You must have heard of this brand. We all got Keep Calm T-shirts a few years back for our 25th anniversary. Do you know its history? “Keep Calm and Carry On” was a motivational poster designed by British Government just before World War II. The poster wasn’t publicized at that time, but around the year 2000, it was rediscovered and has since become quite popular. But even before “Keep Calm” became a brand, people would advise anyone who was getting angry or anxious to keep their calm. Now to be able to keep your calm, you need to find it. How do you find your inner calm?
To answer that, I would like to relate a story that I first heard in a sermon by life coach and monk, Gaur Gopal Das. It’s about a king who loved and appreciated art. One day, the king asked all the great artists in his kingdom to come up with the perfect representation of ‘peace’. A fabulous prize was announced for the best painting. Many artists tried their hands at it and submitted their paintings to the king. The king looked at all these paintings but finally chose two and put these two up for public display.
The first painting depicted a beautiful serene lake, nuzzled between snowy mountain peaks. Above it was a soothing blue sky with soft, fluffy white clouds. The clear, transparent waters of the lake perfectly mirrored the peaks and the pure blue sky. Everyone who saw this painting thought that it was a masterpiece and was certain to win the prize.
The second painting was very different. Crashing waves pounded against the foot of a rocky, bare, weather-beaten cliff. A raging waterfall tumbled down a side of the cliff. An angry sky, overcast with dark clouds. Lightening streaks here and there. “Peace?”, thought the people who saw this painting. The king asked them to look more carefully. Then they saw that a tiny bush was growing from a crevice in a rock behind the waterfall. In that bush, a little bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water and noise, sat the mother bird in her nest. In perfect peace.
Which painting do you think did the king choose for his prize?
The second one!
A small bird, aware of its surroundings, yet unruffled and at peace with itself. This, the king announced, was the best expression of true peace, which is not shaken by the turbulent events that surround it.
In real life too, you may sometimes feel overwhelmed by problems. Maybe the enhancement you are working on is not coming out the way you wanted, and you are feeling frustrated. Maybe a coworker is promoted and there is this undercurrent of resentment – why was he promoted and not me? Maybe your children are not doing as well as you want them to. Or your parents are going through health issues. Or your spouse is not very understanding. Maybe, there is a financial concern.
The first step to achieve a state of inner calm is to accept that there will always be difficulties, challenges, problems around us. When we resolve one problem, another one might raise its head. Can we wait for a magical time when everything is perfect to feel at peace? No, we must find our inner calm, our inner strength, amidst all these problems in our life.
Once you have accepted that you will have problems, don’t spend your time panicking or worrying about your problems. If you keep thinking, “Why is this happening to me?”, “What did I do to deserve this?”, only your health will go down. The problems won’t go away. Instead of worrying, check if the problems you are facing are within your control.
If they are, channelize your energy in finding solutions. Take help, if required. For instance, if it is a work problem – a bug in your software that you can’t resolve on your own — discuss it with your colleagues and you are sure to find a fix.
Then there are problems that are not entirely in your control. In that case, do what you can do and leave the rest to God or Time. For instance, if your children’s performance in school is not up to the mark, give them the support you can but also accept that they have a certain aptitude and whether you like it or not, eventually, it’s their life. If there are health issues, either your own or in your family, take the necessary diet and exercise and medication. After that, worrying about it is not going to make it any better.
Accept that there are things that you cannot change. In the sermon, Gaur Gopal Das says spirituality can help you find your inner calm when things seem beyond your control. He’s a monk, so obviously, he would say that. In my opinion, in an adverse situation, you can experience inner calm by doing whatever makes you happy. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, I sit down to an engrossing book. Now, this may seem like escapism. But I think of it this way. Option one, sit and worry. Option two, read a good book. Neither option is going to resolve the problem, but at least I would have enjoyed myself in the second case. So, hold on to the small things that bring you joy!
In short, “Don’t worry, be happy”, and you will find your calm.
To hear Gaur Gopal Das’ speech on inner peace, click here.