Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Life in the Time of Coronavirus

This year, I have been working behind the scenes on renewing my practice and and my philosophy of life. I have a slew of blog drafts, hoarded like toilet paper, that I've been working on.

Last week everything changed.

Covid-19, coronavirus--whatever we end up calling this bug in the future, it has been a wake up call for many, and has crystallized many ideas I've tossed around as I try to define my practice and my life. Here's what I've got so far:

  • It's not all about me. While I hope I've never looked at life in a self-centered way, we all do at times. But life is about connection, and about what we give. Everyone I've ever read who talked about finding meaning in life sees life as a gift you give to others. 
  • It's all about me (and it's all about you). As confusing as it sounds, the only way to be able to give to others is to do the work you need to do on yourself. The inner work I've done for the past 3 years has taught me a lot about what my unique gifts are, and had also reminded me that most people with health issues have a harder time dealing with the feelings and thoughts around the illness than the symptoms themselves. Fatigue is not as hard as feeling useless because you're tired. Pain is not as hard as feeling you're powerless to manage your own body. Self-work on how we think, and allowing ourselves to feel, are critical parts in healthcare. 
  • Slow is usually better. Life moves fast. The recent changes in North America associated with Covid-19 (that Asia and Europe have been experiencing for weeks before us) has left many of us feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and like we are behind and can't catch up on simple things like having food and income. Unless you are being chased by a lion, usually the best way to handle overwhelm is to slow down. Allow yourself space to look past the hysteria in yourself, the media, and others, and give your fight-or-flight response a chance to fade so you can look at life rationally and critically. Slower is how my practice runs, and it's how I encourage my patients to approach life, too.
  • Authenticity is all. If you aren't who you really are, or looking at what really is, you're lost when you have to deal with a challenge. Denial and hysteria are two sides of the same coin--they are turning away from reality. In our current situation, pretending this virus is not a serious health threat to thousands of people and not taking precautions for the sake of everyone is denial. Forgetting that for most people, this virus means a few weeks being cooped up at home, possibly with bad cold symptoms, is buying into hysteria. All of life has the denial and hysteria paths, and also the path of accepting reality, feeling what you feel about it, and dealing with what's at hand. In my practice, I use mindfulness as a path to authenticity.
As 2020 seems to roar on, each of us has the chance to make our life work our way, even in the face of challenges. Accepting that routines will change, and there will be problems as well as triumphs is part of authentic living. I hope you will find a path to balance, get to know yourself so you can give to others, slow down to enjoy life and face it calmly, and be the wonderful you that you really are.