I am in the middle of a 21-day lockdown in my country that has recently been extended. It is the same in several parts of the world as well. For once, nature has turned us into zoo animals and locked us up in a cage.
I look around my cage. It is comfortably furnished and stocked. I will have no want of anything in the next few weeks, should the lock-down continue. I am well set to do my job, entertain myself and socialize with my family. For fresh air, there is a beautiful balcony. And the air is so clean, right now. All the traffic noise that I have been complaining about has quieted. Life has slowed, oh-so-deliciously slowed.
And yet, I am discontent.
A nameless, irrational seeking is coiled inside me and rears its head. I wonder: what am I seeking? Is it the restlessness of an un-ticked, incomplete to-do list sitting somewhere? I run a mental scan. Everything that I can do, I have done. The remaining will have to wait because there is nothing I can actually do about it.
I think of ways to pacify this discomfort in my head. A new movie? Some new skills, perhaps. A spot of dancing would help me. But then again, this feeling will come back. I know it. I know it because all the teachings of the spiritual masters that I have followed, come back to me. I read it before, but now I begin to truly understand.
The cage I am in, is my mind.
The human mind is a wondrous thing. And just like a vacuum cleaner, it collects a lot of junk. It has conditioned itself to be fed all the time – with information, with stimulation, with purpose, with little highs that arise from the achievement of a goal. Deprive it of all these things, and the mind goes crazy.
Suddenly it feels like the world has shrunk.
The current circumstances press down like the bars of a prison.
In the absence of something to do, the mind turns to things that keeps it occupied. Anxiety – about the future, the present, the state of the world etc. Meaningless cravings for food. A desire to get distracted by watching movies.
I’ve faced this before, in the Vipassana course. I remember feeling trapped in the everyday routine of the course, imprisoned in my own restlessness. But there was nothing else there for me to do, except face down my monkey mind. Out here, that monkey has a veritable garden of distractions.
The Devil Card in the Tarot is often confusing when it comes up. Who is The Devil? What is the circumstance that has suddenly caused you to be in shackles? Only now did I begin to understand. The circumstance does not matter. It is the mind that chooses to chain you and it is the mind that can free you.
The root of many of our problems lies in the fact that we are uncomfortable with facing discomfort. We seek to alleviate this discomfort as quickly as possible. In our world of click-and-get-it, it is easy to find a pacifier for our restlessness. In our hurry to do so, we lose track of what is really good for us. Making conscious choices requires time, patience and a still mind.
It starts with us being comfortable in discomfort.
Today, I will make a change. Instead of giving in to feeding the insatiable hunger of my mind, I will sit still and watch the caged beast roar. I know it is the beginning of a long and difficult journey. I need to make the caged animal less demanding over time.
To be at peace with less, not more, not keep searching.
I will sit still no matter how uncomfortable I feel with this hot, dry weather. I will learn to be ok with my nameless discomforts, without the impulse to do something about it.
And I remember: This too, shall pass.
About the Author
Vandana Rajendran is a tarot reader and a life-long student of astrology, who loves to let her hair down with a bit of dancing. She is fascinated by mythology of all cultures, especially when it is accompanied by a nice cup of tea. On weekdays, she works for a technology start-up.
7 thoughts on “The Devil Within: the restless journey to stillness”
I couldn’t agree more! There was a certain amount of irritability that came along with having to sit at hope for so many days.
It took me almost a month to be comfortable with the idea of sitting home, especially considering the busy lifestyle that I usually lead. But when one learns to be comfortable enough with whatever irks you, you find a certain sense of peace and happiness even in these troubled times.
This piece is so relatable. We have read and heard about many historic events where many people faced similar crippling thoughts. But we never ever imagined that we would be in the same situation. I believe the key to mental calmness in such chaotic times is to accept the situation with generosity and optimism. Let’s not forget that we are in this together.
This is so wonderfully written. It expresses the our present state of mind: something that I was feeling but couldn’t express in my words. And the positivity woven around it is great. Yes, this too shall pass and till then we will tame our mind to find peace.