One of the things about developing basic sanity is that you don’t get “time off.” You don’t get to take a sanity vacation and indulge in being mean or acting crazy under stressful circumstances or when you think no one is looking. To that end, here in the Blissverse, we’re working to develop an inner emotional landscape where our actions are congruent with our values every moment, no matter how uncomfortable. To do that we need to attain the skill of retaining our humanity, retaining our compassion for ourselves and others, and keeping our minds and hearts open, no matter what circumstances arise in our lives.
After studying eastern philosophy for almost twenty years and practicing many of its ancient wisdom concepts and life-skills during that time, I wouldn’t even know how to take “time off” from having basic sanity or go nuts in hard circumstances. My view of reality is such that my mind can keep its integrity even when fate puts me in challenging circumstances.
Therefore, you might ask: How does basic sanity manifest as an internal experience during crisis?
First, the moment you realize that something unthinkable has happened, something that has irrevocably changed your life as you knew it in an instant, like a loved one has spontaneously died, focus on the neutralizing the story behind the huge physical response to crisis. When I experience crisis nowadays, when I feel the momentum of primal human agony start to bubble up through my body and into my mind, I don’t try to control that sensation. Instead, I let the explosion of energy reverberate through my body and into my mind. I focus and ride that energy, and recognize that energy as the energy of my life. When I face that explosion of blackness, of fear, of desperation, of agony triggered by something happening in my life that is not okay with me it turns into an arising of light, of compassion, of brotherhood with all other people in crisis when I let that explosion of energy run through me so I am at its root source: life. I feel that explosion of energy and re-focus my mind’s eye to see and experience that energy as just that, energy that if allowed to pass through me cannot sweep my mind into an abyss but instead grounds me to my connection with the entire universe. I turn my mind away from repeating the catastrophic narrative about what has happened (“oh my god, oh my god, it’s happened, I can’t bear it!”) and instead intensely concentrate on fully feeling the huge physical response to the crisis as the energy of my life, and my life as being an expression of the essence nature of all things.
There is a beautiful poem in Indian philosophy, which students repeat over and over to learn and prefect the realization of the essence nature of all things as being light, as being a field of loving awareness. It’s called: Brhadaranyaka Upanishad. In the future, I’ll get a certified teacher to teach this poem to us here in the Blissverse. The realization imparted in the learning and practice of the poem helps us accomplish this first step in maintaining basic sanity during crisis. I have recited this poem thousands of times, in both Sanskrit and English, to the extent that I can experience the energy of crisis as the energy of my life, and ultimately of an expression of the essence nature of all things. But learning this poem is not the only way to gain this skill-set and there’s value in working to cultivate it with the information you have at hand.
The second step in being able to manifest basic sanity during crisis, is to start to focus on your breath. I breath in fully, all the way down to my pelvis, and breath out fully. I feel how my breathing isn’t stopping; it continues to move in and to move out, out and in, even though my body’s physical response to the crisis is so intense it seems I might not live through it. Focusing on my breath proves to me that I will live through the crisis because I keep breathing, I keep living, I keep surviving despite the unthinkable having happened.
Third, once I’ve embraced that the crisis is happening, that it’s part of my own precious life (whether I like it or not), and that I’ll definitely live through it because I continue to breath, I continue to survive, then I look for a healthy way to “be” as the crisis unfolds. For example, one evening in March 2019, my thirteen year old cat hopped off my lap, went outside, and twenty minutes later was hit by a car and died. As a single spinster with two cats, this moment of crisis was emotionally akin to having a family member spontaneously die at one’s feet, but I kept my mind together and moved through the crisis staying grounded in basic sanity taking the steps we’re reviewing today. In this third stage of response during that event, I fell to my hands and knees in the street as a neighbor carried my dead cat’s body behind me. I cried out in agony during this third phase as a healthy response to the circumstances and instantly checked in, “Are there children who might see me? Are any of my villager-hero neighbors around who might be emotionally injured by witnessing the intensity of my grief?” The answer was no, it was dark, I was not being loud enough to bring people to their windows or out of their house, none of my sensitive neighbors or children were there, so I cried and quietly wailed for about three minutes on all fours in the middle of my one lane street. Then I stood up, continued walking to my house, and guided the neighbor with my cat’s body into my living room and pointed at my couch so he could gently set him down and withdraw.
On a lighter note, but still a wretched crisis, in November 2021, I spent six hours at a gas station waiting for a tow truck to rescue me and my truck, after I had potentially killed her by putting DEF, a liquid for diesel trucks, into my gas tank. I had spent the last twenty years caring for my truck as though she was a member of my family, so to have potentially killed her was deeply painful. After going through the first two stages of responding to the crisis, I could’ve decided to “be” introverted in reaction to the circumstances and spend my day waiting, sitting, and staring at the reality of what I had done, or use my attorney skills to verbally attack the gas station employees or AAA people desperately trying time and time again to get a tow truck to pick up me and my truck , or I could choose to “be” myself during this crisis and behave consistent with my values.
I chose to “be” myself. Who am I? I am here to help people love their life and find their purpose. Just because I had to sit in the reality that I may have lost my twenty year traveling companion didn’t change my life mission. Instead, another example of how to “be” during a crisis, I consciously decided to use the time at the gas station to engage any person who wanted to speak with me, and be as supportive to them and answer any questions they might have for me (this happens to me all the time). So I gave one person feedback about re-sparking their artistic life mission after having it squashed by a corporate-leaning art school. I spoke to some police officers about their choices around health care and shared a eastern philosophical view of the currently hostile environment experienced by some police forces in other parts of the US. I hugged one woman as she cried and cried about feeling badly about something she felt was her fault; I assured her while looking into her eyes that life is so complicated there is never ONE REASON that causes painful things to happen, so no one should burden themselves with sole self-blame for any event. Over that six hours, I worked to let go of my own pain, grief, and anxiety about my own circumstances and channeled that energy into “being” myself.
Fourth, as time passes and the huge physical response to the crisis starts to wane—after you’ve embraced the energy of your life, breathed through those initial moments, and then found healthy ways to “be” in the thrall of the crisis—it’s time to nurture and nourish yourself. It’s time to recognize that your life has irrevocably changed now that the unthinkable has happened and it’s time to figure out how to heal from the physical and emotional trauma of it. When my cat died in March 2019, I closed my law office for a week. During that week I spent much time in meditation, doing asana, writing his obituary, sitting in my backyard in the dirt and sunshine, learning who I was now that I had this new life, a life without my beloved kitty-companion. Maybe healing comes from taking saunas or medicinal baths. Maybe healing comes from making a big pot of bone broth and drinking it over a week or two. Maybe it’s asking your family and friends to spend time with you in support and community. Maybe it’s making an appointment for a massage once a week for a month. Maybe healing comes from journaling about your experience over time. Maybe it’s taking long walks in nature. Maybe it’s going to a healing doctor, like an Ayurvedic doctor or naturopath, for an overall healthcare approach to recovering.
This fourth step in retaining basic sanity in crisis is vital for both the short and long term. A crisis does not end the moment the huge physical response is over. It ends and fades into the past when you’ve nurtured and nourished yourself back to wholeness. However and however long that might take unique you to heal from your unique experience.
The Four Steps to Retain Basic Sanity in Crisis
- Embrace the energy of the crisis as the energy of your life,
- Focus on your breath and recognize that you will survive these circumstances,
- Look for healthy ways to “be” during the crisis, and
- Once the energy of the crisis starts to wane, nurture yourself to heal from the trauma
Thank you, Loved Ones, for letting me share these thoughts with you. Every day, I pray for all beings in all times and space to be happy, peaceful, and free from suffering. May the ideas presented in this article help you cultivate all of those qualities in your life during both times of joyful ease and times of traumatic challenges.
Thank you to my teachers. O Peace, peace, peace.
Unmani Saraswati, JD, LLM became the Chief Happiness Mentor of Bliss Revealed after a successful seventeen year career as a divorce mediator-attorney and law professor. A lifelong student of how to how to have a vibrant experience of life, she earned her credential as a Certified Massage Therapist from the Institute of Conscious Bodywork in 1997 and graduated from Trika Institute’s Seven-Year Tantrik Yoga Study Group Program in 2010. As a Chief Happiness Mentor, Unmani draws on her ongoing study of ancient wisdom concepts and life-skills, nineteen years of daily mediation practice, and her work supporting thousands of clients to bring out their best selves in the midst of crisis through mindfulness and education. She teaches the self-paced online program My Bliss Path™ and live streams with subscribing members of the Blissverse Locals community. Also, check out her free videos and blogs. To find out more about Unmani’s mission for everyone to have a Healthy Body, Strong Mind, and Happy Heart go to: https://linktr.ee/blissrevealed