We find ourselves in a situation that is unprecedented in our lifetimes. There is no way around the Coronavirus. We all have to deal with it. There is no way out but through. We are being nudged to change how we individually and collectively deal with outer events and our internal processing of those events.
The medical professionals have had to treat the sick. Those who have become sick have had to fight for their health. The essential personnel has had to uphold the basic structure of our society. The rest of us have had to stay home.
Regardless of our position during this time, fear is often a factor during times of transition. Fear and worry are infectious, infiltrating our consciousness. It takes over, stimulating negative habits in our thinking, emotions, and actions. This cripples our ability to respond effectively to life’s challenges.
When we have no way out of something, it forces us to face parts of ourselves that we are usually able to avoid.
Our “stuff” is as varied as our histories are. Our “stuff“ is our pain. Many are afraid of the uncertainty this has brought to our planet, our future, and how this will affect our individual lives.
We do not know what is on the other side of this Coronavirus crisis.
What do I have to learn from this experience
In these moments where “life as we know it” is no more, it makes us stop doing what we always do. I believe we have something to learn from this collective experience. But the first place to start is “What do I have to learn from this experience?”
- Wherever you are struggling right now, that is the guidepost to where the learning is for you.
- Perhaps there is a part that is afraid to be alone, or afraid to get sick, or afraid of death.
- Perhaps there is a part that is scared to not have enough, not do enough, not be enough.
- Perhaps there is a part that is terrified of uncertainty and cannot trust that life will work this out somehow, that “this too shall pass.”
Most of us have strong patterns of worry and fear.
It is important to realize that most of what we fear or worry about, we have very little control over. It may be difficult to believe that we actually do have control over our thoughts. It is possible to stop worry and fear, by no longer feeding it. Try going 5 minutes without worry. Just dismiss any worry that appears for a short period of time. You will quickly see that it is possible to not worry. It is inevitable to be affected by what happens in our world, to our bodies, to the people we care about. But worry and fear do not have to be the predominant experience. Getting rid of worry and fear does not happen overnight. It takes practice and commitment. Our fears can be disempowered. New, loving patterns of thought can be empowered:
“I love and approve of myself no matter what.”
“No matter what happens, I do the best I can.”
“I respond to life’s challenges the best way I know how, trusting that new solutions will present themselves to me.”
Miranda MacPherson is an author and speaker who teaches a practice called ego-relaxation. I find myself going back to this teaching as a basic self-care tactic right now. She defines the ego as the part of us that sees itself as separate.
Miranda explains ego relaxation as “a softening, a melting, an allowing…allowing a letting go.” She warns that the way is ego relaxation, not ego annihilation. We do not have to cut out parts of ourselves that are scared, angry, or insecure. She says, “The one who is trying to become enlightened is the very one being asked to surrender the reins of control.” Surrender is quite a challenge sometimes.
When I think of allowing, this experience comes to mind. My mother got a large splinter stuck in her finger while she was working in her flowerbeds. During that time, I had become interested in holistic health and I asked if I could try something. I put one of the products that I was learning about (which was rich in antioxidants) on a bandage and secured that to the area where the splinter went in. After a day or so, her body encapsulated the splinter and brought it to the surface of her finger where it was removed with no difficulty. It was fascinating.
Like the body has the ability to bring a splinter to the surface of the skin, the inner self has the ability to bring our inner fears, insecurities, or flawed personality traits to the surface to be released. However, the human will is strong and we can resist this process of surrender, relaxation, and letting go of our “stuff”. If we focus on the fear or the “infection” within us then we strengthen that infectious process. Sometimes emotions come to the surface that we did not know were still there. Often we try to bury them back in.
The more we try to avoid, the more stuck we feel. When we become willing to feel everything, ironically we start to feel the cool breeze of freedom.
No matter what your outer experience looks like, you can change your inner experience. Spend some time cultivating inner peace.
- Go inward, listen to a guided meditation
- Be the gatekeeper of your thoughts, do not entertain negative thinking
- Your mind will find something to focus on so give it something that generates peace: a spiritual teacher or leader, gratitude for what you do have, gratitude for what you are learning from the experience, curiosity about what will be born of this time (individually and collectively)
- Practice common-sense precautions: follow all of the issued guidelines in protecting yourself and others but do not give in to fear or spend your time obsessively checking the crisis updates (know that you are doing everything you can)
- Participate in the solution in whatever way you can: prayer and meditation for the well-being of all, lovingly caring for your responsibilities, making equipment, collecting supplies for those who are more skilled in making equipment, dropping necessities to those who should not get out at all…whatever you can contribute
- In spare time, attend to something you have not had time for, this might turn out to be a very creative time for you
There is no way out of this epidemic but through it. And our starting point is within ourselves. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, an Indian spiritual teacher, said “When I look inside and see that I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I look outside and see that I am everything, that is love. Between these two poles, my life flows.”
In this world crisis, both of these truths are necessary. We must realize that the separate person we see ourselves to be is really nothing at all. We must also realize that we are one with everything, we are all connected. We, who are nothing, can make a tremendous difference within ourselves and collectively. We can access a greater power within us; it is just different from our usual way of thinking then responding. It involves connecting inwardly and accessing intuition. A few minutes of letting go of everything and setting an intention for pure guidance can strengthen your ability to receive. It is not a waste of time and a few tidbits of pure intuition can go a long way. You may not be aware of connecting to or receiving anything, and that is ok. You are developing a new way of accessing deeper truths and your essential nature. And the ego will likely resist in some way. Do your best to relax the ego, trusting that your intuition is developing. This can only help us respond more intelligently and compassionately to the needs we face.
Allison Saltzman, LPC is a psychotherapist whose passion is rooted in helping her clients cultivate joy and practice the art of being fully present in their lives.
She founded Connected Counseling, a group counseling practice in Lafayette, LA, which provides services to children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families.
Connected Counseling is about living well in all areas of life, offering Cognitive Behavior Therapy, mind-body techniques, Play Therapy, and mindfulness-based interventions.