The last year has brought many unexpected changes.
It’s been a year full of uncertainty and fear. The uncertainty that our lives can be upended without any warning. Fear that our loved ones can be snatched from us.
But it also has shown us our strength and our resilience. The human spirit is undefeatable. It can be squashed for a time, but it rebounds stronger than it was before.
For me, the pandemic has made three things clear.
1. In times of crisis, there’s love and hope…even with the fear.
During the pandemic, medical professionals have worked tirelessly to care for the public. They’ve put themselves and their families at risk to do their job. Other essential workers that we don’t often think of as heroic have stepped up and done their jobs despite their fear.
In every major crisis, there are stories of compassion, selflessness, and sacrifice. As I’ve read the news and talked to others, I’ve realized that we’re more than just our biology. We’re more than just a flight-or-fight response. In times of adversity, we empathize more with our fellow humans. We’re in this together and this bonds us to one another.
2. Our inner peace is determined by us, not our circumstances.
When the pandemic first began, everything slammed to a stop. Weddings and celebrations were put off. People were asked to shelter in place. As the news reported rising case numbers and deaths, the whole world was gripped by fear and uncertainty.
Even when cut off from others and forced to shelter in place, I continued my meditation practice. Every morning, I meditate before I start my day. I breathe out my suffering and breathe in hope, love, and peace. Worries clear from my head as I focus only on my breath. Because I’m responsible for my inner peace. It’s not subject to circumstances.
This is why Buddhist monks are at peace. Not because they have all the material things in life that the modern world says we need, but because they have cultivated their inner peace. They’ve nurtured it. It started small but they kept feeding it and stoking the flames. Monks live a simple life centered around loving kindness. They even sometimes go without sleep and spend hours in an upright meditative state. Because they know inner peace is not in our bodies, but in our hearts.
3. Life goes on.
The very nature of life is impermanent. Even our sun that warms us and grows our food won’t last forever. When we don’t want things to change, that’s when we hit a roadblock. We have a tendency as humans to fear change. Things are comfortable and familiar to us as is, so even when they’re not good, we still cling to them. People who have been abused often cling to their abusers—because that’s what they know. It’s painful and excruciating but it’s familiar.
So now, the pandemic is starting to shift. The numbers of cases are dropping, and many of us are wondering what our lives will be like in the coming years. How has this virus changed our course?
In a way, this new uncertainty is worse to our minds than when the virus first hit—because we’ve gotten comfortable with our masks and regulations. And, now in some places, we’re being told masks are optional.
But the virus is mutating. We’d rather stick to what we know. The idea of lifting restrictions and getting back to any sense of normalcy is terrifying to us. Because we’ve seen what this virus can do.
Literature and history are full of heroes who faced insurmountable odds and by some superhuman feat of strength overcame them. But we don’t need magical or superhuman powers to be a hero. If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that lending a hand and reaching out in kindness to another frightened human being is heroic.
When we swallow down our own fear and take responsibility for our own inner peace, we’re the heroes of the story.
What has the pandemic taught you? Leave me your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!