simple: stop focusing on goals.
The biggest mistake we make is setting a goal and then focusing everything we have on achieving that goal.
We think the benefit is to complete the goal, but this is the wrong way to look at it. The benefit of achieving or striving for the goal is the learning and growth we experience individually as we do our level best to achieve it. If we actually achieve the goal, it’s a bonus!
And even if you don’t achieve the goal, don’t neglect the incredible learning and growth you went through; you’re ahead of the game no matter how you look at it.
It’s a no lose scenario, so invest in the process and not in the outcome. The outcome is beyond your control. It always has been and always will be.
“The purpose of the flower is to bloom, and when the flower blooms, the bee will find it.”– Srikumar Rao
Rao suggests, “Think about your close circle— your family, partner, children, friends and neighbors. Infuse all of that positive energy into their wellbeing and bring them more peace and joy. If you can make just one person feel better, then your mission is complete. It’s not about the size of the impact; it’s about the impact itself.”
Whether you are a flight attendant who was furloughed or laid-off, or a business owner whose company is at risk, we are all in the same situation at the end of the day.
It’s our great human potential to become an anchor of calmness and act as a source of radiance for those around us. This is our most precious contribution.
So to quickly recap,
- Be extremely aware of your mental chatter – stop focusing on problems and instead shine the flashlight of your awareness on things that you can do to help yourself and others.
- Stop resisting changes – accept them and embrace them fully, and recognize what you can do to improve the situation from that space of acceptance.
- Your well being DOES NOT depend on external circumstances – You have zero control over the world, but you have all that it takes to radiate joy, gratitude and calmness from within.
- Invest your energy in the process, not the outcome – You may or may not succeed, but that’s secondary to the growth and learning you gain.
What piece of wisdom can you share that helps you to be radiantly alive?? Let us know in the comments.
(This article is based on a Mindvalley Podcast episode with Srikumar Rao, written and edited by Irina Yugay.)