There is an adage attributed to the Chinese culture, which says, "May we live in interesting times." Like it or not, we are going through an interesting time. With the challenge of the worldwide experience of COVID-19, this is a time of uncertainty. But it is also a time to reach deep within ourselves, to be as creative and resilient as ever. During this time it is essential to draw the line between preparedness and panic.
Being prepared includes doing the tangible things we can do to protect ourselves, loved ones, family members, as well as our fellow human/spiritual beings. Such action includes following the guidelines from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and our local and national experts on the Coronavirus. In addition to doing the outward preparation, one of the most important steps we can take is to focus on our inward or spiritual preparedness.
So what are the possible initiatives we can take? Well, one of the first things we can do is not get caught up in unhealthy worry. Worry is not a spiritual practice. During these times, we want to remain prayerful to minimize undue stress and reduce our susceptibility to contagion and disease. A practice I learned from my spiritual mentor that can tamp down worry is to consider the worst thing that can happen, make peace with that scenario, and then discern how you will deal with it. At first, I resisted the idea of thinking about worst-case scenarios since I didn't believe it was wise to give them energy. Eventually I realized that by facing (and coming up with a plan for) a worst-case scenario, I would spend less time concerned with what might happen since I had a plan to address it. That way, the situation would no longer distract me from focusing on a desired future.
A second practice that helps release worry, or at least manage it, is something I learned from the Buddhist tradition. That practice is to sit down for a bit, put your hand over your heart and say these words, “Let me hold all that I am concerned about with tender compassion.” Compassion is essential since, as human beings, we realize that part of the human journey is to go through difficult times. Then we say, "Let me hold myself, my concerns, my parents, and friends who are vulnerable. May they be safe and well. We hold ourselves and our world with tenderness and compassion.”
Such words remind us to hold even our challenging experiences with kindness. Moreover, we don't judge ourselves or anyone for expressing angst during challenging moments. We see it from a higher point of view, realize it is for our benefit, and say, "Thank you for seeking to take care of me." Then notice and affirm, "I'm okay for now, and so is my family and those whom I care about." The whole idea is to be rooted in the moment and know all is well.
To further ground and center ourselves we can go outside, find a tree, and stand with it and realize the tree has lived through winds and storms. It has lost and regained its leaves. Through all of that, the tree's life continues to renew itself. As you stand with that tree, you realize that you too can withstand the winds of change, be grounded and steady, yet flexible at the same time. As you realize those qualities are part of your being, you can take the fear and thank it for trying to protect you. Then take the concerns, write them down and place them in a bowl, or an altar of your own making. Then affirm, “You hold these now. I will do what I can do, but I let you carry the worries, concerns, and fears." Speak those words from a place that is centered and courageous.
When you do this, since you've made the distinction between what you can control and what you can't, there is less anxiety. What you can control, you do; what you can't control, you let go and turn it over to the Universe. You will then shift to a consciousness of calm and steadiness. Then pray, meditate, and live from that space.
Peace and Blessings,