In our continuing series of conversations with Swamis, we talked with Swami Matananda, a long-term resident and Swami Radha disciple. She reflects on questions very relevant to our times: how to remain centred amongst uncertainty and fear.
How do you deal with hard times in your life?
Recently I had a deep experience of questioning and reevaluation. My profound discovery from that was to “wait and be” – and that’s all. That isn’t an easy thing to do! Acceptance doesn’t mean it is comfortable or that you like it. In this recent situation, I knew I needed to understand what I was going through from my inner knowing. There was some tension and anxiety along with moments of trust – and it was very empowering. I still trusted my choices of who I am and what I was doing. I was simply “actively waiting.” Trusting myself even though I didn’t know I had that muscle. And now I have the wisdom to say, “remember, you can do the waiting.”
Unless we have both the light and dark to rub up against each other, the pain and the joy, how do we know what the Light is? You light a match in a dark room and although it is a tiny flame, it will have a big effect. We need to have the light and the dark and it is a dance. The aim of yoga is to unite but life is a dance that includes friction. And I know that time is not important in a certain way – to think this should be over by now. Such active waiting leads to surrender – surrendering to what is. To stretch that much and to relax – it’s not easy. My understanding of surrender now is letting go, waiting and accepting. The active part of it is inhalation to lengthen and expand, and then comes exhalation leading to relaxation. When I was exploring that dark place, I would inhale and say to myself, “Is this okay?” Then I would exhale and accept, “This is where I am.” Enlightenment is a moment and not a state to get to.
In the midst of fear and uncertainty (the example of COVID-19), how do you navigate emotions and keep situations like these in perspective?
For myself, it’s important to get ready for the world as I know it to change. I do think we have to be ready. Going through other experiences in my life where big change happened and I was fearful, I realized that things can change and be okay. We are in the perfect place at the Ashram to get to the bottom of our fears and usually they are pretty simple. The mind is so amazing and the emotions are so strong, that it takes constant vigilance to keep things balanced.