It is hard to stay calm when all about you, as a great poem suggests, are losing their heads, and blaming things on you.
However, it is a key skill, which needs a lot of practice, and some clever thinking, to achieve.
Here are some tips, if you happen to want to train yourself to be still in among other people’s fuss.
ONE – STOP NEEDING OTHER PEOPLE’S APPROVAL
If you have been depending on external approval like a drug, then you will continue to work hard to obtain it. The trouble is, in a crisis, different people want different things, and so you will find it impossible to please everyone. It might have been easy at school, where there was a clear scoring system for merit. But when your environment goes out of control, coherent scoring systems are hard to come by, and you will be much more reliant on your own judgement. Work hard to develop your own sense of judgement. It will support you when external support disappears.
TWO – LEARN TO WALK AWAY
If you are attached to other people by apron strings, then you will be unable to walk freely. How can you achieve quiet contemplation, if you are spending too much time close to other people’s anger, panic, fear, and anxiety? You can do this walking away in two ways. At first, you may have to simply remove yourself from the company of disturbed people, until you can learn to remain calm in their presence. The second way is more subtle. After a lot of meditation practice, you may find yourself able to achieve non-attachment while still in other people’s company. If so, you will have found equanimity even in the middle of social interaction – quite some skill if you can attain it.
THREE – DEVELOP CLARITY OF INTENTION
It is much easier to remain calm, if your mind and body are well focused on a singular intention. At a basic level, this is evident when we focus on a simple task such as cleaning, gardening, or an art or craft. We are calm, because our mind and body are working together, and are therefore not available for the many distractions which usually haunt us. At times of fuss, others will try to haunt us in a similar way. But if we have it clear in our minds what we are trying to do, we can become immune from distraction.
FOUR – STAY COMPASSIONATE
If you are repelled by other people’s behaviour, then you are starting a battle in your mind that you will never win. You have allowed others to inhabit your mind, and so your peace will not be your own any more. It will be destroyed by anyone or anything that irritates you. However, if, instead, you concentrate on wishing the best for everyone around you, then other people’s suffering minds can’t gain a foothold in your own. In particular, if you can see those who are suffering as helpless, then you cannot feel angry with them. Not many people are angry at a baby for crying. Most of us understand that babies are helpless, and this helps us to be compassionate. We can regard adults in the same way – as helpless victims. In this way, even if they cause us trouble, we can remain compassionate, and therefore calm.
Am I looking to others for approval? If so, can I acquire the skill to maintain my own judgement when things around me are chaotic? Maybe I will be calmer then.
Am I sitting too close to other people’s anger, panic, fear or anxiety? If so, can I acquire the skill to keep my own freedom of movement, and not be influenced by the fuss?
Am I haunted by distractions? If so, can I acquire the skill to focus on one thing at once? Maybe a clear intention will calm me.
Am I locked in a battle of wills? If so, can I acquire the skill to be compassionate? If I can see that suffering others are helpless as babies, then maybe I can stay calm and see the best way to help them.