I’m sure that you are all sick of it by now (I know I am) – hearing about Coronavirus day after day on the news, social media, word of mouth etc etc etc. Pretty much everyone in the world is having to live through this but the fascinating part (I think at least) is how we are having a collective experience while we are on our own in self-isolation. That in itself is an interesting situation and one that none of us may live through again in our lifetimes.
Throughout my personal experience so far, I am reminded on a daily basis of my first time sitting Vipassana meditation. Vipassana is an ancient meditation technique that originates from India and is still being taught in many places around the world today. To learn the technique it is suggested that you sit a 10 day course (at an appointed Vipassana centre with experienced teachers) which is completed in total silence. No mobile phones. No books. No reading or writing. No speaking. As little communication and acknowledgment with anyone as possible.
Sounds like torture? For some perhaps. For me, I found the silence peaceful. The 10 hours a day of meditation practice was intense though. When there is nowhere for the mind to run, hide or be distracted it has to face itself.
Believe me, that is not easy for anyone.
When boredom arises, the mind has to face it. When frustration is there, the mind has nowhere else to go, it has to experience the frustration and learn to accept it. The same applies to anger, sadness, guilt, shame and every other feeling we experience in our lives. We so often push away the feelings we associate with being ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ and then try to cling onto the ‘good’ or ‘positive’ ones as if they need to last forever.
Throughout those 10 days of intense practice in this technique and with very few distractions, I was able to begin to experience what a peaceful and harmonious mind felt like. It was challenging to keep it up after the course finished and I was released back into the ‘real’ world. It’s still something I’m continuing to practice to this day though.
So what does this meditation practice have to do with the self isolation we are in at the moment?
It seems to me that it’s an incredible opportunity (for those who want to take it) to pay more attention to what’s going on inside our minds AND actually face and experience it.
With everything so accessible these days, it’s easy to keep providing distractions (entertainment, alcohol, food etc) for the more uncomfortable feelings that may be arising during this intense period. I’m not against enjoying those things or saying we shouldn’t indulge in them some of the time but I do think it’s so important to be aware of when feelings or emotions arise and noticing how and if we let ourselves experience them. When we don’t fully experience and accept our feelings and emotions (whether ‘good’ ones or ‘bad’ ones) we end up holding onto them instead. The mind then becomes more cluttered and busier than it needs to be and we can lose our sense of clarity and calm.
In other words, we take away our ability to enjoy being at peace.
Peace is something we all want, whether we ‘think’ we do or not. It’s probably the one thing in this world worth putting in the work for too. And it’s entirely up to us as individuals, to gain it. No one else can do the work or put in the effort on your behalf. You have to show up and do it all. That may be a liberating thought or a depressing one (depending on what state your mind is in reading this!).
So, while this self isolation is still a very real part of life, use it as best you can. Stay in touch with family, friends and your community. Support those around you who ask for it and also ask for support yourself when it’s needed. Do the things you need to do to keep your mental and physical health balanced. Also put in the effort for yourself though and acknowledge the experience you are having throughout all of this. When life is back to ‘normal’ do you want to be where you are now or do you want to have grown and evolved into a more balanced, kind, compassionate and peaceful version of yourself?
It all comes down to YOU and what you choose to do and be right now.