The Coronavirus has changed the world as we know it. These are tough times right now and we are all living with incredible uncertainty. That uncertainty is causing an array of emotions -anger, fear, guilt, sadness and curiosity. This is all natural for us as humans. We feel incredibly threatened and have no true idea of what life will look like in the future. I think most of us would agree, life will never be the same. Hopefully this will not only be a challenging time but also a time for all of us to learn how to help each other and the universe. And humans are resilient-we will get through this!
If there was ever a time to call on your spiritual journey to carry you through it is now. A Course in Miracles teaches that we can’t change the world, but we can change our minds about the world. We are all going to see the world differently. We can’t control everything going on right now. All you can do is live every moment, follow common sense precautions like hand washing and social distancing. Taking normal precautions is a good thing but if we let our fear, guilt and anger overtake us, we will be no help to the world.
We can best help by keeping ourselves healthy so that those who really need the frontline care of our courageous doctors, nurses, and health care workers can get the proper care with the proper equipment. They are the boddhisatvas- a Buddhist term for one who stays around until everyone is healed before taking the final step into Nirvana.
Did you know that the sanskrit word for compassion is Karuna? I heard this on a Dharma talk the other day and I thought- “Wow” That doesn’t sound a whole lot different than Corona, which actually means crown. I’d like to think that rather than be afflicted with coronavirus, which they say we may all have a touch of, we could be afflicted with koruna – compassion for everyone right now. None of us are totally sure how to handle our lives right now so reach out with calm and kindness as much as possible.
Here are some other ways to balance the anxiety and stress of these uncertain times.
Meditate – Simply give your self time to sit, breathe, and allow whatever thoughts and feelings to come up-tears are good and so is laughter. See my post on meditation.
Yoga and Tai Chi or just meditative dance are all fun and relaxing. Put on some quiet music or a video and move through your favorite poses. Sometimes I just put on healing music and dance like I’m floating.
Take a break from television and social media. We can become oversaturated with newscasts and updates. It is good to stay abreast to directives for how to live and work right now, but not all day. I notice how emotional we can get when our fear takes over-that will just fry your immune system
Exercise-One of the best things you can do right now is to keep moving. Many people have worried about gaining weight while isolated. Easy to grab snacks and eat out of anxiety and boredom. Get out and walk, if you can. When I am on the phone (unless it is a coaching call) I walk inside my house-amazing how many steps on I can get this way. There are some great fitness videos and workouts on You Tube.
Cook and Plan healthy meals. I happen to love to cook but friends who have just been eating out in the past are now getting back to enjoying their kitchens and culinary creativity. Get out the cook books and have fun making nutritious and colorful foods.
A friend of mine just turned 80, and was pleased to have passed his last physical exam with flying colors. He shared some of his lifestyle secrets. Besides getting plenty of enjoyable exercise, he enjoys “a fine, mellow, exquisite, small cigar to CELEBRATE LIFE…. at night, under the stars, on my deck…” but said that Above ALL: Thanks to my meditations I have NO stress, NO anxieties, No tension, No fears. How come? I simply drop it all, every night in deep meditation. It works like magic! “
So what is this magic? Meditation has several health benefits and positively affects our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Relaxing the mind actually relaxes the body, the blood vessels, the cells, and thus can lower blood pressure and stress hormones resulting in a sense of calm and the ability to focus, and more clearly manage life’s challenges with balance. Meditation is very healing, because when we quiet our mind, each cell in our body relaxes.
Spiritually, meditation is used as a time to simply be at peace with one’s definition of God, or empty one’s mind in order to connect to a higher power. It seems that when one desires this connection to be continuous, every moment could be a meditation, and life would flow in a way that would decrease our fears, worries, and tension. We would take life less seriously and enjoy it more.
Ideally you would stay mindful and relaxed as much as possible during the day. But most people live a very rushed, busy life, and are plagued with the human condition of “monkey mind” where our thoughts jump from place to place often disconnecting and leaving our mind overwhelmed and the body tired. And face it, many people find a quiet mind kind of boring.
Hence the need for setting aside a regular time for practicing meditation and training our minds to focus on one thing; the breath, a candle, a prayer, a mantra, or as in Zen, absolutely nothing.
There are many definitions of meditation and many forms of practice. There are several great books on meditation. One of my favorites is The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. I love his teaching because the goal is not to have to sit at a certain time of the day, but to be mindful and pay attention to your breath, and to what your are doing and thinking throughout the day. When you wash dishes, you pay attention to washing dishes. When you eat, you pay attention to eating. Your everyday activities become the focus of your meditation.
The concept of mindfulness as meditation is quite magical, and with practice life becomes a joyful and blessed experience even in the midst of the most stressful situations. As my friend so clearly exemplifies, health comes from living a life of moderation in all things, celebrating life, and dropping our worries and fears by practicing the magic of meditation.
My friend Janet and I with her red convertible. Notice the basket of wine and chocolate.
A friend of mine owns a red convertible. She got it over 18 years ago and it still looks great. She is now in her late 70s but as vibrant as her car. Her license plate is Joy 4 All, and she lives that every day of her life from her vintage clothes and hats, to her thoughtful gifts and notes. This friend recently lost her oldest son to early dementia so it’s hard for her to have that joy all the time. In fact, as she feels her grief and experiences her body aging, like all of us, she has occasional meltdowns. But not for long, for something will come along that not only delights her but delights someone else.
Recently one of her neighbors was celebrating their mother’s 94th birthday party. One of the things on her bucket list was to drive around in a red convertible. The son of the birthday girl was trying to figure out how to make this dream come true. He called several rental car companies to no avail. No one had an available red convertible for rent. He thought of borrowing one from a car dealer, but unless you put a down payment on the auto, you are out of luck. Then an idea came to him. He said to his wife, “ Doesn’t our neighbor own a red convertible?” Light bulb idea!!! He called my friend and said he had an out-of-the-box favor to ask. Could he borrow her red convertible? My friend, joyful as can be, thought this was a great idea and would be happy to let him use the car for the day.
On the day of her birthday, the son surprised his mother by picking her up in the morning for a day of celebration and driving around in a red convertible. She was so delighted and could not believe her dream came true. They had a day out to brunch, then took a ferry ride to Maysville and toured the home of Rosemary Clooney followed by a celebration dinner.
Later that day they returned the car, full of gas, with the utmost gratitude. My friend told me this story with a smile on her face -“Oh! It was so much fun to make someone’s dream come true!”
I have another friend who recently celebrated her 77th birthday in hospice. Two weeks ago she was walking my neighborhood and now has weeks to live due to a malignant and aggressive brain tumor. I went to visit her. It was 11:30 in the morning and there she was sipping a small bottle of Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc. I said, “ Are you drinking wine?” I was smiling as I do love wine and thought, why not? Glad they let you have it here. I think I might want to do the same thing. She turned her head to me and said, “Yep! All day long-that and chocolate. What else can I do?” She explained that she chose not to have any treatment, but rather to take the path of palliative care, which assures comfort and allows her to spend what time she has left with her family and friends and enjoy her wine and chocolate. She said if anyone asks what to bring-wine and chocolate!
A group of us put a basket together for her. Each person contributed something based on the theme, wine, chocolate, and comfort care. We brought her a basket full of wine, chocolate, cookies, books, and more. I think she appreciated the thoughts as well as the things. She died about 10 days later at peace and surrounded by her family
One never knows how much time we have left to age and then to die. We don’t all have the same dreams or the same joys. We don’t all have the same experiences, but what we do have is a choice to live as full a life as we can and to be there when someone asks for an out of the box favor and to give with an open heart. It is healing for all.
It has been awhile since I wrote this and I want to add that we all should imagine just for a day that we are in hospice with only 6 months to live. How will you live those days? Angry? Afraid? At peace? Have you had those important conversations with loved ones and friends? Don’t wait to suddenly be told you only have weeks or months to live. We all are on a time line. Life is precious.
“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” -The Dalai Lama
This year I thought a great idea would be to give my grandchildren (ages 8, 8, 6 and 3) each their own meditations cushions – known as zafus, a large square cushion topped with a zabuton, a puffy little pillow to sit on. Anxiety is an epidemic in children and adolescents and it would benefit more promotion of mindfulness and meditation. I was so excited. They picked their colors pinks, greens, blues, and yellows. I ordered accordingly. I carefully reviewed children’s books on the subject of mindfulness and chose a different book for each child based on their individual personalities. I also gave them each a meditation CD and in each of their gift bags was a small little Buddha-each a different color representing various spiritual aspects-faith, hope, peace, and love. I carefully laid their cushions side by side in our lower rec room and imagined they would see them, sit on them, enjoy their books and begin their practice.
That morning, I sat in meditation for 20 minutes on my own new set of yellow cushions and what came to me was a small voice stating I had expectations and needed to let them go. But of course I did not listen to the inner voice and this is how it played out.
Instead of my vision of four excited children sitting on their cushions and enjoying their new books and little Buddhas, they started arguing about which books they liked better and then my grandson decided to make up a game called “let’s hide the Buddha.” His sister, my granddaughter, started crying because she did not like the rules he proposed and wanted to play a different way. The result was great conflict, screaming and lots of chaos.
I had a glass of wine as their mother patiently listened to each of them and attempted to help them manage this conflict. One stated their case and the other stated her case to no avail the crying continued. My daughter-in-law kept trying to get them to negotiate a solution. Meanwhile, the Buddhas were being thrown in the air. I had another glass of wine and finally started yelling and saying insane things like “ what everyone needs is to sit and contemplate this conflict. These cushions are for mindfulness and I am so sad that there is all this fighting when I am trying to promote peace.” Steve, by now walked away saying, we would not have spent all this time negotiating and this is all ridiculous. I went upstairs to make sure our dinner, which was sill in the oven and on the stove was not burning.
The crying continued. My son went upstairs also exasperated by his children, but when Steve came up and said he couldn’t take anymore, my son yelled “ Mom would you like me to bring my children back when they are 18?” That statement broke my heart and I started crying and said how this is not how I had anticipated the evening I had so judiciously prepared for. “ Well, that’s ridiculous Mom. They are kids.” He berated me and Steve and we both felt like ridiculously failing grandparents. Somehow I raised my voice and my son raised his voice and it was a mess. My daughter ended up pushing us in the back bedroom to continue our fight as our grandchildren were disturbed by our argument.
How did it end? My son and I both agreed we were wrong. We continued to yell and cry and really had a darn good talk. I was humbled and put in my place, and he realized he had expectations too- for us as grandparents to be more perfect, more patient, and less human. I did see the folly in my great expectations and we then talked about other pent up feelings not expressed including just simply missing talking to each other and stating our mutual love, respect, and appreciation. It just all turned out different than expected.
We came out of the bedroom and resumed family time. The kids were downstairs enjoying their books and cushions and the family was once again at peace.
The moral of the story and what I had to learn was to let go of expectations. It was a set up for disappointment but in the end, I had a great talk with my son and all was well.
I’ve checked in with my grandkids and they are enjoying their cushions and meditation books and tapes.
As a life and wellness coach, spiritual advisor, and simply as a friend, I have given lots of pep talks. And there are times when I need a good pepping up myself.
I always say, I teach what I want to learn. And I learn from everyone.
Everybody needs pep talk sometimes. We all get down on ourselves, have upsets with life, and generally as normal human functioning human beings, lose our sense of motivation and energy. That’s when like all people on a playing field, we need a good Pep talk.
So here goes:
>You are doing great even if you feel like you are faltering. You are doing your best. Reward yourself for functioning at all. Sometimes in these dark winter months, we feel like a blob. Half the day may go by and your still in your pajamas-that’s okay sometimes. We all need a day to do nothing but wake up and breathe. If you give yourself a pajama day without guilt, you may feel a burst of energy and productivity the next day or week.
>Be grateful! When you are stressed it is always good to take 10 deep breaths or even 3 if that’s all your mind can focus on, but if not then think of at least three things you are grateful for right now!!
>Life will present plenty of opportunities for you to be negative. How about looking for something to shift your mind to a more positive view point even if it feels or looks like sh_t. You know the story of the little boy who said he smelled something-it was horse manure and rather than say yuk! He said there must be a pony around here somewhere.
>Quit over thinking everything. It all may be good and there you go trying to figure out what could be wrong. The ego analyzes. The spirit accepts. Stay in the moment and enjoy it. If something feels off, listen all around you to see if there is anything you need to do about it or learn from it.
>Tame your inner critic and listen to your inner cheerleader. We all have an inner critic, but we also have an inner voice that guides you to living a life that flows. One of my favorite cheers was:
Jumpin in the grandstand, beatin on a tin can, Who can? We can? Nobody else can! Standing on our hands, standin on our feet, the Rockets the Rockets can’t be beat!
Well try that one in the morning when you wake up less than excited about your day.
I tell my grandkids-Can’t died in the cornfield. YOU CAN!
And here is a pep talk from a young man aspiring to be president:
As I reflect on my life right now, I want to share an article I wrote that I am reminding myself to follow.
This year has been a very stressful, yet exciting year. We made a major move from a house of 31 years to a new home- very different, a connected “landominium”, maintenance free living-quite a change. Between preparing the house for sale, decluttering, keeping it immaculate for the weekly showings for months, working with the builder on the plans for our new home, and the major task of moving in general, my body has taken a toll. You really do have to be mindful of a stress and the affect of pushing until your exhausted. We are now settled and loving it, but I reacted to something while unpacking and developed a major allergic dermatitis reaction. Now on steroids and drugs, it is important that I take time to heal the cells of my stressed out body, by reconnecting my mind and spirit.
Today I put out the yoga mat while listening to meditative music and did a 40 minute yoga routine for detoxing. It felt very necessary and quite nice. My husband and I have resumed our Tai Chi practice in the evening, and hopefully this bout of illness will pass, having been a blatant reminder that YOU HAVE TO STOP SOONER OR LATER!
Anyway, here is the article:
For years people who have talked about wellness referred to weight loss, fitness or smoking cessation programs. Later we identified the role stress plays in our overall health and wellness so we developed stress management programs.
Interesting that although the wellness industry has spent the last 20 years designing programs and providing health promotion information to the point that most consumers are very well educated, health is not improving
much – Not the kind of health that is defined by an overall sense of balance of body, mind and spirit or physical, emotional or spiritual togetherness. In fact many people are exercising and watching their weight. Unfortunately many people have given up and continue to spiral upwards. There is no loss of material on what constitutes a healthy diet or adequate fitness program. There are also more self help books published than ever before to help us deal with our stress management.
Keeping all of this in mind, it is interesting that when I work with people as a wellness coach, their vision often includes a regular exercise program and healthy diet, but it always seems to include the word
balance and gaining more energy and enjoying life more. Yet that is the one place it is hard to concentrate. To stop all of our activity, whether it is for our work or just to keep the house managed is very difficult. We just keep going until our body can’t go anymore and then we get sick. It is when we get sick that we question how we have been going about getting all these things done.
More and more people have said to me that they need to take time to meditate, yet less and less do. Why is that? I know for myself I often feel that once this or that item on my to do list is complete, I will be able to sit back and relax. Sitting seems such a waste of time when there is so much to do. That is why we recommend that you schedule a regular time for meditation regardless of what is going on in life or with work. It has to be as built in as brushing your teeth. It has to be an everyday occurrence.
But what if we are just not of the makeup to sit in a formal meditation? That is not necessary, but what is necessary is to have some sort of practice built into your life for reflection on more than your everyday tasks. The fact is that one’s body and mind can’t keep on going without a break. Eventually you will have to stop.
Regardless of what your life looks like right now, it is helpful build into your day a time( even if just 5 minutes) for silence, prayer, yoga,reflective reading, listening to peaceful music, journaling, or if you can, sitting in a position of meditation, following your breath long enough to feel a difference in your body- a feeling of peace and quiet rather than rushing and a sense of urgency. If you practice enough, it will become a memory in your body that you will be able to tap into when life is speeding by. Like all of my clients, it has to be a priority and goal for change. Let that be now and not later.