There is a serious health concern that’s sweeping the whole world. Just a week ago, the World Health Organization declared latest coronavirus, COVID-19, a pandemic. The countries who are affected by the outbreak were strongly encouraged to help contain the spread through social distancing, community-wide quarantines, and closure of passageways in and out of cities, towns, and countries. Within a few days, guidelines on lockdowns were rolled out to the public who were caught by surprise at how rapid things have changed.
Everyone had very different reactions to the unexpected news: fear, panic, anxiety, confusion. I felt all of those plus one more that seemed to outweigh the rest – anger. I was angry at how uncontrollable this all seemed, how it would affect people’s livelihoods, and how the panic and fear-mongering helped to circulate false news. I didn’t know who to trust and who to listen to because it seemed like the whole world’s tone was of intense panic and my response was to vehemently avoid it.
I thought I was keeping my peace by ignoring reality but what I was actually doing was turning a blind eye to the lessons that this pandemic is bringing – the deep wisdom of our interconnectedness. The world’s problems aren’t separate from me for I am one with the world.
Now that I’ve had time to accept and face that, my looming question was:
In a time of incredible fear and uncertainty, how can we stay calm and grounded within?
How can we find peace when all around us, the people we love, our co-workers, our community, our nation, is caught up in a frenzy of fear, panic, and anxiety?
How can we “shield” ourselves from the noise of the outside world?
After a few days of reflection, I’ve come to realize that the answer is.. we don’t. We don’t “shield” ourselves from the outside world. We don’t treat it as “the other,” rather, we can treat the noise the same way we treat our internal noise in meditation. In a way, the patterns are all the same.
Trigger. Emotional response. Repetitive stories about the situation. Blame. Separation. Us against them. Them against us.
How can we rise above these unhealthy fear-driven patterns and find ourselves again? It’s not easy.. but everything can be accomplished one small step at a time.
This is how I found my way back through the noise and I hope it helps you too.
Step inside yourself.
Find a quiet place where you can be alone. Turn off the news and unplug from the internet so you can hear yourself more clearly without the noise of the outside world.
Honor your feelings.
Do not rush getting over your anxiety or force your fears away. Sometimes, the panic outside still echoes within. It’s okay. Let it be okay. Resisting what is only adds to the tensions you currently hold.
Be kind to your mind.
Listen to your thoughts and give them space but don’t believe everything you think. Your thoughts are just points-of-view. They do not hold the entire truths of life.
Your inner worries, fears, and anxieties will manifest in your reality as a tense, rigid, sickly, or imbalanced body. They will manifest as anger, defensiveness, selfishness. They will feel overwhelming to you.. until you breathe. Your breath allows you to let go internally and externally. Your breath also helps break your focus from the heavy burden you carry and brings your attention to the lightness of your reality. So breathe until you find a pattern or a rhythm that soothes you in and out.
Have patience and constancy where you are.
Your internal storms will try and uproot your inner peace from solid ground. They will wreak havoc upon every dimension of your being. They will test your resolve. They will resist any control you try to put on them. So don’t. Instead, steady your breath long enough and you will find that eventually, the skies clear up. Then another attack comes to finish what the first attack started. It is a cycle and it could feel exhausting. But as you have already observed, they do not last forever. Therefore stay firm in your constancy, hold on to your Self, and trust that the sun will shine upon you in this darkness and illuminate the way out.
Step outside the haze.
Breathe even more deeply. Witness your riotous thoughts and emotions from a distance and see them for what they are – energy that’s been accumulated or repeated over time, becoming habits or even personalities that you have long held on to. They cannot dictate your perceptions, only influence them. Therefore with your steady mind, you realize that, it turns out, you can never lose your Self. You only lose the perception you have of yourself – your cool and collected self; your wise self; your mature self. These fall away to remind you that you are more than the adjectives and roles you attach to your identity. You are unshakeable because, despite the storms you went through over all the years you have been alive, you are here – evolving and remembering who you truly are.
Converse with your Self.
Ask yourself gently, What is it that I’m learning to unlearn? What are the thought patterns, emotional responses, or habits that no longer serve who I am at this time?
Let your Self, your deep inner knowing, speak to you and remind you of what is truly important. It is not what others say or dictate. It is not what your circumstances indicate. All is as it should be. What the world needs is not MORE – more love, kindness, compassion.. Ultimately, the world needs LESS – less greed, fear, suffering, noise. These have started to envelop our consciousness and our reality, making us think that we need to compete for resources, or race to the next step up the ladder, or belittle the suffering of our fellowmen, focused only on our goals and security of a “good” life.
Let things fall away.
When we drop the need to get ahead of the race, what is left is what has always been there – kindness, understanding, joy. It’s been there all along. It is the truth of who you are.