Dharma Diaries | Issue 13
This is my first article for Critic, and I want to address an issue that creates a great deal of stress for many students – examinations! Examinations are a fact of student life, but how can we do our best if we are nervous and stressed? Buddhism offers clear guidelines for reducing stress in daily life and for keeping our minds and bodies in a healthy state, and I want to review them here.
There are many reasons we become stressed or respond to the challenges of everyday living in a stressful way. How can we reduce stress or turn a situation that we find stressful to our advantage? The key is how we think and act. As the Buddha’s teachings, known as Dhamma, point out: “By effort and heedfulness, discipline and self-mastery, let the wise one make for himself an island which no flood can overwhelm.”
Practicing being energetic, being diligent, being disciplined, and relaxing the mind are virtues that will make a difference. Examinations require energy and enthusiasm. This means being properly rested, getting out of bed in good time to work on assignments, and eating nutritious food. Examinations require us to be diligent and disciplined. List and prioritise your tasks, and ensure you complete one activity before going on to the next. Try to avoid chatting to friends, watching TV or going out until you have completed the task you have set yourself. Sitting for long hours in the library or staring at a computer is unlikely to help. Cramming at the same time as eating your meals is unlikely to help either. Engage in one activity at a time, and try to breathe and relax the mind between finishing one task and starting another. A few minutes’ quiet contemplation at the beginning and end of each day will help still the day’s “chatter” and calm your thinking.
Finally, stop worrying about exams before you have even taken them. Exams are only one small part of the longer examination we face in our lives. As the Buddha said: “Don’t get caught in the past, because the past is gone. Don’t get upset about the future, because the future is not yet here. There is only one moment for you to be alive, and that is the present moment. Go back to the present moment and live this moment deeply, and you’ll be free and more relaxed.” Try it!
With metta (loving kindness),
– Ven Dr. Maithree