What I say may not work for everyone and no one should treat it as the gospel truth. Each one has to workout these principles based on their mental make up and life situation.
For example, the way I deal with stress is to enjoy it. Whenever I get some physical pain, I lay down and begin to enjoy it. One time in the middle of the night I awoke with severe stomach pain. Since I was living alone, I could not call anyone for help. I lay down and began to trace out where the pain started and how it was moving to other parts of my stomach and how it was affecting my body and mind. As I concentrated and enjoyed the throbbing pain, I slowly began to get over my stress of not having anyone nearby and could solve my problem. After I enjoyed the pain I never allowed it to bother me.
I also use this in my relationships. My mother stays with me and sometimes she will get irritated at very small things. Instead of getting upset, I begin to enjoy her irritations and tell Narayanan (who serves here) with a smile “See how Amma has become upset about such small things.” Then both of us will laugh and that irritation disappears. I told one of my shishyas about this method once and advised him that when his wife irritated him, he should say, “You look more beautiful when you are upset.” “Whether she cools down or not, at least your stress will be reduced,” I told him.
I know many of you will immediately say, “As a single man, you don’t know the difference between the ‘mother’ and ‘wife’!” I agree. As I said in the beginning, this formula doesn’t apply to all. But it is also not limited only to my mother; it applies to all kind of stress. Even though I am initially troubled quite a bit, I begin to enjoy that stress and don’t allow it to trouble me more than I can bear. As we all do, I surrender that problem to the Lord and seek His grace, guidance etc. not only to get relief from that problem but also will ask Him, “What do you want me to learn from this?”
One day, Narayanan took a holiday and my mother became upset since there was no one to look after the ashram, yet I approached it differently. Since Narayanan is not here, I can enjoy more calm and quietness as I need not call him often to ask him to do things. Once I began to enjoy the peace and calmness in the absence of someone, instead of missing something I began to fill myself with something differently: tranquility, peace, calm, quietness, etc. When you miss something, begin to count the blessings that will come in disguise rather than the stress that confronts openly. When you miss some tasty food you like, then count the loss of calories that will help you to reduce your weight.
After some quarrel when you don’t talk with another person for few hours or days with whom you (have to) live, use those hours to do some other thing that has demanded your attention for a long time. I know some couples that after having a fight, the wife will go and clean the kitchen and the husband will clean his table or car shed. When my mother gets upset with me, she takes a wet cloth and begins to wipe the store-room, kitchen platform and other places in her room and I will quickly read all the pending magazines, to which I cannot give attention in normal times.
Of course husband and wife eventually need to mend and reconciling the relationship. Afterward, they will realize that they need to fight at times to get some things cleared that have remained pending for a long time.
So the ‘secular’ answer for the ‘Art of Living’ is to begin to enjoy life. The ‘spiritual’ answer is to ask the question, “What do you want me to learn from this?” apart from seeking the grace of God.
I cannot give an exact quote from Sri Balakumaran’s ‘Mercury pookkal’ (Mercury flowers), he said something like, “When getting abused is inevitable, then turn back and enjoy it.”
Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam, August 2, 2010.