We are sensitively interdependent. Spiritual leaders speak of the oneness of creation and our interconnectedness as human beings. Scientists speak of the "Butterfly effect." A virus breaks out on the other side of the globe; we adopt social distancing as an act of love for our neighbors and ourselves. What we do affects everyone else.
In a crisis such as this we instinctively know what we want and what we want for everyone else. Food and shelter. Access to health care. "Anybody who wants a test gets a test" (President Trump, March 6). A reliable source of income and protection from job loss. Many developed countries already incorporate these essentials into their social fabric. Congress recently made important steps in these directions with the CARES Act. Some economists are encouraging the Biblical tradition of Jubilee -- debt relief. Once the crisis is over, I hope we will have the will and heart to continue these fundamental commitments.
So much courage and compassion is emerging out of this challenge. We have new appreciation for the faithful people who serve essential needs. In my morning prayers each day I remember police and first responders, medical personnel, grocery store workers, cashiers, postal and delivery servants, bank employees, farm workers and those in threatened businesses. I also pray for people who are laid off, isolated, alone or mentally ill as well as seniors, the poor and other vulnerable people. I remember households living with a domestic abuser or with chronic dysfunction. I have a special concern for those who live in the shadows: the undocumented, detained immigrants and anyone in jail, including the jailers. So many people are particularly vulnerable to infection. And I pray for those who are ill with the virus and for those who are dying. We are all interconnected and what happens to one affects everyone else.
As far as we are able, I hope everyone is practicing what we are calling "social distancing." I prefer to call it "supported solitude," remembering that we are all interconnected.
Christian spirituality has an ancient tradition of embracing solitude as a means of self-knowledge and transformation. Many of us now find ourselves with more time alone. Retreat from the world can be an opportunity for deeper exploration of who we really are without distractions. Here are a couple of suggested practices.
First, a solitude practice from a 14th century Christian teacher. (If you do not believe in God, address The Universe or Life.) First, accept God's good graciousness toward you as a gift. God loves you unconditionally. Life is a loving gift. Next, let go of self-analyzing and wasting energy deciding what is good or bad. Third, offer yourself simply as you are to the joyful being of God. Finally, simply be glad that you are! Bypass the mind and even the emotions and relax in the soft embrace of Being. Be alive!
Second, here's a way to deepen your peace and to spread love. Focus on your heart. Imagine breathing peace and love, in and out through your heart. As you become calm and centered, radiate love and peace outward to embrace the world. Send your care and compassion to all who are impacted by this global disease. Set your intention of love and compassion for all. Stay with the energy as long as you wish. Then close with an expression of gratitude.
For years I shared an hour of silence with a small group at 4 o'clock each afternoon. Since now we can't do that in person, we've adapted like other groups, and we meet on Zoom. Email me if you would like to know more.
This virus is an opportunity for us to reset. Contemplatives are saying this is a chance for interior growth. Experiencing our interconnectedness and interdependence is a chance for us to repair some of the social and political divisions that have so damaged our world. Slowing down can help us become less reactive and driven. When life is threatened we can remember to be grateful for so much we take for granted.
This reset needs to come from us, from the bottom up. Unfortunately we have a president who is ill-tempered for a crisis like this: prioritizing self-image over reality, personal loyalty over competence, and lacking a commitment to truth. We can act responsibly and lovingly as an antidote to his infection of emotional contagion.
Reach out as you can to the vulnerable and lonely. Support the many grass-roots efforts to help others. In your solitude, embrace the wonder and mystery of life. Be alive! And love your neighbor as yourself.
Commentary on 04/07/2020
Print Headline: Opportunity in solitude