Almost everyone agrees that the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the scariest things our society has experienced, but I can’t help and wonder if that’s really true. I most certainly refuse to accept that fear and panic should run the show.
So here are the most powerful steps to take to show kindness to ourselves and humankind.
Step 1 – Get honest
“The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off.” ~ Gloria Steinem
Maybe I’m biased due to my spiritual practice and the way I live my life for over a decade. Or maybe this lifestyle is what made me aware of what we do as a society. You see, I’m coaching people on how to lead an unapologetically authentic and spiritually aware life since 2014. And I do this online for years.
Back in 2009 when I started my businesses, I didn’t like social media but I realised that people are glued to their screens almost 24/7. So if they’re sitting on Facebook, my common sense told me I too will sit online and make my money that way. It sure worked! And I’m not the only person running an online business. From Eckhart Tolle, Oprah Winfrey, Marie Forleo…I mean look around. Even the Tibetan Buddhist Lama’s provide online studies. This all is another proof that people sit online all-the-time.
So, what is this whole panic about being only allowed to socialise online for a while? Or conducting therapy or yoga sessions online? Or talking to friends online? Since when are we so keen to see each other face to face? Weren’t we so proud of our 21st century technology?
Here’s where the truth kicks in. Not only have we spent, according to research, at least 8 hours a day on social media but even at times when we did socialise in person, have we actually spoken to each other with a phone switched off? Or have we constantly and compulsively interrupted the meaningful connection by checking our likes and tweets? How many texts and comments would we send each other instaed of picking up the phone or meeting for coffee? How many times would you visit family or friends and instead of having a cuppa you’d scroll down your new gadgets (iPhone, iWatch)? How many TV and radio news would you bombard your brain with instead of meditating or reading a book that would soothe your mind and heart?
The first step to feeling better about ourselves in any situation is to become brutally and delightfully honest with ourselves. Because the truth always sets us free.
We lived online a decade before we were told to sit at home for a few weeks or months. The problem here is that we don’t like to be told that we can’t do certain things. This topic would definitely make for a fine coaching session on ego and a separate article in itself but please don’t mix your dislike of being told what not to do with the questionable pain of sitting online for a while. We all know it will eventually have to pass as everything always does. The real question is whether we’ll start going out more, leaving our phones at home?
Step 2 – Broaden your perspective
“Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”~ Pema Chödrön
We have wars all the time. Maybe not in your front yard, but a lot of people experience war and don’t have a chance to panic on social media like we do now. I know my country went through war in the early 90’s in my teenage years. No one around the world really cared for what’s happening to innocent women and children being raped and killed every day in my Croatia. And if we look around, there are news on TV every day of war zones where innocent people die. Why aren’t we panicking about that? Because it’s far away and none of our business, it seems.
There are thousands of hungry children dying. Apparently 8000 of them die each day. As far as I know, we have the cure. It’s food. There are millions of homeless people who people with a roof over their head find “inconvenient”. We seem to lack the motivation to help the hungry, homeless and the dying. That motivation we’re lacking to help others has a name. It’s called compassion.
And if that is not close enough to home, have a look at how many people take anti-depressants and suffer from anxiety. How many of you know someone who committed suicide because living was unbearable? 300 million people around the globe suffer from depression. 800 000 of those people commit suicide each year. Why do you think that is? Because the society is actively helping them and reaching out or because we ignore them?
So, now that we’re all potentially locked in an unknown danger, the alarm went off. It’s not someone in Africa or Middle East, it’s us, our kids, our little town in the USA or UK or Australia. It’s everywhere. And because it’s affecting each and one of us directly, quickly and so visibly, we panic. We think that’s the worst thing ever. I beg you to talk to a homeless person, or someone who has a hungry child or that friend who tried to kill himself twice if they think COVID-19 is the worst thing that happened. I bet we’ll never ask them for their opinion because we know what their answer would be. We have so many social pandemics that we chose to inhumanly ignore, it’s fascinating to watch how we woke up to this one.
So the solution is to think about this COVID-19 dread with a larger persepctive on the world’s suffering. Considering our human intergity, compassion for the weaker, the way we show up in the world – is this really the worst that is happening to humankind?
Step 3 – It’s finally time to meditate
“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance…”~ Buddha
How many times did you tell yourself you have to meditate but you don’t have time? Many times.
Well, here is your precious time. Before you jump to the next excuse of anxiety and stress that makes meditation right now impossible, here’s news for you. We had anxiety and stress every day before COVID-19. The control and security we thought we had was an illusion of control. So really, not much has changed. It’s just one additional, new thing to stress about. We weren’t calm, cool-headed, non-reactive little Buddhas before this crisis and we certainly won’t be after it’s all over.
But every obstacle is an opportunity if we choose to make it one. And this one is your opportunity to meditate. I feel this entire crisis as a global meditation in motion. As Dr. Shefali mentioned in one of her video, “this is every spiritual teacher’s dream. This is what we waited for. Someone had to push the reset button to our madness.” And now it’s time to sit with the shit. That’s the best meditation there is, honestly.
So how do we do this?
We don’t aim to sit in silence. The reality is that we haven’t trained our mind to be quiet. We were too busy on Facebook.
So we have to start with baby steps.
We talk to our emotions with kindness and compassion. As we would with a child. We don’t try to fix it or push the child away, we’d hold space for the child to share what it feels. And then as a wise grandmother, or a wise angel, or Buddha (whatever wise part of you or someone close to you that you can imagine) you guide that little child to love. You show that child that love is here, that you are here, that it is OK to feel this way. Treat every emotion of yours as a child. Because as with children who often overreact to silly things and blow it out of proportion, we do too. The emotion is real but the root cause is often not worth the emotion.
This practice is called self-compassion practice. Buddha taught it 2600 years ago and finally some psychotherapists decided to bring some glimpses of his teachings into the clinical psychology. Neuroscience is busy confirming how meditation affects the “anxiety part” of your brain – the amigdula. So, voila, it’s becoming well known and mainstream.
If you needed help with meditation, here are some free resources and guided meditation.
Step 4 – Let’s talk about death
“It is not length of life, but depth of life”. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is the most important part of this post. In fact, it’s the most important part of our lives.
Death is the most powerful reminder of how precious and fragile our life is. Death is also often the underlying fear of all the other fears we struggle with such as illness, financial loss, homelessness, loss of others, aging etc.
But the truth is, there is no escape from death and why should there be?
Death is an inevitable part of life. A simple fact of life. To resist that fact is not just harmful but it’s plain dumb. Sorry to put it so bluntly but it’s time to stop this panic and educate ourselves spiritually.
When we panic and worry about this crisis, what are we really afraid of? Name all the things you’re afraid of. Maybe it’s the loss of your job, loss of savings, loss of your house, loss of your dear ones. And beneath that loss is what exactly? Dig some deeper. What is the worst thing that can happen to you or anyone you love if the worst happens? Is it death?
If you answered yes, then here’s something to invite into your meditation. We can’t control when death will visit any of us. Worrying or resisting it is useless and makes our life pure hell. But how we live, how we love, how we show up in this world for those who need help, those who are abandoned, lonely, mentally struggling, sick, poor, hungry, homeless, that’s what will mark all our lives.
On our deathbed we will not think how much money we had, how many people admired us, how great we were in our job. I bet all we will think about is have I loved everyone I could, have I reached out to those in pain, have I been the most decent human being I could have possibly been, have I said sorry when I could, have I told people I love them or forgive them, have I appreciated my partner making coffee each morning, have I thanked my parents for their tough love, have I shared my last banana with that hungry man on the street. If the answer is yes, there is no fear of death. You lived your life to the fullest and when it comes, you’re fine with it.
When we fear death, what we’re actually fearing is dying with a small heart when we knew it was bigger than we allowed it to be.