The Spiritual Lesson I Learned from the Pandemic
About a month ago, life appeared to be drifting peacefully in perfect sync with the Earth’s rotation. And then suddenly, we hit turbulent waters. We were forced to readjust our sails and find a new direction amidst the unexpected chaos. Often the greatest lessons are revealed during the darkest times, but when our minds are filled with fear and anxious thoughts continue to rapid-fire, we have a hard time understanding the deeper meaning as to why this pandemic is happening.
So we wait until the fog lifts, and eventually, when the time is right, we hear the answers we’ve been seeking.
This morning, I heard the first lesson––loud and clear. It happened while I was hiking with my dog, breathing in the fresh, invigorating air and listening to the birds chirping above me. Warmed by bright rays of sunshine, I looked around at the majestic mountains that surrounded me. While I was enraptured and awed by the stunning landscape, two words spilled from my mouth: thank you. And that’s when I decided that those two words were going to be my new mantra, from here on––during the good times and the bad.
Life certainly feels out of control for most of us, but no matter how dire our circumstances, we can always find something to be grateful for. It could be as simple as the hot cup of coffee I had in the morning, or watching my dog wag his tail while running around. On that hike, I realized I had many blessings in my life. I was grateful that I could hike at all, that I was feeling healthy and alive, that my family was safe and doing well, that I had a large circle of friends. The more I listed, the better I felt. Following the hike, my mood was elevated, my heart was full, and I was at peace.
Not long after I stepped foot in my house, I turned on my computer and started reading the news. Big mistake. The news was dark and depressing. Soaring death rates were popping up on my screen. A recession was looming. Millions of people were out of work, wondering how they were going to survive without a paycheck. Hospitals were in desperate need of supplies. The virus was spreading, and there was no end in sight. The high I had experienced on that hike plummeted, and I was swallowed by despair.
But then, I looked outside. The sun was still shining. The mountains were showing off their breathtaking views. The snow was melting. The grass was turning greener. The flowers were budding. And that’s when the second lesson hit me.
I needed to learn to live in the moment and appreciate the here and now. Nobody knows what the next hour, the next day, the next month will bring. The despondency I was experiencing from reading the news was nothing more than negative thoughts infiltrating my mind––thoughts about things I had no control over. So, when I stopped myself, I remembered the importance of turning inward and finding reasons to be grateful. Worrying about tomorrow wasn’t doing anything positive for my psyche.
Spiritual educator, Eckhart Tolle, wrote an entire book, The Power of Now, about the importance of living in the present. I read it years ago and understood it from an intellectual standpoint, but I never put it into practice—until now.
Most of us are planners. We like to plan our next trip or even what we’re doing next weekend for that matter. But the pandemic is teaching us that to find peace in all this turmoil, we need to let go of thinking and fretting about the future, and instead, settle into the moment—because it’s all we have.
Calamities are our teachers. And this one has taught me one of life’s most meaningful lessons. Finding ways to be grateful in each instant. Periodically, my negative thinking will try to take hold of me and throw me off course. But as soon as I recognize what’s happening, I allow it to pass, and I focus on gratitude, right then and there. This practice enables me to get in touch with the light shining behind the miserable storm––and that’s where the beauty, the tranquility, and the blessings of humanity resides.