The Urban Life - 10 Obstacles & Antidotes
The dynamic urban life - a melting pot of cultures, an amalgamation of creative minds, an ocean of endless pleasures.
We are privileged to be living in the 21st century where everything is connected, information is on our fingertips, and there is no dearth of enticing stories and experiences.
But, this luxury and comfort has been at the cost of physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. We have progressed tremendously in the material sense, but we have lost touch with our roots and nature.
The alarming rise of lifestyle and psychological disorders is a wakeup call for humanity to assess our choices, habits, and consumption patterns.
We may perceive the sensorial world from the vedantic view - as illusion, or from the tantric view - as a means to transcend. Either way, we have to work with the situation at hand while we navigate through the journey of life.
The urbanisation of life has led to various obstacles in the form of conditioned beliefs, unconscious habits, and patterned behaviour - which hinder our personal growth, spiritual awareness, and overall well-being.
So, here are 10 obstacles of the urban life, and the antidotes that can help cruise through the rollercoaster ride of modernisation.
Negative Belief System The mind can be our best friend, but we often make it our worst enemy. This happens in the form of self-limiting beliefs, doubting ourselves, comparing with others, being highly critical, pessimistic about outcomes, and complaining about life in general. The antidote would be gratitude for the blessings, acknowledging difficulties, accepting our limitations, appreciating strengths, and cultivating a positive mindset to rewire limiting notions.
Mindless Browsing We are addicted to information overload from news, social media, and the internet - which is overwhelming for the brain and nervous system as sensory input. We must realise that information is also food for the mind, and impacts our emotional state in a subtle manner. The antidote lies in moderate usage of technology, discerning the quality of content to consume, reducing dependency on social media, taking breaks from digital gadgets, and treating the mind like a temple.
Instant Gratification The convenience and shortcuts in modern life have made us lazy and impatient. We are spoilt for choices and expect quick results. This is evident with social media, online shopping, digital entertainment, and essentially everything on our smartphones or computers. The antidote would be cultivating patience and resilience by opting for the longer route at times. This could translate to a weekly digital detox, cooking meals over ordering food, checking social media only once a day, taking a walk to the supermarket over ordering groceries, skipping morning coffee occasionally, and fasting to overcome cravings.
Comfort Zone We have heard that growth happens outside comfort, but our conditioning leads us to seek comfort in the form of familiarity and inertia. Some of the ways in which we stagnate and hamper growth are - being resistant to change, running away from challenges, getting into a rut, and using food-entertainment-leisure as an escape. The antidote is constantly striving to be a better version of ourselves, being self-reliant by depending less on others, participating in new situations to face underlying fears, and challenging ourselves in small ways regularly - such as public speaking, waking up earlier, or fasting occasionally.
Overworking But, if we overdo the previous point, it can lead to exhaustion and burn out. This often gets camouflaged in our hustle culture of more-more-more, but that is not helpful in the long run. This rat race is often driven by underlying insecurity, a fear of missing out, unhealthy comparison, and fighting to prove a point. The antidote is prioritising well-being and working smart, by having work-life balance and enjoying hobbies outside work. Being driven by intrinsic motivation, rather than outcomes, helps sustain the marathon and stay aligned with our purpose.
Intoxicants The parties and inebriation might seem fun to the outsider. But, this is often a coping mechanism to deal with the frustrations and challenges in life. They also dull the senses, cloud the mind, and impact performance. The antidote is finding healthy avenues of relaxation and recreation - such as spending time in nature, moments with loved ones, playing a sport, exploring creative expression, and enjoying the finer things in life - such as music, arts, travel.
Sedentary Lifestyle The modern lifestyle is fast-paced, yet we spend many hours sedentary - sitting at the office desk, driving, sleeping. Our minds are racing, but bodies are stagnant. This takes a toll on health in the long run and leads to chronic body pain, spinal issues, joint degradation, hormonal imbalance, and lower energy levels. The antidote is incorporating daily movement in the form of an exercise routine, taking breaks during work hours, stretching muscles, and spending accumulated energy in household chores.
Unhealthy Sleep Hygiene “Early to bed, early to rise - makes one healthy, wealthy, wise.” We all believe this to be true, but our body clocks are not in sync. Sleeping late and waking up late, or not sleeping enough - can deteriorate physical and mental health. The antidote would be aligning the body clock to nature by sleeping at 10 pm and waking up before sunrise. Eating an early dinner around sunset, reducing exposure to bright lights, and switching off all digital devices an hour before bed - allows the nervous system to relax and prepare for a restful sleep.
Eating Junk Food We are indeed what we eat. Food plays a vital role in impacting our health, energy levels, mental clarity, and emotional state. But, erratic schedules, lack of time, and fast food options make one gravitate towards the easier route of junk eating. Food can also become an outlet for numbing emotional pain and stress. The antidote is to eat freshly home-cooked meals, have a balanced diet, and consume seasonal foods. The mood in which we cook a meal also infuses that energy in the food. So, cooking with patience and love increases the sattvic essence in the food. Eating mindfully in silence or with meaningful conversations also helps savour the experience.
Dwelling on the Past or Future The modern monkey mind is restless and oscillating between the past and future. There is regret or nostalgia of the past. There is anxiety and uncertainty of the future. The past has happened for a reason and we cannot do much about it. Similarly, we don’t have much control over the future as external factors are beyond our actions. The antidote lies in being present and giving our undivided attention to the experience. A simple tool to practice this is by being aware of the breath, body sensations, and witnessing the thoughts and feelings. The other aspect would be recognising whenever the mind wanders and gently bringing the awareness back to the present moment.
We are an intellectual society. We know what is right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, good or bad. But, we are also slaves to our patterns.
The collective consciousness vibrates at the frequency of all our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour.
Change starts from within and we must sincerely look at how these mundane and mechanical aspects of life can become ingredients for transformation.
Rather than the conditioned approach of reading this article, acknowledging key points, and moving onto the next experience - I encourage you to..... pause.
Take a moment, breathe, introspect, choose any one of the 10 points, and resolve to work on refining that at various levels for the next two weeks or a month.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” - Confucius