Thursday, April 30, 2020
Quiet Time during Lockdown
- By Vipul Shaha

"If you want to change the world go home and love your family. " - Mother Theresa

It has been more than 4 weeks since the lockdown began here in India.  We as a family have been fortunate to be sheltered all together at our village home.  While it has disrupted many of our personal travel plans, we feel blessed to have this opportunity to be spending so much time together at home.  It has turned out to be a great opportunity for bonding and better integration within the family.  It feels more special especially since we have a new member, Neha, my sister-in-law who joined the family with my brother Anuj's recent wedding in mid-February.

As the lockdown began, we created a family schedule on how we would like to spend our time together in a more meaningful way. It includes morning visit to our farm, swimming/walking, Yoga & Meditation, gardening and sharing-in the household work.  We also play games, watch movies together and are learning about Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle through an online workshop series.  We have also held chanting and prayer evenings for the wellbeing of all.

One of the most heartening highlights of this lockdown month has been the daily practice of 'Quiet Time' as a family.  For almost 2 decades, our family has been associated with Initatives of Change (IofC), Panchgani and have grappled with the 4 pillar ideals of Purity, Honesty, Unselfishness and Love which we have had the exposure to through IofC.  While we always strived towards observing  daily Quiet Time as a family, it never seemed to gain roots--each one of us usually had our own individual travel plans, independent work schedules, personal interests or agendas and differing priorities.  

The lockdown, however, offered this precious time and space for the five of us to commit to sitting together in a small circle of silence and sharing for about an hour every morning.  Everyday, one of us takes the turn to anchor 'Quiet Time' practice and leads the family by offering a question/theme to reflect upon.

Beginning with a brief practice of silence together,  we take about 10 to 15 minutes of time reflecting upon the question/theme of the day and write our journals.  The next 45 minutes are for a circle of sharing. We have decided that it remains a circle of sharing and not turn into a discussion forum.  Towards that effect, we consciously refrain from commenting on what someone has shared or trying to problem-solve, advising, judging or cross-questioning each other during this time.

https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gifWe have had 27 Quiet Time sessions so far covering range of topics.  Some of them include--

--Our deepest fears,

--Moments of pride & achievement in our journey so far,

--Hopes and aspirations in life, 

--Our relationship with and application of 'Truth' and 'Non-violence in our daily lives, 

--Personal and family heatlh,

--Hurts and Healing

--Moments of kindness we've been touched by

--Regrets in our life journey and what we learned from them,

--Our strengths as well as areas of improvement,

 --Limiting beliefs, biases, perceptions, assumptions about ourselves and the world

--Any limiting habit patterns and behaviors

--A gratitude and appreciation circle

--An Art-based inquiry into our inner-world

There have been several 'aha' moments and micro-shifts through the past 4 weeks of Quiet Time practice--we have found the courage to seek forgiveness from each other, confess our untruthful or violent actions, acknowledge our shortcomings etc.  During one of the Quiet Times, I sought forgiveness for getting angry towards my brother for a very petty issue. In another sharing, I made a confession about having recently cheated in a game of cards with them all!   My father spoke about how patriachy and his traditional upbringing had instilled a view of women as being inferior to men and how that had influenced his behavior towards our mother.  He sought forgiveness for acting out of anger at times and expressed an intention to continue being respectful of his wife--Sunita, in every way possible.  My mother felt sorry about being very harsh with her children, often times when we were growing up and how the pressures and demands of being in a joint-family setting used to find her vent her anger on us innocent kids at the time!  She also remembered instances when she had been very rough and angry with household maids.  Anuj, my brother, spoke about his need to be more pro-active in taking positive initiatives and letting go of the laziness which often holds him back.  During these Quiet Time sharings, with permission from the group, we have also been able to offer each other direct, honest feedback, bring up uncomfortable conversations and respectfully make requests of each other.  For example, we looked at length how we can be more mindful about our use of computers and mobile phones and not let technology come in the way of our communication within the family.

There have been several tender moments and rekindling of fond memories as well.  Listening to parents speak about their stories from childhood and how it shaped who they are and their journey, helped us develop more empathy towards each other.  It has also inspired us to commit to more wholesome actions for the wellbeing of ourselves, the family and society at large.  In one of the first Quiet Times, when the lockdown had just begun, my mother shared how concerned she is feeling towards the poor, marginalized people who would likely be most affected by the situation and how we can all be supportive and contribute our own bit to ease their pain.  As a family we made certain decisons around supporting all our household help and other employees during this lockdown. We also felt inspired to make contributions towards relief efforts taking place through various grassroots organizations across the country.  Three of us male members of the family made conscious commitments towards taking active part in daily cleaning and other household chores which we had earlier not bothered as much about. 

'Quiet Time' has been the best gift we offered ourselves during this rather unusual, uncertain time. It is allowing us to overcome the 'closeness-communication bias' to an extent. Despite living together for years, it was pleasantly surprising to learn things about our own family members in such an intimate, intentional manner.   We are truly discovering the immense value of listening to our 'inner-voice' in silence and creating a safe space for listening to each other as well.  Even as challenges do keep arising, as a part and parcel of any relationship, we now know more than ever before that we can always come back to ourselves and to each other with honest clarity through the practice of Quiet Time.  It has certainly deepened our understanding of each other and offered us renewed hope and energy to grow together as a family.  May this be our 'new normal' even after the lockdown period is over.

So much gratitude and many kind wishes to all our brothers and sisters in IofC family around the world.  You continue to be our biggest support and inspiration in observing these daily Quiet Times.  We truly are in this together!

 

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