Meditation in the Time of a Global Pandemic
By Farhad Desai
There are moments in history when the comforting structures of our lives are suddenly revealed to be illusions. And those illusions are shattered into millions of pieces right before our eyes. I believe this global pandemic is one of those moments. Some countries dealt with COVID-19 with denial, hoping to preserve comforting illusions of stability and exceptionalism, and hoped it would pass without fanfare. Others saw it for what it was and took action quickly.
We can think of our own lives the same way. When we’re faced with something unpredictable, unpleasant, or potentially life-changing, it can seem easier to deny it, to look the other way, or just hope it doesn’t impact us the way it has impacted them. And let’s be honest, for some of us, this has been a fairly successful strategy at times. But right now, we are all impacted by the virus. Regardless of class, nationality, ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality, phenotype, personality type, or communication style, denial will not help. We’re all watching old comforting illusions shatter and new paradigms form. And we’re all trying to navigate the quickly-changing nature of our lives, moment by moment. From global partnerships and economic alliances to what effective leadership looks like to who essential workers are to seeing what our personal priorities are. Everything is in flux right now.
At times like this, we have several choices in front of us. We can double-down on our illusions and hope the problem goes away. We can maintain certain aspects of the illusion that comfort us, and avoid the troubling parts. Or, we can take the bold action of acceptance. Acknowledge that what used to bring me comfort has now broken apart and been revealed as an illusion. Instead of picking up the pieces of illusion and attempting to put them back together, I can discard the broken shards and sit with the feelings of what is actually happening, even if those feeling are fear, loss, sadness, boredom, anger, powerlessness, or even happiness.
This is the opportunity that meditation gives us. It can provide us with many of the skills and tools necessary to help us navigate our thoughts and feelings, specifically at a time like this.
I don’t think of meditation as a suppressant, or a quick-fix solution to problems. I see it as part of an ongoing lifestyle and as an awakener of my mind. Meditation clears off the thick layers of dust that cover my lens of life. It scrapes clean all the psychic plaque that can build up without maintenance. It allows me to experience my life more fully and clearly. It provides a space for me to sit with myself – everything, the happy, the sad, the fear, the doubt, the insecurity – and not get stuck or overwhelmed with any one moment of stress.
With practice, we learn to focus on healthy choices, which often lead to more healthy choices. We learn to see life as it is, fully, clearly, with perspective, and without running away from our thoughts and feelings, when they are unpleasant.
Instead, we become stronger. We’re able to accept what is happening within us and around us. We are able to make choices that help us move forward in a healthy way and also give others around us permission to be calm, focused, grounded, and transparent in times of panic.
With practice, meditation gives us all the chance to be the leaders we are waiting for. And helps us to move forward. Together.