mindfulness in the storm
By Dr. Anita Chakravarti
We are several weeks into this storm that is coronavirus and for most of us, it feels like it has been a lifetime. Change and uncertainty have become part of our everyday experience. Many say we are all in the same boat and unquestionably, the pandemic has highlighted the interconnectedness of, well, everything.
On a global level, we can see the interdependence play out in real time in healthcare, education, economics — indeed, in every sector of society. On a personal level, our physical, mental, financial and occupational wellbeing, our sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as our social and environmental wellness have all been affected. However, it has impacted each and every one of us in different ways on different days.
Although in the same storm, we are each in own boats and we are all riding out the waves differently. For some, quarantine and physical distancing has been an opportunity to learn to bake bread, get a start on a reading list, spend quality and creative time with family, clean out cupboards or start an exercise routine. For others, overwhelming concerns with one’s business or job, extreme financial hardship, child or elderly parent care and mental/physical health of self, family and friends may set the backdrop for everyday life. For the heroes in the frontlines of all essential services, the fear of exposure and transmission, physical and emotional fatigue, anxiety and uncertainty cloud the days. And for some, boredom, isolation and loneliness paint bleak days with gray brushstrokes. Yet we can all say that it has affected our lives and most will have experienced uncertainty, fear, anxiety, anger, grief, loss and sadness to varying degrees.
So how can Mindfulness even be relevant during this storm? It is harder than ever tuning into our challenging emotions and thoughts and accepting the reality of this present moment. Yet, that is precisely what unites us – the human experience of being alive right now. Perspective of our common shared humanity gives us the opportunity to be non-judgemental of others and to give others compassionate support when help is required; and permission to receive care and comfort when we need it. We are all doing the best we can in these uncharted waters.
Collectively, society has had to pause, reset and redefine essential human services. Individually, we also have an opportunity to sift out what is essential for our own wellbeing. The word “crisis” comes from the Greek “krisis” which means “turning point,” and its root “krei”, means “to sieve or sift.”
We are all being pushed out of our comfort zone with what is familiar to us and where we feel safe and in control and into a fear zone where we focus attention on panic, blame, grief, regret and loss. We find excuses, be affected by others opinions, feel out of control and get easily irritated or angered. However, if we choose to approach the storm with a growth mindset, we can enter a learning zone where we deal with challenges and problems, acquire new skills and even extend our comfort zone by looking for opportunities. In a growth zone, we acknowledge that this is life and choose how we want this moment to be. Finding meaning and purpose, being appreciative and grateful, living life now, even amidst uncertainty is possible. And we can only do this through compassion for self and others.
This storm is an opportunity to reflect, sort and sift and choose what we wish to create in our lives. Every moment is a choice and as they say, old keys do not open new doors.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” —Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior (1980)
Dr. Anita Chakravarti is a physician and university professor who has been active in Anesthesiology, Pain and Integrative Medicine before focusing on health promotion. She encourages a framework for mindfulness-based wellness programming that supports the wellbeing of the individual and the institution to achieve life-work balance and as a catalyst for positive global change. Based in Saskatoon, she is a published author, international speaker and mindfulness teacher.