Has the current COVID-19 situation made you suffer ? Maybe you’ve been mentally stressed, you have lost career opportunities, or even been kept away from loved ones? One thing is for sure, the uncertainty of the future has made all of us a bit perplexed, to say the least. In this article, I’ll discuss the 5 Kleshas (= roots of suffering), as well as ways to free your mind and body from the media pressure and boredom of confinement.
The 5 Roots of Suffering, according to Patanjali AKA author and creator of THE Yoga Sutras :
We often think ignorance is stupidness. It is not. Ignorance means that we are unaware or a misunderstanding. Ignorance is amongst us all. And that’s ok. We can’t “know” everything or understand everything. That is beyond human possibilities. But this is no reason why we should all suffer.
In fact, it is the act of longing to learn more about our passions and what excites us that brings happiness to our soul. When we no longer have interests in learning, we start to suffer. Additionally, misunderstandings have been known to make us suffer as it brings us farther from the truth.
What does it mean for the COVID-19 situation ?
Ignorance as in not understanding the virus brings anxiousness to us all. Simply learning more about Coronavirus, how it is spread, how to avoid spreading it further and avoid catching it will allow you to feel reassured.
Indeed, if you’re living in a country where you are currently in lockdown (and you probably are), then you should already feel reassured by being in a safe place. Home. How often do we get the chance to rest, reset and reconnect?
Let’s take these next few days or weeks as a way to test our ability to reconnect with ourselves, to sit still with ourselves, to meet ourselves where we’re at.
2. Asmita (= Ego or “I-Am-Ness”)
This second klesha (= “root of suffering”, in case you’re a bit sleepy today) is all about letting the sense of “I”, “Me”, “My” become the most important thing in your life. Our ego, when used for personal growth, can be a marvelous thing. However, sometimes, competitive feelings arise and selfishness takes over our entire beings, that’s when suffering ensues. Suddenly, we don’t recognise ourselves, and we feel bad, that’s proof we’re going against our natural values.
Additionally, our ego can push us never to be satisfied, putting ever more pressure on ourselves and never recognising our small steps are still steps forward that should be awarded. Remember, it doesn’t matter how slow you’re moving, just as long as you’re moving forward.
If I had to summarize Asmita, I’d throw the renowned “Happiness is only real when shared” ? This is it. For me, letting our competitiveness and selfishness aside, we can feel a thousand pounds lighter yet filled with so much more happiness.
How does that work with the COVID-19 situation ?
Since the beginning of lockdown, we’ve seen a sudden surge of even more selfishness with bulk purchasing. Who needs 15 kgs of toilet paper rolls? Are y’all doing those intestine purges for spring renewal? Noooo. Although, you can put your selfishness aside and help someone in need.
Many people are out of work due to the lockdown. On top of my head, yoga teachers. Studios are closed, they’re offering donation based classes online. Followed a few? Why not simply donate US$ 1, 2, 3? Can’t afford that much? There’s obviously someone around you that needs support these days.
Our mental health is going down the drain, but it shouldn’t. It wouldn’t if we’d all reach out to one friend we haven’t talked to in a while and tell them we got caught up in life but that we’re still thinking of them. How about that friend you got a heated conversation with but can’t remember about what? Tell them they’ve made you feel like shit for a moment but in respect to your friendship, you’d like to reconnect. How about your friend or family member that’s always been there for you, when’s the last time you told them you loved them?
Chances are, it’s the first time you’re experiencing a statewide - hell, worldwide lockdown. But is that really a reason to give in to your selfishness? And I’m not talking about the toilet paper issue here, but about the way we’ve all been thinking about OURSELVES first? I agree, that’s only natural. But after a few days in lockdown, how about thinking of others and spreading love and help?
I promise you, this’ll bring much more happiness that you have ever imagined.
Ah, “attachments”. I’ve actually made my Yoga Teacher Training final presentation on this topic, so I’ll share a little bit about what I’ve learned during this intensive 200 hours training with you guys. First of all, what are we talking about when we say “attachment” ? Attachment to what ? Hehe, I bet you’re wondering now... What first came to your mind? From my experience, this could be anything from:
And maybe more.
And the answer would be… “All of the above”. That’s right, attachments to material things, life events, expectations, people who no longer serve our higher selves, labels we attach ourselves and others, all cause us to suffer.
Only when we accept to let go of our expectations of how things/life “should turn out”, of the people who no longer serve us, of material things cluttering our homes, of the labels we attach ourselves and others, we will allow ourselves to walk on the path of true happiness.
How can I “let go” when COVID-19 got me all mentally drained ?
Before going on, let me just agree with you that the act of “letting go” is no picnic. It takes some time. But guess what, we’ve been given the gift of time! So, whether you want to escape the pain of the COVID-19 uncertainty, the thought that you “should’ve been” in the Bahamas with your lover right now, or the fact that you’re stuck abroad at the in-laws … you can practice the art of ‘letting go’ too.
Here are some of the steps I took to, myself, let go of my incurable illness and the way it’s been ruining my life (and I’m no braver than you are, I allow myself the occasional wine break we all deserve!):
Control your thoughts so they don’t control you. When you’re having a little discussion with your 5 internal voices (don’t pretend, we all got 4+ ;)), remember that your thoughts do NOT define you, nor do the labels you attach to yourself. They’re just thoughts, labels, illusions of your mind during a time when you’re not feeling all that confident in yourself. That’s all.
Work hard to change the things that you can, and try to accept the things that you cannot. Whether we know why certain things happened to us or not, we have to let go of our expectations of how “things should’ve turned out”, and work on accepting what actually is. What has happened, happened, and this too, will pass.
Forgiving yourself and those who have hurt you. Purposefully or not. Holding onto the past or expecting apologies from people who might not even realize they’ve hurt us will only make us suffer. Letting go of this expectation or events that happened by forgiving the ‘guilty’ parties will set us free. I love you, I forgive you, I accept you.
Staying present. All we have is now, so instead of living inside our minds and constantly overthinking the past or the future with “what if’s”, let’s simply reconnect to the pace of our breath, observing how each inhale creates space and lightness through our spine, and each exhale brings more calm to our entire bodies. By the way, my amazing teacher Bryony offers a “21 Days to 21 Minutes of Meditation” class! If your goal is to learn how to let go and meet yourself where you’re at, you should definitely check her out! You’re also probably wondering why 21 days? It takes 21 days to create a new habit, and you, my dear, will be taking on the habit of emptying your mind of worries and stress, and filling it with space for creativity, love and warmth. I’m linking this here but I take no commission for sales, just sending some love to my amazing teacher. (Letting go of Asmita, right there, not thinking of myself but simply promoting a class I took and loved, showing some support back to someone who’s helped me and supported me). And what’s best ? The class is only 21€, which equals 1€ per day. https://coursecraft.net/c/meditation/splash
4. Dvesa (= Aversion or Avoidance)
Here yet again, the question of “avoidance of what?” comes to mind. What did YOU think about first?
We often put out a strong facade to avoid ourselves from acknowledging that we are suffering. This avoidance causes us to become anxious, stressed, and ultimately makes us suffer even more.
Properly dealing with pain is primordial. Old and non-properly healed wounds get “infected” and leave us scared for life… For moral suffering, it’s no different.
How often do you feel childhood traumas are being triggered by events happening during your teenage or adult life ? Because we are not used to being told that it’s ok to cry, to admit your pain, to be vulnerable.
Dealing with your traumas will take time. There is no quick healing method that can work overnight. But once you take the first step towards healing and actually go past the avoidance, then you are already halfway there. (Which makes me think we should tell people that healing from traumas is like AA, there are steps. And we should be awarded too for taking care of stuff!)
Meditation and mindfulness yoga can help you heal from the inside out (and before you even go saying “Hann, that ain’t gonna work for my case”, gimme a chance to lay out some facts!). Here are some of the ways these practices can help :
Meditation helps calm our “monkey minds”, which are responsible for anxiousness, stress, and a state of unhappiness.
A growing number of studies has shown that meditation can also be very effective in helping people recover from various types of addiction.
Two studies of mindfulness meditation found decreased depression in over 4,600 adults.
An additional study of meditation in patients with terminal diseases found meditation helped mitigate chronic pain.
Mindfulness has been shown to promote healthy eating behavior, and improve weight loss in overweight or obese individuals.
The American Heart Association has stated that meditation can help reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
Research shows mindfulness training can improve the quality of sleep for individuals with sleeping difficulties, which improve overall daily performance and mood.
A 2011 study found that Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is an effective intervention for depression relapse in patients with at least three prior episodes of major depressive disorder (MDD).
Another study found that MBCT provided significant relapse protection for participants with a history of childhood trauma that left them with increased vulnerability for depression.
How does that relate to the COVID-19 situation ?
We’re all here, sitting on our couch, drinking kombucha and eating vegan chips, avoiding the fact that we’re all bored with ourselves. That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? We all want to live lives filled with joy and fun activities all the time that we have forgotten how to sit still with our own selves.
Why are we bored ? How do we define “fun” ? Are those things you just thought of superficial ? Or else did you not think of anything fun to do ? Who are YOU ?
Let’s take this time social-distancing by making a list of the things or people that cause us pain. Let’s read that out loud, then think of ways we can stop avoiding this pain and take action to heal ourselves.
5. Abhini Vesha (= Fear of Death)
Have you ever feared something happening and so it happened? Like a quick run to the supermarket with a giant zit on your forehead and greasy hair and suddenly running into your ex’s supermodel new girlfriend? Ugh, shitty situation, isn’t it? What do you think would’ve happened if you hadn’t overthought the situation of fearing to run into someone as you were not on your top hair day? It probably shouldn’t have happened. We call it the law of attraction. You attract what you think. Your vibe attracts your tribe. One more ? Everything you think, you become.
The fear of death will have you stay within your comfort zone, and by doing so, you are not truly living. You’re just surviving.
You are unique. Your DNA is unique. Your personality is unique. Each breath you take is unique. Use this uniqueness to truly be yourself and live the life you were born to live, no matter if death is waiting for you outside that turn. Because if you never leave your comfort zone and live your life to the fullest, it’ll still find you some other way.
The fear of failing, being laughed at, or dying, will only bring you sadness. What if I fall, you ask… But oh darling, what if you fly? Now I’m not saying go on and try parachuting at the back of an unregistered plane, but simply to allow your wings to take off and see where you land, to follow your passions and projects for what might just be the adventure of a lifetime. And if it’s not, you’ll start again, and again, until your struggle and the journey will mean more to you than the actual result or destination.
What does it mean for the COVID-19 situation ?
You might be confined for now, but no situation is permanent. Everything is temporary. Put your fears away and start planning that trip you’ve always wanted to take, finally craft up your business plan for it to take off after lockdown, get working on that summer body right ahead of schedule. Take matters INTO YOUR OWN HANDS, and stop fearing the results.
Whether it’s a misunderstanding, your ego, attachment to life’s events, labels, expectations, avoidance or your fear of death, there is a reason for your suffering. And a solution. The real question is… Are you ready to take the necessary steps ?
Account Manager in a past life, Marine used to overthink every detail, wanting her work (and life) to be as perfect as shown on social media. After being diagnosed with Endometriosis and undergoing 2 surgeries, she had her wake-up call. She quit her corporate career and took her 8 years of yoga practice to the middle of the Moroccan Atlas Mountain… for a 200 hours Yoga Teacher Training. This changed her outlook on her illness, happiness, and the life events she thought had changed her forever. Above all, it changed her overall view of life and healing. Upon becoming certified, she made it her mission to try and share her experience and knowledge in order to help other men and women suffering from depression, chronic illnesses, or simply from what she calls the “Society Syndrome”.