Sri Swami Sivananda (the Guru of Integral Yoga founder Sri Swami Satchidananda) said that our suffering brings out the essence in us, just as an herb releases its fragrance when crushed. Gold is exposed only by removing a mountain of soil. Diamonds are formed through intense pressure. The entire human race is suffering today and heroes are being born.

Without exception we are facing tremendous challenges; our lives have been dramatically altered and it takes true heroism to accept this new life and make it beautiful. Who will we be on “the day after” this pandemic? Can we allow ourselves to be refined and strengthened? Is there a little bit of heroism in us?  What will it take for us to “step up” and practice Yoga in a way that will meet the demands of the day?

  1. Face ourselves with honesty. With so many habits and pleasures stripped away, we can take a new and honest look at ourselves. It can be painful to see the naked truth behind the masks we wear to protect ourselves. If we are willing to, we have a perfect opportunity to see the selfish habits and petty desires that prevent us from opening our hearts.
  2. Cling onto our values. The pandemic gives us very convenient excuses to kick back. Our government gives us very convenient reasons to be outraged. The condition of our society gives us very convenient reasons to be depressed. But laziness, outrage, and depression are not honorable responses and leave us immersed in a darkness of our own making. What is the central value of Yoga? Retain your peace. “Do whatever it takes to retain your peace.” –Sri Swami Satchidananda
  3. Welcome the challenge and accept the suffering. A central teaching of Yoga is tapasya, which means purification and is a necessary aspect of the spiritual path. “Bear insult, bear injury; highest sadhana” is a favorite motto of Sri Swami Sivananda. As we bear up with each new indignity, we will develop resilience and fortitude.
  4. Remember the saints and sages. Suffering and challenge is inevitable in every lifespan. In the life story of any saint, we will see far greater suffering than that which any of us is facing. Sri Swami Satchidananda said that the purpose of challenge is to show us what we are made of. If life is asking us to be strong, then let us rise to the occasion! We may have far more strength in us than we presently realize. We can always find inspiration and courage by remembering the thousands of saints who have walked on this earth.

All of us on the earth are in this situation together. When we think and act from that understanding, we contribute to justice and harmony instead of fear and prejudice. The pandemic has given us an opportunity to expose and free ourselves from self-centered conditioning and stand up for spiritual values. If our effort is sincere, we will deepen our personal experience of the unchanging Self within us all.

About the Author:

Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals.