Life in Corona-land
or, Self-Care, Right View and Getting Real
Life in Corona-land for this therapist-yogi living alone has been like wandering through a bumpy field in pre-dawn light, slipping in and out of a dream. Like the majority of people I’ve spoken with over the last six weeks, I too have experienced a strange mix of states, like the hippie version of a giant Wild Greens Dinner Salad, with a little bit of everything thrown in! Oftentimes it has felt like swimming underwater, or being fogged in, unable to think or even move easily. Sometimes I’ve felt the anxiety or fear that accompanies material concerns and what the future holds. I’ve definitely noticed a lack of inspiration to create, as the familiar footing underneath me, my sense of identity, has been stripped away. There’s also a sense of lonliness due to missing direct time spent with friends or family. And of course, there’s always the great sadness and compassion felt for everyone suffering because of Covid-19.
But strangely, through it all, I have personally experienced a great amount of peace as well. Having so much extra time to oneself is not a problem for people who seek serenity! There have been moments of crystal-clear awareness and energy, and gratitude, especially while out for my daily walks in beautiful Lincoln Park with my canine companion. Those times remind me of a number of things I think pertinent to this specific event, two of which I’d like to share.
Without sounding preachy, this is the perfect opportunity to really dig into getting to know ourselves! All of our inner material is right here, more on the surface than ever, ready to be looked at and reflected upon. No matter how much “work we’ve done on ourselves,” there are still old patterns to address, old wounds to heal and release. Of course, this is only appealing if one wants to evolve consciously. But I tell ya, this time we’re in—it is forcing us to grow, no matter if we want to or not. So how much more powerful and uplifting, to take responsibility and activate your Freedom Potential yourself! And guess what? You do that not by doing more, but by becoming utterly present in the here and now. (More on that below).
The second thing that I am struck by, as I observe how I am flowing though these days, is my inner resolve and faith. It has nothing to do with putting on a strong front or happy face, but a deep knowing that it is all just fine. Whatever is happening, no matter what I personally will have to face, it’s fine.
And I can say that, because I have a helpful View of the Ways Things Are. It’s not a view that I made up, not a superficial wish-list of how I’d like to the world to be, but one that I have adopted over decades of examination and reflection, one aligned with ancient Vedic and Buddhist wisdom.
Right View & Getting Real in these New Times
Having a clear View, or darshana in Sanskrit, is a key component for mental- emotional health in the Eastern traditions. It gives you a chance to align your life with not only the values and vision you hold dear, but one that also considers all beings. It seems to me that, because of this crisis, many people are waking up to the fact that they don’t have the deepest sense of knowing what their life could or should be about, what values they absolutely must be in alignment with. There’s really been no “proper” View to help guide them, now that they see how insubstantial it is to rely on the materialistic view of life this American culture is built upon.
One of the great gifts of this difficult collective experience has been hearing the mantra: “Think of others, care for others, by social distancing.” Another gift, sometimes presented as an opportunity, sometimes forced upon us (like now), is getting clear about how you feel your life is going…Asking yourself if you want to—if you feel up to—making changes, or whether you long to go back to the old norms (the deeply engrained, self-oriented, consuming patterns to which we’ve all been habituated). If you have had the thought, even only once—“How now shall I live?”—it’s enough to have changed something in your consciousness. So then the next question, as the psychologist Fritz Perls famously put it: “What are you pretending not to know?”
Corona is forcing each of us out of our tendency to make-believe. To cling to notions that are being shown as false or faulty. Which brings me to the idea of Self-care. When you hear the term, images of facials, yoga class and designer juice may come to mind! But real, substantial self-care must include two key components: de-contraction (letting go, surrender) and alertness (being present, being truthful, being “mindful”).
Here’s a description of mindfulness you may not have heard before, from my teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche:
… a practice, or rather, a set of practices designed to assist us in uncovering or unfreezing the various layers of “I” that prevent us from experiencing the basic spark that lies at the heart of our being.
Open Heart, Open Mind (p.112)
Something prevents us from experiencing our essential spark, keeping us from being fully present. In today’s world, one of the biggest contributors, as we all know, is the overwhelming amount of distractions we are faced with. But even without all our technology, anyone who has done some meditation, just like the ancient yogis of the past, can recognize that within our thinking mind, we have an uncanny capacity to be anywhere but the here and now. And the ability to make up any story in order to avoid examining what is right here in front of us.
Caring for the Self can seem tricky, because we walk a line between proper attention to the health of all our various systems (mental-emotional-physical-energetic-relational-spiritual), and obsessive attachment to the “I.” So let’s reframe self-care with Rinpoche’s words, and ask ourselves, in any given situation, “what is keeping me from experiencing my basic spark, the essence of my being?,” which in my opinion is none other than Love itself.
What am I holding on to too tightly? (just relax, let go, loosen up).
What I am not seeing, where am I not present? (be alert, be mindful, tighten up).
This practice of observing oneself becomes easier the more we do it. Thus, self-awareness, at its core, is the truest and kindest form of self-care. True self-care opens the door to unshakable positive regard for oneself, and with that, for all of life. When we have relaxed into that, creating a life that is in alignment with one’s deepest values is no longer so daunting. All this hard work then, to attain a Right View, becomes an unshakable inner foundation, and externally, the stage upon which we perform our roles…and hopefully revel in the beauty of this perfect world, corona-virus and all.
As the days continue to grow longer, and our side of the Earth meets Spring and Summer, I leave you with a Celtic song and prayer.
Be safe, be well, and hope to see you soon!
May the blessing of the light be with you always,
light without and light within.
May the sun shine upon you and warm you heart
until it glows like a great fire so that others may feel
the warmth of it.
And may the light of your eyes shine like two candles in
a window at night, bidding the wander to come in
out of the dark and the cold.
And may the blessings of the rain be upon you,
the sweet and tender rain;
May it fall upon your spirit as when flowers
spring up and fragrance fills the air.
And may the blessings of the rain wash you clean and fair,
and may the storms always leave you stronger and
And when the rains are over, may there be clear pools of water, made beautiful by the radiance of your light,
as when a star shines, beautiful in the night,
pointing the way for all of us.