by David Kantra
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
During the last several days I’ve heard or read some inspiring stories of the spirit of humanity, some heartwarming and others heartrending:
- In Italy, a country that’s been absolutely devastated by the Coronavirus… a whole country under quarantine… a country that’s had to establish a priority list for who receives and who doesn’t receive a lifesaving hospital bed or ventilator… we’ve seen neighborhoods of people singing songs together from the streets and balconies… or even dancing to “The Macarena.”
- China, as the rate of new cases of COVID-19 finally dwindle, is sending specialist physicians and medical equipment to Italy (whose own medical staff and facilities are overwhelmed) to help the Italians tackle the sharp spike in people now falling victim to the virus.
- A young ER physician in the USA, who has 5 children under 6 years of age, says she is terrified every day when she leaves home to go to the hospital, wondering if it may be the last time she sees her children again for weeks or months if she contracts the virus.
- Another ER physician has moved out of his house and into his garage, so as to protect his family from possible infection.
- A young woman, on her way into a Walmart to get supplies for herself, is hailed from a partially lowered car window by an elderly woman and her husband who are terrified to enter the Walmart to do the shopping for food they need. The young woman graciously agrees to go into the store and collect the items the couple needs and then graciously places the items in their trunk so as not to come into contact, and perhaps cause the couple more concern.
These stories are just a few of the many we are all hearing about. It is important to remember that ALL of us are experiencing hardships due to the Coronavirus, but there are many who are remaining mindful during this time of global strain and are going out of their ways to help others in need.
As a mindfulness teacher, I’m deeply touched by the human side of this experience we are now all-embracing. There is so much going on to feel distressed from…news of mismanagement of this crisis by certain individuals, organizations, and even countries. News that has spooked the financial markets, which has, in turn, created concerns that are likely to persist for an uncomfortable amount of time to come.
So, how are we supposed to cope with all this upheaval? How are we supposed to move forward with hope and determination when most of the news we’re hearing is unlike anything we’ve ever heard before? The answer, of course, is to stay centered, and remember the lessons of the wise teachers and those principles which have served as a lighthouse in the storm for generations. Here are several of those helpful principles to remember during these trying times, followed by a few basic principles of well-being:
- Practice “discernment” (the ability to see things for what they really are and not for what we want them to be). We must remember that we are only passengers on this journey, not drivers. Yes, this is a difficult realization to accept, but the truth is obvious. The more able we are to move with what we face, rather than trying to control it, the better prepared we’ll be to make needed and necessary adjustments as we go.
- Adopt a “Long View” that supports the principles of “equanimity” (mental calmness, composure, & evenness of temper). By “long view” I refer to the practice of remembering life on this planet has persisted for at least 3.5 billion years, surviving ALL kinds of catastrophic events. What we’re going through right now is definitely unfortunate…and threatening, but from a “long view” it, too, will pass. We will make it through this and will recover and restore a new sense of normalcy.
- Recognize that what is now going on is going on for everyone, not just me or you. This virus sees no ethnic, racial, or gender differences…it transcends all world boundaries. It reminds us that we are all in this together, as exemplified in the examples I listed at the beginning of this piece. And as a united force, we will adjust to this new invader, and will even grow stronger from it.
- Remain focused on growing from this experience and deepening our understanding and compassion for all beings. We can practice this principle by asking ourselves, “What can I learn from this experience?” “How can I grow from this situation?,” and “How can I attend to what is arising within me right now?”
With regard to the basic principles of well-being:
- Practice gratitude and appreciation. While there are certainly many things that can make us feel dissatisfied, there are many things for which we can feel grateful, too. For example, I am thankful that I am, at least as far as I know, free of the Coronavirus. I am also in relatively good health. I live in an environment and community where I feel a great deal of support and kindness. I am fortunate to have a comfortable place in which to quarantine, if necessary, as well as an adequate supply of food and supplies…including toilet paper.
- Practice generosity. This is so important! Generosity connects us with others, and it makes us feel good. It stimulates and engages equanimity, and facilitates the “Long View” spoken of earlier.
- Practice good ethics, especially non-harming. Consider what it means right now to “not harm” and be aligned with that answer.
- Open our eyes to seeing the beauty that is here, all around us. While we are being inundated with disturbing news we’re hearing, it’s easy to become jaded to the beauty that’s still all around us…nature, the sky, sunshine, birds singing, humanity, all the beautiful stories, poems, and acts of generosity being created.
- Recognize how this situation that we’re all a part of actually simplifies our lives. It makes us more keenly aware of those things we really need, things we may have been taking for granted…connection, safety, normalcy, freedom to do as we please.
This is a big moment in our history. Remain strong, confident, and aware of the whole experience we’re all going through. But in addition to being just a big moment in time, it is also an opportunity for each of us, as individuals and as members of a much larger society, to practice the principles of mindful compassion. Remain steadfast in your belief that we, as a global community, will emerge from this situation stronger and more united than we were before.