Find Calm in the CoVid
“When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked, all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh
Just a few weeks ago we were each going about our lives, worrying about project deadlines, school exams, sports competitions and business conferences. Now, we find ourselves called to expand our thinking beyond the daily balancing act to take in a broader, we-centered perspective.
I texted this to my friend and co-teacher Lori yesterday: “I have never felt a stronger sense of connection with our shared humanity on this tender planet.” We are in an unprecedented time in our human history. We can see more easily just how interconnected all of life is, and how being mindful and compassionate not only helps ourselves but the world.
The vibe around us has changed from overworked to overwhelmed. We are sensing in ourselves, our loved ones, the strangers we pass in the grocery store as we’re quickly throwing extra supplies into our carts, a universal sense of unease, worry, anxiety, fear. It is normal to be experiencing these feelings. Human beings are wired to dislike uncertainty and fear threats to survival. Our brains are meaning-making machines, and when faced with a future that is unknown or fearful, it sends our worrying minds into overdrive.
But there are things we can do. We can come home to our true nature – the peace that is within all of us. We can ground ourselves in the present moment by accepting the situation that we are facing, and embracing the uncertainty of what may lie ahead. When our mind gets lost in thoughts of an unknown, complex future – we catch ourselves and come back to our next breath. And the next one, and the next one. Just breathing, returning to the here and now.
When we feel anxiety levels rising in the chest, notice the breath getting shorter, and hear ourselves getting impatient with house-bound kids, this is a signal to stop and pause.
To Find Calm: Use the STOP Practice
S Stop, recognize that you are triggered, anxious, afraid, frustrated, antsy, restless, impatient…
T Take a Breath, or two.. deep, relaxing breaths to downregulate the nervous system and take attention away from thoughts. Anchor in the concreteness of feeling the breath move in and out.
O Observe what’s happening in your body, your thoughts, your emotions. Name it to tame it- use words to engage your prefrontal cortex in further down-regulating your system. Rapid breathing, tight throat, thinking about canceled wedding, elder parent… fear… anxious feelings…
P Proceed. Think of the kindest, most compassionate action you can take for yourself or others. Do that.
We can always turn away from projecting to the future, speculating, catastrophizing, and return to the present moment. We can offer connection and care to others by checking-in on a deeper level, listening mindfully to how our friends, partners, and coworkers are doing. Our presence, unplugged, is a generous gift.
Below are resources I’ve gathered as we ease into our new normal. May these be of benefit to you.
An invitation for Compassion
The pandemic, the shutdowns, the closings – all are an invitation for us to slow down and meet ourselves, and each other, in a present, compassionate way. Compassion builds on empathy and calls on the courage to take action to relieve suffering.
Sensing what will serve is more important than ever.
Ask others: What do you need right now? How can I help?
Wisdom from Jack Kornfield for Finding Calm
Listen to Jack Kornfield share wisdom and practices to find calm and stay grounded in the present moment.
A Meditation for Self-Compassion
The Self-Compassion Break is a science-backed practice you can use throughout the day to help you recognize a difficult moment, remember you are not alone- many are having this same experience, and offer yourself compassion. At the link, I guide you through this practice, and you can ask yourself: What do I need?
A Community Online Summit to Learn from Plum Village
The most memorable retreats in my life were spending time with Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) and the nuns and monks in Plum Village in France and in their monasteries in the US.
In the Footsteps of Thich Nhat Hanh offers a rare chance to learn directly from the heart and home of the Plum Village tradition, with intimate guidance from nine senior Dharma teachers who have dedicated their lives to cultivating and sharing Thay’s tradition of mindfulness, community, and peace. The summit will take place virtually from March 25 – 29.
A Demonstration of Human Connection and Optimism
In this video, people in Spain clap from their balconies to express gratitude for the tremendous efforts of healthcare workers. It is a reminder that gratitude is an antidote to fear and scarcity thinking.
A Poem to Remind Us of Nature’s Resilience
“The Peace of Wild Things”
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
A Book for Uncertain Times
Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World, by Pema Chödrön (any book by Pema)
Use Nature and Art to Restore and Renew
Get outside and use All Trails App to find hiking trails in your area
May you find peace stepping into nature, practicing mindfulness meditation breathing for ten minutes a day, taking long walks, enjoying one another, laughing when you can, and resting.