Here is the full transcript of spiritual teacher Preetha ji’s TEDx Talk: How to End Stress, Unhappiness and Anxiety to Live in a Beautiful State at TEDxKC conference.
Preetha ji – Co-Founder, One World Academy
Namaste! Let me share a fable with you, for stories are ways of immortalizing messages.
Two monks, Yesmi and Nomi, are returning back to the monastery after a day of teaching in the nearby village. They are just about to cross the river when they hear a woman crying. Yesmi walks up to her and asks her what was troubling her? She needed to get back to her toddler who is living in the village across the river.
Since the river has risen that day, she is feeling miserable that she will not be able to go back to her toddler, and her child would cry for her all night. On hearing her, Yesmi volunteers to help her.
He carries her across the river and drops her on the other side. And they continue with their walk. About half an hour into the walk, Nomi, in a very agitated tone, speaks up, he says, “Yesmi, do you know what you have done?” Yesmi calmly looks at him. A master said, “Never look at a woman, you spoke to her.” A master said, “Never speak to a woman, you touched her.” A master said, “Never touch a woman, you carried her.”
Yesmi calmly looks at Nomi and says, “Yes, that is true, but I have dropped her half an hour ago. It is you who still carries her.”
Let me take you away from the story for a bit, for a tiny experience of meditation. Please close your eyes.
I still see a few sneaking a peek. It is safe to close your eyes. Inhale and exhale, deep and slow. With every exhale raise the edges of your lips into a gentle smile. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Broaden your smile. Open your eyes. Do you recognize that with a little attention to your breath and a smile on your face you are more calm and more present. The power to peace is always within you.
Let us get back to our story. Yesmi and Nomi represent two states of being. Fundamentally, every one of us lives only in two states. One is a stressful state; the other is a no-stress state. We call this no-stress state a beautiful state. For that is how life feels when you live free of stress.
Generally, stress refers to tension, but anger, fear, hurt, loneliness, frustration are all stressful states, aren’t they? Beautiful state is a state of connection, joy, love, compassion, vitality, and passion. If you are not in a beautiful state, your default state is stress.
If you look at the entirety of human life, behind war or peace, cooperation or corrosive politics, love or separation, persistence or failure, finally happy children or a generation that is troubled. Behind all this is the driving force of these two states. Behind every choice and every action is the driving force of only one of these two states.
So the most important choice is: from which state do we want to live our life, from which state do we want to relate to the people in our life, from which state do we want to achieve and fulfill every vision of our life? Sadly, our education, the entire system of our society, our parents, our religion do not bring sufficient attention to our inner state.
In fact, the very structure of education at school makes us compete, makes us feel jealous of another’s progress, makes us feel ashamed of being less. It is a total compromise on the essence of being human.
Let us get back to our story again. Yesmi represents the beautiful state, and Nomi represents the stressful state.
Nomi has created a problem in his mind and is paralyzed with it. Yesmi solves the problem of a fellow human being and continues with his peaceful walk. Nomi is agitated before the event, during the event, and after the event. And his thinking becomes incredibly stupid and complicated because of his inner agitation.
Yesmi, while in action, is fully present, and once the action is complete, his departure from the situation, too, is total. In a beautiful state, there is no compulsive illumination of the past or anxiety over the future. It is a state where you experience inner simplicity and a brilliance of an uncluttered mind. It is a state where you are connected to the present.
Nomi is lost In a stressful state, you are lost; you are disconnected from the others. You might be amidst people, but yet feel lonely.
Yesmi is different. He is connected to the lady’s plight. He helps her. He understands Nomi’s distress and tries to help him out with a wise remark. In a beautiful state, you are powerful enough to help yourself and help others around you. You are outright intelligent, and your actions are decisive and powerful.
Let us observe Nomi a little longer. Anger and confusion have mounted over his ideas of duty and virtue. In my observation, when a stressful state mounts over your ideas, however lofty they are, whether they are of patriotism, unconditional love, duty, or honesty, we become insensitive and indifferent. We hurt the very cause we served, and we hurt the very people we love.
Yesmi helped, not because he would be barred entry into heaven, definitely not. Nor did he help because he would feel guilty if he hadn’t helped. He helped because he was able to feel the lady’s pain. He was able to feel her suffering. Actions in a beautiful state arise from a place of connection, not from an ideal.
There have been times when you have been Yesmi; there have been times when you have been Nomi. We have lived under stress and disconnection and caused greater confusion in our own lives and lives of people around us. We have lived in a beautiful state of connection and contributed to the well being of ourselves and people around us. War, division, and conflict of every form can only end when more and more of us live in a beautiful state.
So the big question is, how do we break free of our habitual negative bias of our brain toward stressful state? If pressure is going to be a part of life, how do we live life without being bogged down by stress? How do we address numerous challenges of our life living in a beautiful state?
There are three well-trodden paths people usually take. One: We live in stressful states and plummet into hurting inner states. Two: We try to escape stress. We try to achieve a temporary dopamine high. However, when the dopamine plateaus, we are left feeling emotionally dry and empty.
Three: We try replacing inconvenient beliefs, stories, and ideas into more convenient ones. The problem, however, is none of these three paths has the power to get you off the gravitational pull of suffering or long-term stress. And we succumb back into the vortex of habitual stressful emotions.
We need a greater inner power to get us to a beautiful state. And that is the way of inner truth. About eight years ago, we as a family met with an accident while at Big Bear Lake in California. We emerged safely from the accident. But while in the waters, Krishnaji, my husband, co-founder of One World Academy, realized the root cause of all human suffering.
He saw what kept suffering alive for days, months, and years after a stressful event was over in anyone’s life. Past and present circumstances, other people and their behavior can trigger stress in us. But they do not keep us chained in our unhappiness. While in the waters, he saw the true reason for humanity’s suffering. He saw all emotional suffering arising from obsessive self-centric thinking.
It is a total preoccupation with oneself. It is a total incessant preoccupation with oneself. And it is this preoccupation that separates you from the other. It is this preoccupation that is responsible for war, conflict, and division of every kind that we see in the world today. This truth can be inconvenient for us, but if we can observe our emotional suffering in the light of this insight, then this truth can liberate us, this truth can set us free.
In suffering, in unhappiness, in stressful states you are preoccupied with yourself. We are preoccupied with injustice done to us; we are preoccupied with pleasure that was denied us; we are preoccupied with opportunities that did not come our way; we are preoccupied with love that was withheld from us. It is a total preoccupation with oneself. And in this state, we are not concerned with finding solutions to the problem at hand. For the entire thinking is only me, me, me, and me. That’s all we think in unhappiness.
Let us observe Nomi in the light of this insight. Throughout the story, he is preoccupied. He is preoccupied with his rightness, he is preoccupied with his guilt of having allowed a wrong to happen. He is not concerned about the situation, nor is he concerned about the lady and her son, nor his friend.
He is constantly justifying within himself that he was right in ignoring the suffering woman, and that he was great by following the rules. Realizing that all lingering and suffering is a total preoccupation with oneself, that it’s an obsessive self-centric thinking, is the most powerful antidote for any form of suffering that could have gripped you. When you see it – not only you walk out of stressful states, but there is a great release of energy, and you awaken to a sense of power, connection, freedom, and purpose. We know the way now. Let’s do it. It works.
Let us do a small three-question meditation. Please close your eyes. Please remember, meditation is not about a religion, it is about being human. It is about returning to a beautiful state.
Bring attention to your breath, inhale and exhale, deep and slow. Observe yourself. Are you in a stressful state, or are you in a beautiful state? Observe yourself. Are you engaged with your past, or are you engaged with your future, or are you in the present? Observe yourself. Are you preoccupied with yourself, or are you in a state of connection? Just observe.
Do not try to change anything. Imagine a flame glowing in the middle of your forehead. Bring a gentle smile to your face, open your eyes, look into the eyes of the person sitting next to you.
Wish from the bottom of your heart that the other person lives in a beautiful state, and if you are comfortable, you may hug the other.
Thank you so much. Namaste!