The pandemic ravaging humans today is unprecedented in its spread. Almost everyone everywhere has had their life disrupted in some manner. More than half the population is under lockdown – forcibly prevented from leaving our homes for longer periods. Thus incarcerated, we are now wondering what we did to deserve these shackles!
Thoughts, Emotions & Stories
Faced with excruciating restraint that shows no sign of abating soon, we are feeling a range of emotions accompanied by certain thoughts that appear to be surprisingly similar in all of us independent thinking educated human beings. Though these emotions and thoughts appear to be overpowering and leave us feeling entirely helpless, do we have any other option than to suffer? To gain some clarity on this problem let us go slightly deeper into our emotions, thoughts, the stories and the seemingly unshakeable logic behind them.
Fear is the dominant feeling that almost all of us face today. We know that our livelihoods and commerce may collapse if the pandemic is not soon brought under control. Our businesses could become bankrupt and we could lose our jobs, if not lost already. We fear that when this scenario plays out, we may find ourselves irretrievably pushed into penury.
Anger is another common feeling. The story here is how the exotic meat eaters brought this curse upon all of us. The jet setting population carried this to every corner of the earth through their laxity in hygiene and ‘unnecessary’ travels. We feel terrible anger at those who are responsible for creating and spreading this crisis. We also feel angry at the youth and other revellers who continue to violate restriction and gather in numbers thereby putting more of us at risk. We wonder why the scientists and the drug companies never really worked to obtain a vaccine or cure despite knowing that such a pandemic was extremely likely
We feel resentment in having to live a severely constrained life, imprisoned most of the time within the four walls of our home. We hate our political leaders for adopting this solution to lock us down for days together. We may even hate our family members whom we may be getting to know much better for the first time. We cannot wait for this condition to end and for us to be free again.
The Endless Maze
These are the dominant emotions and stories and most of the others may be in some way related to these. It is possible to become overwhelmed and spend our time trying to get away from the present, regretting the loss of freedom and dreaming about the return of normalcy. When we adopt this default reaction to this problem we seem to run into a maze without any exit. The pandemic appears to get worse by the day instead of getting better. Even in places where it has run its course, we discover new cases threatening another painful episode. The crowds which have become inseparable parts of our economic prosperity – in malls, restaurants, streets, transport terminals, housing colonies, places of worship etc – are now dangerously conducive for the spread of the virus. Our airconditioned workspaces all crowded together appear to be fertile environments for the virus. Even when a vaccine may be finally discovered, its sustained efficacy is doubtful. The infected survivors are not permanently immune either. This maze is frighteningly dark and endless.
Accessing Inner Clarity
So how do we face this catastrophe and emerge out into the light? By first realising that all our thoughts and emotions as well as our logical forecast of the future are all within our heads. We may imagine anything. But reality is not obliged to follow our imagination. If we realise this truth at the deepest level, we also come to the conclusion that disempowering thoughts, emotions and stories serve the only purpose of keeping us chained to our misfortune. The problem lasts longer than we think. It is more devastating than we imagine. Its fallouts are much more destructive than any of our stories. We would be served better by simply jettisoning our thoughts and stories and allow our feelings of fear, anger and resentment to flow unhindered in our bosom. Without the fearful thoughts and dire stories, our emotions dissipate in a short time, leaving us to attend to the matters on hand. Now we are ready to face the disaster and do something that really makes an impact in our lives.
Call of Duty
Once we feel our troubling emotions without trying to suppress them or whip them up with imaginary stories, they wash us clean of our confusions and apprehensions. Once we achieve some clarity we can focus on our present situation and become fully aware of the choices of actions available to us to mitigate the situation right now. We can see what we must do to ensure that our family is fed and clothed. We notice how we can manage our finances and build resilience into our portfolio. We seek and learn about the preventive measures we can take against the infection and keep ourselves and our loved ones protected. We can also observe how we can contribute to the well being of our community, our country and whole of humanity right now. For some of us like those in the frontlines of the pandemic – the medical staff and others – we do have huge responsibilities to be discharged. For some others with assured pay and access to food our contribution may be just to shelter in place and avoid raising the risk of infection in our society. Whatever it is, we do it wholeheartedly, while being alert and ready to take on additional duties as and when we are called to them.
Born in the rich culture of South India and educated in English, I have been exposed to two opposing world views enabling me to achieve synergy and realize true harmony. I belong to linguistic community “Saurashtra” who were silk weavers patronised by kings of yore. Our ancestors are said to have migrated from Western part of India to Tamil Nadu in the South several centuries ago. Growing up in the country as India underwent its pangs of Westernisation, I was able to synthesise the self oriented Western perspective with the community oriented native one to arrive at a wholesome concept of self after considerable efforts and experimentation. My forthcoming book “Searching for Self – In Pursuit of Inner Peace” is the culmination of this labour.