We’re living in a tumultuous time – in many aspects, unprecedented. Day after day, sobering news reports emerge – both of the COVID-19 spread and its casualties, as well as its impact on society, especially the economic effects.
The entire world has dramatically changed in a remarkably short time. It was only at the end of December, 2019, that a young doctor, Li Wenliang, sent a message to other medics about a new virus in Wuhan in Hubei Province of China. Now, only a few months later, the whole world is in various degrees of lockdown.
This is surely a fitting time for young and old to stop to ponder life – its instability and uncertainty, as well as its meaning and purpose. Also, what should be our own values and focus to remain resilient and sound-minded, and to avoid excessive fear, stress and anxiety? Here are eleven reflections using the timely acronym C.O.R.O.N.A.V.I.R.U.S.
Calmness: Despite the turbulence, may we seek to live day-to-day with an abiding calmness, peace, and clarity of mind, made possible by taking time to pause, reflect, pray or meditate each day.
Openness: Let’s keep an open mind to what is unfolding, and what these dramatic events may be teaching us about our individual lifestyles and our civilization as a whole. Will some of the societal deeply-rooted structures and entrenched power bases need to change?
Reflections about Reality: This can be a good time to deeply reflect on the realities of life. All things are impermanent and come to an end – sometimes very quickly and unexpectedly (such as the untimely death of a loved one). Therefore, may we each make the most of our time and opportunities, helping others and engaging in positive deeds while we can.
Oneness: From this present crisis, may we appreciate anew the intricate inter-connectedness of all humanity and the entire web of life on earth. We are all participants in life together, all interdependent, as well as dependent on other species. This contrasts with our predominant view as independent selves (egocentricity), and everyone chiefly looking out for themselves.
New Normal: While many are asking when will things get “back to normal”, some are voicing that for the welfare of all, this is not the best way forward. In reality, the “normal” that we have known in the Western world has not worked for humanity as a whole. When we take an unbiased look at crises around the earth, the need for new norms to emerge becomes increasingly clearer. Some, therefore, see the present pandemic as a catalyst for the formation of new approaches based on greater cooperation, kindness, caring and altruism.
Acceptance and Appreciation: In the present situation, some will understandably slip into denial, fear, anger, and even depression – or obsessing about getting what they want, and trying at all costs to avoid what they don’t want. A more trauma resilient approach is to accept what is, and to appreciate what is of abiding value. In fact, appreciation and gratitude are powerful, positive states of mind that increase immunity and promote wellbeing – and with them we can better make the most of our opportunities and reach out to help others less fortunate.
Vision: Some have suggested that our civilization needs a new vision for humanity. Such a vision includes a world where loving-kindness replaces anger, hatred, enmity and war; where cooperation and humility replace competition, arrogance, superiority and pride; where generosity replaces greed, miserliness, selfishness and hoarding; where wisdom replaces darkness, confusion, delusion and misperception; and where contentment replaces envy, jealousy, clinging and covetousness. Embodying such altruistic values on a worldwide scale would usher in a golden age on earth (which according to ancient spiritual writings, as well as archaeological evidence, has existed before and is destined to return).
Individualism: A great deal of suffering arises from a predominantly “I”, “me”, and “mine” orientation – desiring happiness mostly for oneself, without the thought of truly benefitting others. The present crisis is pointing to the need for cultivating greater altruistic love and compassion – being sincerely concerned for the wellbeing and happiness of others, and yearning for them to be free from suffering.
Resolutions: In a time of crisis, new resolutions are born. Collectively, new resolves might include: to maintain hope and faith in good arising from pain; to remain mindful, no matter what arises; to be patient and gentle with people and situations; to let bygones be bygones, leaving behind past hurts and regrets; and to cherish each day, knowing that life can change, or end, quickly.
Uprooting Unworkable Paradigms: For some time now, scientists and others have realized that the solely consumer-driven, profit-oriented “good, comfortable life” is unsustainable for the planet. The fact that a relatively small percentage of earth’s population consumes a mammoth share of earth’s resources, in an environmentally destructive manner, can surely no longer be acceptable. May the present crisis powerfully reinforce the need to uproot unworkable modes of operation.
Soul Searching and Spirituality: This time of upheaval affords an ideal time to turn within, into the depths of one’s heart and soul – and to discover what saints, sages, and mystics have found, that love, joy, peace, happiness, and wisdom lie within after all. This is in stark contrast to thinking that happiness and freedom from suffering are dependent on people, places, possessions, and found in pursuing status, fame and power at the exclusion of spiritual values and realities.
May the present time of distress sow the seeds that will in time lead to a transformation of life on earth, moving from hedonism (pursuit of pleasure) for the relatively few, to eudaimonia (human flourishing) for all.
Alexander and Eva Peck (April 2020)