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How can we stay calm during the days of COVID-19?
I would like to share my experience of what has worked for me. I started my spiritual journey about 20 years ago after I left my full-time job. In search of enlightenment, I was fortunate to attend a retreat led by Zen Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, in September 2008.
I have benefited hugely from the wisdom of his simple message. The even simpler practices have enabled me to be a calmer, constructive, and equanimous person.
One of the essential teachings of the Buddha was that life is suffering, and we must not avoid it. It is only when we embrace the roots of suffering that we can attain happiness.
I see that COVID-19 has brought us enormous suffering and how we will emerge depends significantly on how we navigate through the crisis.
Besides my Buddhist practice, I have taken other measures to bring me to the mental space I am in. I stopped reading the seven different newspapers delivered to our home about five years ago—I have not watched news channels on TV for about the same time. I get highlights from a couple of international newspapers and magazines on my phone, which I scan every day for under 25 minutes. I avoid bad and sensational news.
In my work and other social activities, I stopped doing things that did not make me feel good. I spent time with myself and my small circle of family and friends.
These days, I do not read about how the virus is spreading or check my phone for the “COVID-meter” in my neighborhood, state, country, or the world. I am exhausted and de-energized by the excess and often inaccurate information. It does not help me.
Instead, I write, draw, paint, tend to my garden, cook, bake, and watch Netflix. I listen to music, do some housework, and meditate. I help those less fortunate than me in whatever way I can. I think about how life has a way of showing us that we can and need to live differently.
Having been immobile for 12 of the last 19 months, I have learned that I cannot do and get what I want exactly when I want. I learned to do what calmed me: listen to music while lying in bed or on the couch, TED talks, meditation tapes, and Qawwalis. During the days, weeks, and months I was immobile, I learned to accept my immobility, knowing there would be better days.
The quiet and solitude have brought me relief and calm. I appreciate what others around me have done and continue to do for me. I am grateful and thankful. My phone and earphones have become my best friends, besides the wheelchair.
As an optimist, I know we will come out from the virus and lockdown wiser and stronger. Many will suffer, and be compromised—we will carry the virus in us for a long time, and the global economy will collapse, but a new one will emerge. It is exciting and frightening at the same time.
I am hopeful, calm, and grateful for what I have every day.