What’s normal nowadays is waking up to Messenger, replying before we even brush our teeth. And then scrolling through Twitter for news and getting bombarded with information about the war in Mindanao, the latest number of EJK-related deaths, or an inappropriate exchange between a high-profile ex-couple. To balance things out, we go to Instagram to look at what “friends” are having for breakfast. We click on a few hearts and then we reply to a couple of urgent emails. We check the weather, we take a series of “woke up like this” selfies, play a bit with the filters, and post the best one online. And then we check the time and finally decide to get up from the bed, feeling just a little bit fulfilled by what we had done with the first few minutes of our busy day.
What is normal these days is probably the worst way to start the day, if we are to go by what BK Gopi Patel teaches. Sister Gopi is an experienced meditation teacher, inspirational speaker, and spiritual educator from the Brahma Kumaris. She was recently in Manila (August 23-24, 2017) to give a series of public talks on peace and freedom. Sister Gopi says that if we are not careful, we’d get overwhelmed by the toxicity around us, and it all may lead to a feeling of emptiness, stress, lifestyle diseases, or depression—all the typical modern day afflictions. Let’s take a look then at some of the tips she shared to help us shield ourselves from the chaos of the world.
1. First of all, self-care.
“A big part of self-transformation is self-care,” says Sister Gopi. More than caring for the physical body, it is very important to take care of the mind. It simply means being careful about what we think about, what we say, what we do, and when we think, say, or do these things. She also encourages everyone to enjoy some Me Time every day. “99% of great leaders have a personal practice of Me Time,” says Sister Gopi. This is our space and time for the self, which we can spend in meditation, writing, thinking, or doing whatever it is that nurtures our soul. One hour should be enough, however, the first 10 minutes of the day should absolutely be spent “elevating our thoughts”—not going on social media—because this brief window of time will affect the rest of our day.
2. Understand, and then release ego.
The ego is developed early in our lives when we start to become self-conscious. Sister Gopi believes that the ego is “probably one of the most slippery of energies that make us heartless.” It feeds anger, it makes our body conscious (as opposed to being soul conscious), it could destroy our peace, it colors our perception, and it is incredibly deceptive. When the ego is at work, the superficial, the labels, take center stage. For example, we might think that a lot depends on us and this might give us a false sense of self-importance. Let us take a long, hard look at this energy, and then release it. And, always remember: “When there is love, ego melts.”
3. Be careful what you feed your mind.
Where attention goes, energy flows. Whatever it is that you feed, will grow; it is a natural law. So BK Gopi advises everyone to pay attention to the quality of thoughts that we allow in our minds. For example limiting beliefs will indeed make us smaller; the more we think about our difficulties, the worse things get; our thoughts become our reality; or, worrying about the future makes us lose our energy to deal with difficulties when they finally do come. Many of the thoughts in our heads are actually useless data that rob us of much-needed focus.
Negative thoughts create restlessness in the body and may even lead to disease. Be extra careful because whenever we allow even just a single negative thought inside, more will come. “They come like a tsunami!” Sister Gopi exclaims. And she’s right, it usually starts with a single, small, seemingly innocent thought and before you know it, it has become an all-consuming monster in the mind.
4. Stop pleasing people.
People pleasing is another dimension of the ego, says Sister Gopi. It is disguised under “making other people happy,” but what it really does is it makes us more unhappy. People pleasers end up losing their discernment, and the people being pleased will end up depending on the people pleaser because their (the receivers’) weaknesses are being fed. The unfortunate truth about it is that they don’t really appreciate what you do for them, no matter how hard you try and how much you give. Sister Gopi likens it to “pouring your resources down the toilet.” And when you stop giving, they don’t like you anymore. But do you know whose fault and problem it is? It is most definitely not theirs.
5. Also, stop being a fixer and rescuer.
BK Gopi had wondered why there were social workers whom she met who were burned out from all the helping that they were doing. (This is really not uncommon.) They were in the business of giving—so shouldn’t they be reaping the fruits of their good karma?
When one fails to look after oneself, one becomes emptier the more one gives. Being a Fixer or a Rescuer is another dimension of the ego—it is the ego using the name of service to get its job done. When you keep fixing other people, you might lose yourself in the process and find that you are not able to live your life without getting involved in someone else’s life. And then your “mission” takes over.
Similarly, it is also unwise to jump in between two people who are in conflict because you will end up getting hurt. Rather than fixing things, work on yourself and be peaceful; support people with real good wishes. “It is probably the best way to help,” Sister Gopi says. Our self-respect must depend on what we do for ourselves, not on what we do for others.
6. Reduce the flow of your thoughts.
When it comes to thoughts, more is not better. If we want to become peaceful, then we must choose what to think and how much we think. There is even a special instruction from a great teacher: “Only create the thought that you are going to put into action. No more.” Stop thinking about the self, about others, situations, events; take care of the mind by reducing the flow of thoughts. Overthinking takes up too much energy, and besides, according to Sister Gopi, “When you are peaceful, you don’t even need to think too much.”
7. Serve by elevating your vibration.
In any situation, there are only one of two things: it is either we give or we take. And wherever we might find ourselves, we need to ask ourselves this question: What can I do to serve? Service is an integral part of self-care. When we talk about serving others, we usually consider service in terms of work or physical effort. But we forget that simply being peaceful is an incredible form of service for the world. In fact, being peaceful or elevating our vibration through meditation is our duty as human beings. When you are spreading vibrations of love, peace, and happiness around you, you are doing the world great service.
8. Start with your own heart.
So where do we begin with all this? It seems like a pretty daunting journey—this search for peace and happiness. We probably know that the best place to start is inside our own hearts. BK Gopi encourages everyone to look at the state of their hearts and to awaken the conscience. “The spiritual journey is a path of deep honesty, cleaning out superficial mindsets, releasing desires and expectations,” she says. The goal is authenticity, honesty, and truth. These are our original attributes anyway, we just have to learn to rediscover them.
You may also check out “How to love the self,” my write-up on BK Jayanti Kirpalani’s Manila talk on July 21, 2016. And if you are interested to learn more about the practice of meditation, you may send an email to email@example.com.