Pratyahara in times of high stress

2020 has proven to be one of the times when we have been under the most stress in recent times. We are dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic, many of us are unemployed, family issues difficult to solve in the distance, all the normal life stressors and in the US… the election… I don’t know about you, but I have felt completely overwhelmed and even though I have deepened my practice in many levels, I still find myself bombarded 24/7 with stimuli that I don’t necessarily need or want.

I started by avoiding groups or friends in social media that would trigger my stress. And surprisingly, it was not necessarily those comments that support the other candidate, but it was also the comments in groups that supported my candidate that would alter my peace. So I either left, or completely turned off anything from these groups/individuals that I could feel were triggering my stress, but it is not enough. With family all over the world, I cannot completely leave social media since I would be missing on a big part of what is going on with my people out there. I use WhatsApp as the main form of communication with my loved ones, via text, video or audio calls. However, I instated a rule for myself, where if any group I belong to, that is not family, started with any of the topics that would affect me, I would leave at least for a while, and I did so two days ago. It didn’t feel right, I had some type of emotional hangover the next day, which was difficult to explain. This was the group with my friends from high school, in different countries, and when they started just talking about the election int he US, regardless of who it was or what they were saying, I just told them I would leave and I did. After my departure I was contacted by a few of them, and it seems that it created a major issue. Some people understood, some didn’t and they did ask me to return. But there was one comment made by one of them which eventually got to me, which indicated that I should do more Yoga.

What I did was actually Yoga. The Eight Limbs of Yoga of Patanjali indicates a path of yoga that includes, as its Fifth Stage, the practice of Pratyahara, which is withdrawal from the senses, which I also understand as the withdrawals from the distractions of the mind. In our world today, we are in constant contact with many sources of distractions, like never before. And if we are not careful, our whole existence can be affected by these distractions, which would not lead to a happy and prosperous life.

I am still not sure if I will rejoin the group yet, and I am not sure if I will completely deactivate my account in FaceBook or if I will just delete it from my phone. What I do know is that there are many forces out there that will demand our attention in a time where practicing Pratyahara may be one of the best ways to achieve inner peace and get back on our yoga path.

Namaste.

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