College life usually means living in a bubble that magnifies a small sliver of the universe, pretending to be the axis the world turns on. But maintaining perspective in life is possible with the proper inspiration, even between three back to back midterms. Two summers ago, I visited the magical country that is India. During my stay in Dharamsala (home of the Tibetan government in exile), I had the opportunity to delve into the Tibetan practice of peaceful activism, largely derived from the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi epitomizes calm during chaos. He led the Indian people toward independence with dignity, grace and an uncompromising belief in nonviolence, charging headfirst into torrential rains of brutality and injustice.
Ready to get your life together and relax? Prioritize what’s important and put your mind over matter:
Take a page out of Gandhi’s book to keep yourself balanced, present and motivated despite the insanity of college.
Teaching #1: Be deliberate with your words and actions.
“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Time will not slow down for you to finish your essay on British imperialism before you go out on Friday night. It will not speed up when you’re deep in a spin class and a pool of your own sweat. Nor will it stop when you need an extra hour to process the mind-boggling finale of Lost. Instead, you want to slow down and become aware of everything around you.
Emma Chiu, the president of Dartmouth College’s Student Mindfulness Group uses mindfulness to foster consciousness. “Practicing mindfulness allows you to not only calm your busy thoughts, but also perceive situations and make decisions with a more clear mind. By doing so, you can still have an engaging college experience but one that is fostered through the practice of intention,” she said. We all know half-assing life feels tempting in a time crunch. But taking more time to produce quality, thoughtful work will propel your career, mind and likely fragile self esteem.
Teaching #2: Take things lightly.
“If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.” – Mahatma Gandhi
You can contain the havoc daily mishaps cause with your reaction. Bad things happen. You might want to retreat into your Twin XL cocoon with a bowl of frozen Trader Joe’s dumplings. But the world will keep spinning. Spill your soy sauce all over your perfectly white sheets, give the camera a quick Jim Halpert glance and move on. (Pro tip: Incorporating an imaginary camera lens pointed directly at you at all times into your life exponentially increases happiness and gives the illusion of a higher power.)
Teaching #3: Put more weight into the good than the bad
“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Being one of the lucky people that can attend college, or part of any more fortunate groups of people, means your norm is contentment. This way, you become immune to the constant drone of good fortune. So the unfortunate events actually spike your attention and receive most of your energy. Here’s a fun little activity to put life into perspective. Count every possible thing you possess that you could survive without, tangible (an Edgar Allan Poe bobble head) and intangible (a sense of purpose) and compare that with the things you immediately need but don’t have. I’d bet my Edgar Allan Poe bobble head that the former trumps the latter.
Looking for another way to stop dwelling on everything that has ever gone wrong? Juliet Sillers, a junior at Austin Community College, believes meditation is the path to positivity. She practices mindfulness for 15 minutes daily. “It turns down the volume of stress, bringing forth an optimistic attitude that can be known as positivity,” she said.
Teaching #4: Retain a sense of purpose beyond the walls of your college.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
At three in the morning on the fourth floor of an eight-story apartment building in McLeod Ganj, India, I stared into the age-stained eyes of Tashi, my host father. Tashi’s fountain of knowledge flooded my brain with images of a free Tibet, an oppressive China and a 1,500 mile journey to India. Tashi spoke English with a thick Tibetan accent and laughed with poverty-stricken lungs.
To him, America was a beautifully ignorant place full of blissfully unaware people with too much money and insufficient knowledge. “That is the biggest tragedy of all,” he told me one night. “They have the means, we have the purpose, but the distance between us makes it easy for them to keep their eyes closed.” On my last night in McLeod, Tashi made me swear to never close my eyes. Gandhi, terrified of the dark, fought to shed light on every dark corner of the world. Whether you volunteer, donate money or fight for equality, educate yourself and do your part. You, too, can make the world a bit brighter. Just don’t blink.