Instead of resisting to changes, surrender. Let life be with you, not against you. If you think ‘My life will be upside down’ don’t worry. How do you know down is not better than upside? (Shams of Tabriz)
As a human family, we are faced with a challenging moment in history that — like any crisis — holds great potential.
As the weeks and months slip by, in addition to COVID-19, the world is now also facing serious social and economic fallout from the Coronavirus.
This article provides longer-term guideposts for navigating this unprecedented time in our generation.
The Chinese word for crisis consists of two characters: wei, which represents “danger,” and ji, which translates as “turning or changing point” or “opportunity.” No doubt, COVID-19 is a weiji moment for our world.
Here are 19 insights we can draw on in dealing with COVID-19 (there is a gentle overlap in a few points):
1. Reflect on how we are all connected.
The present situation makes the truth of oneness dramatically visible. We can see how the destiny of all other humans is interwoven with our own. In fact, all of creation is a web of intricately interconnected relations.
2. Our previous experiences have helped to prepare us for this time.
Collectively and individually, all of our life’s experiences – both the good and the difficult ones, as well as the rich lessons learnt – can now help us in the midst of any chaos and turmoil, be it inside or outside of ourselves. They can assist us to remain calm and carry our lights, even when others may complain about the darkness.
3. Try a little kindness and sharing.
Understandably, many people are experiencing anxiety, distress and loneliness. Acts of kindness – in difficult times, even more than in ordinary times – break the habit of separation. Kind-hearted deeds are also a strong reminder of our interconnectedness. The words of Glen Campbell’s song, “Try a Little Kindness”, are fitting: “Don’t walk around the down and out/Lend a helping hand instead of doubt/And the kindness that you show every day/Will help someone along their way.”
4. Use the present situation as an opportunity to go within.
With the coming of the Coronavirus, many had to go into involuntary retreat. However, people discovered pockets of time that were previously filled with rush and endless busyness. We have been given an unexpected opportunity to stop, look at our lives, and reset ourselves. We may also have learnt to live our lives more from the inside out, instead of the other way around.
5. Consider what is truly essential in life.
As our movement became somewhat restricted, we have had a chance to review our life choices – for example, our jobs, habits of travel, entertainment, and consumerism. Questions we might ask ourselves include: What serves me in the long-run? What serves the whole? What attitudes or beliefs do I need to let go of? How do I want to spend the precious years I have left in this body? What is truly essential?
6. Be encouraged by the surfacing of love and compassion.
Around the globe, many stories show how the Coronavirus has prompted people to follow their deepest impulses of love and compassion. We are seeing fulfilled Mother Teresa’s words, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.” We each have a choice – whether to follow our egotistic side or to reach out and touch someone.
7. The Coronavirus has given Mother Nature a much-needed rest.
The Earth has had a chance to restore some of its balance – and with it, we are doing the same. For example, news reports have shown blue skies over China’s huge cities. Our reduced economic and leisure activities are indeed granting the Earth a needed rest.
8. Make use of the flourishing global learning opportunities.
Countless webinars, online classes, and Zoom circles popping up worldwide show a global flourishing of learning and creativity. People feel motivated to learn things they have never tried before. Others desire to share what they know. Ironically, isolation is leading to deeper solidarity and community. “The veils of separation are parting and the reality of interconnection is apparent to everyone on earth. We have needed this pause, perhaps even needed our isolation to see how much we need one another.” (Jack Kornfield)
9. Cultivate the health-promoting attitude of gratefulness.
As restrictions are lifted, we have the opportunity to be more grateful for all the things we always took for granted before. Also, “if you’re grateful, you’re not fearful. If you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you are not fearful, you act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity. You’re willing to share.” (David Steindl-Rast)
10. Let the inevitability of death help you make the most out of life.
We have developed societies where death is largely ignored, whereas youthfulness and entertainment feature prominently. We can live under the illusion of permanence, even though everything is basically impermanent. The Coronavirus suddenly confronts us with our own finiteness – and the fact that any life saved actually only means a death postponed.
11. Accept that we can’t always know the answers.
Tired and confused by the constant flood of information, statistics, opinions and predictions, we may gradually come to a humbling conclusion: we simply don’t know. This pertains to the current situation, but it also touches our human condition on a deeper level. The realization of not knowing can lead to a new-found humility. We learn to surrender to something greater – call it God, Life, Nature, or the Universe. Not always knowing allows us to be open for fresh, authentic, well-rooted knowledge to emerge.
12. Face and accept your fears and brokenness.
In facing this “invisible enemy”, we are called to get in touch with our fears and to acknowledge the scared, wounded, and broken parts in ourselves – without escaping from them. Grieving together for our pain, and the pain of the planet, is an important part of the healing process. In the end, the way out is through – individually, as well as collectively.
13. The current crisis can be a positive turning point.
The Coronavirus predicament is exposing many of our dysfunctional systems – which ultimately need to be dismantled. It also highlights two radically different modes of operation – the dominant paradigms of control, domination, power, war, and surveillance on the one hand, and the emerging qualities of love, connection, cooperation, compassion, care, and sharing on the other hand. Humans now have a collective choice as to which path to follow.
14. Returning to “normal” may not be in our best interests.
In many places, the Coronavirus has closed down business as usual. People have been derailed from the tracks of their habitual routines. Many are longing to return to normality. But do we really want to go back to “normal”? If humanity is to evolve, the words of Eisenstein are worth bearing in mind: “To interrupt a habit is to make it visible; it is to turn it from a compulsion to a choice. When the crisis subsides, we might have occasion to ask whether we want to return to normal, or whether there might be something we’ve seen during this break in the routines that we want to bring into the future.” We now have an unexpected opportunity to evaluate our habits and routines from ground up.
15. Realize that rapid and unexpected changes can occur in life.
When humanity is united in a common cause, rapid change previously thought unimaginable becomes possible. “None of the world’s problems are technically difficult to solve; they originate in human disagreement. In coherency, humanity’s creative powers are boundless.” (Eisenstein) Who would have thought, for example, that almost from one month to the next, humans could bring most of the world’s air traffic to a halt?
16. Hold onto a new vision for life on earth.
What will life be like when we are all back together in schools, workplaces, churches, and entertainment centres? How will we relate to each other? What will we have learnt? What will we do differently? During this period of sitting in the “darkness of not knowing,” can we see a vision of a more loving and beautiful world in our hearts? Everything we do from a place of love and connection strengthens the field of love and connection. How can I be the change I wish to see in the world?
17. Discover how to remain calm in life’s storms.
Despite the on-going uncertainty, many are seeking to live day-to-day with an abiding calmness and peace of mind. This is made possible by setting aside time each day to pause, reflect, pray or meditate.
18. Recognize where peace and joy can be found.
Some people have found that this time of upheaval has given them an ideal time to turn into the depths of their heart and soul – to discover that love, peace, happiness, and wisdom do lie within after all. This has brought them a new sense of joy and purpose. It has freed them from thinking that happiness and freedom from suffering are solely dependent on people, places, possessions, status, fame and power.
19. Take time to reflect deeply about the realities of life.
During this unsettled time, yet with extra time on their hands, people have been led to reflect more deeply about life. What life brings to us is not always as predictable as we would like it to be. Changes can occur quickly and unexpectedly. The Coronavirus may have taught us each to make the most of our time and opportunities while we have them to engage in positive deeds.
“When things fall apart … we can use it as an opportunity to be open and inquisitive about what has just happened and what will happen next. That is how we turn this arrow into a flower.” (Pema Chödrön)
May we emerge from this uncertain time that has engulfed our planet stronger, more loving and more compassionate.
Alexander and Eva Peck (May 20, 2020)
Source: The original inspiration and content for this article came from Marian Brehmer, published 5th of April 2020. (http://www.dailygood.org/story/2485/16-teachings-from-covid-19-marian-brehmer/) Here we present totally reworked content to share perhaps a more current and global perspective.