What Are You Left With When Distractions Are Gone?
The weekend past was an exploratory one, looking for information that was going to help me understand what the clients I support through Mind are experiencing, and also information that could support what we are experiencing these days.
As always such searches are quite an eye opener and I just love the constant feeling of discovery. Also because through this search, I ended up revisiting videos I had come across years ago which helped me remember and grasp, in more depth, powerful stories that had initially caught my attention.
One such story was the journey of Dandapani, who (it's been quite a number of years now) left his country, Australia, after his civil engineering degree at the age of 23, to join Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, one of Hinduism’s top spiritual leaders, in his cloistered monastery in Hawaii, and became a Hindu monk in the process.
Dandapani's transformation lasted 10 years which led to a drastically changed life as he left all luxuries, commodities, habits, friends and connections behind, and would speak with his parents on the phone twice a year (!).
Life was simple at the monastery yet not quite what you would expect from books and movies (there weren't really lots of candles, rice paper, sweeping the side walks, talking in very soft gentle voice, or practicing martial arts) (at least not in this monastery).
He would wake up early in the morning around 4:45am, shower, do some personal practices on his own, join the other monks at 5:30am to share a ceremony, meditate for only (!) 30mins, exercise, have breakfast, then they would all go to work (!) until 12:30pm.
Work comprised of the finances of the monastery, the church congregation, the land, graphic design (!) (you can tell by the exclamation marks how little I know about life in living monasteries), then everyone would clean a section of the building or land between 12:30-1pm, followed by lunch and a nap.
At 3pm until 6pm they would go back to work (!), enjoy free time between 6-7pm, watch TV (what?!) between 7-9pm, get ready to bed, and if it had been pre-arranged, he would be awake between midnight and 3am to do spiritual practices.
This was the schedule every day for 10 years, with the occasional journeys to town to get food, or occasional travel with his guru and some other monks when the guru was invited to teach.
First thought, I'll admit it, was groundhog day. Second thought, of course, was lockdown, which is how this relates to us.
Third thought was of a conversation I recently had with a colleague who said he was getting fed up with the lockdown. Apart from feeling that he was spending too much time with his partner, he was also feeling fed up with doing the same things with her over and over again.
What Dandapani learned through his process was that when you are stripped of all distractions, when there are no alternatives to boredom or frustration or discomfort or agitation, no Starbucks, no snacking, no pubs, no intense working hours that lead to high levels of stress, no scrolling on Instagram and no double or triple lives, there is no alternative to escaping oneself, and only one solution, as challenging as it might feel, that of accepting oneself.
The western response to my colleague is 'shall we brainstorm together and come up with more ideas of what you guys can do together, or look if there is a way to do what you are already doing differently?'.
Yet I am now wondering if there is another response that says 'what is there in your relationship, in yourself, and in your partner, that is accepted, that you can accept, and be open to experiencing every day as it shifts gradually and slowly from one day to the next, that you can cherish and appreciate, and that you find you happily return to when you have already and consistently done all you could to take care of yourself?'
I am curious what his answer would be.
If you would like to improve the way you connect with your partner and you are unsure how, I offer a 45mins Complementary Clarity Session to help you get clarity and form a plan of action. To arrange your session, you can email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org or choose your time from my online calendar by visiting http://TheLantern.as.me/relationships
Constantina Stamou is a certified Life & Relationship Coach, NLP Master Practitioner, and has a PhD in Stylochronometry. Before training as a coach, she worked for the charity RICA as a researcher, co-founded and co-directed TNT Dance (On2 Salsa school), and run her own Reformer Pilates Studio at Kensington Olympia, London. She is currently volunteering for the mental health charity Mind.