As I write to you today, the story is very different from what I had to share a mere two weeks ago. These are unique times, yet inevitable times (Bill Gates TED Talk). Many of you are facing uncertainties and I feel the collective unrest and confusion. It can be tempting to fall into complete panic and fear, letting unhealthy rumination take over and run the show. Mindfulness and our personal practices, the way we live our lives day to day, have never mattered more. Staying calm will help keep your immune system strong, which is something we should strive for regardless of our age, current health condition, or just about anything else.
It may be controversial, but here’s the deal: we’ve been given a gift. As a human race, we’ve completely lost touch with who we are, where we came from, and our collective responsibility to one another. Americans, in general, have become so reliant on new systems: eating out constantly, massive grocery stores, 2-day delivery, basically, having anything we want whenever we want it, that we’ve forgotten the world we share and our ties to it. The hubris of our culture often leads us to take things for granted. We assume what we have is the way it *should* be. Well, let’s zoom out a bit…
Where did we come from? 50 years ago there were no mega grocery stores filled with every product under the sun. We ate seasonally because we had to, not because it was fashionable. We knew how to sustain ourselves with far less fear, and did so in greater accordance with nature. Our reliance on modern conveniences has made us forget how connected we are not just to our planet, but to each other. We may assume the way we’re doing things now is the way it’s always been. But, the way we live now is brand new. Codependent and dependent on people doing things for us. Don’t forget, you know how to plant a seed. You know how to use a fishing pole.
A global pandemic caused by a resilient virus is a great reminder of just how connected we are. It’s also a call to put things in perspective.
Try not to fall into patterns of so much doubt and fear that you forget how resilient humans are. Our ancestors, the very people whose DNA encoding you carry, lived through hardships most of us can hardly wrap our heads around. We are creative, strong beings and we have the ability to persevere given very little. The concepts that have come up for me to suggest to my followers and clients are awareness, balance, and awakening.
It’s time to build awareness. And now more than ever, in the wake of collective responsibility, it starts with you. It’s not selfish to tap into your inner world. The more you tap into yourself, your sensitivity, your experience as a human directly and indirectly responsible for the happiness (and suffering) of so many, the more you’ll be able to empathize and understand what’s happening around you. In addition, the greater awareness you have over your anxiety, fear of the unknown, more awareness you have over your strengths, and your support systems/community, the more awareness you have over the fact that we are not dependent on our government / the institution – the more able you’ll be to find balance here.
How do we find balance at times like this? Is it possible? Balance itself is never a fixed state, but a dance. Balance looks like oscillation, being vigilant but not hypervigilant. Be balanced in discerning the amount of energy you’re taking in around COVID-19; keep it contained. Do your part but then get on with your day. Maybe this looks like not watching the news constantly or being online all day. Maybe it means informing your children about handwashing practices, but then having a few hours technology free where you play cards, talk about taxes, learn something, and basically shift your focus from anything related to the pandemic. Stay informed but mindful of causing your own panic and fear to rise.
We are awakening to a new way of being. The invitation to think collectively is unprecedented: never in our world have this many people been connected through media and the internet, thinking about one common thing, knowing that our world will forever be changed by this. How do you want to move forward? (See also: this video of Italians in quarantine urging the rest of the world to take action). Plant the seeds from now to start thinking about how you’ll shift your behaviors. If the present is stressful, I urge you to zoom out again. Let’s pretend we slowed down for the greater good. In living more spread out, we are able to pause, rest, and collectively slow down. We’ve already seen improvements in pollution levels in China and Italy. It’s food for thought. Perhaps we have to rethink how we live. As fires ravaging so much of the planet this year wasn’t enough, now we have something invading our very being. It’s an awakening. Admittedly I am trying to find the good in our situation. I believe there is a lot of good if you look at it the right way. I am not here to give you answers, but to provide questions to ask yourself for both your well-being as an individual and our collective well-being as a human race.
Let’s remember that health is a gift not to be taken for granted. The sooner we can contain this, the sooner you can go back to work. Let’s contain this. Let’s care for each other.