“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky… Conscious breathing is my anchor.” Thich Nhat Hanh
With the COVID-10 pandemic hitting Ontario with rising cases and increasing closures, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed with all the feelings; most days I meet worry, fear, anxiety, anger, grief and all their friends, whether it is over breakfast listening to the news or during afternoon tea with CBC. These are all healthy, valid and to-be-expected ways to feel as normal shifts under our feet, but some days my house feels too crowded for comfort.
Over the years I have learnt not to shut painful feelings out, but I do try to soften their intensity with mindful meditation. Sitting with a guided meditation from the Calm app has been my go-to in times of struggle. Mindfulness helps bring the emotions into focus while breathing with intention, the breathing brings in just a bit of distance from the feelings, which helps soften their impact. This is a spiritual practice that is especially useful in these uncertain days when we don’t quite know what is going to happen next. Who is going to get sick? How bad is it going to get? We just don’t know what it is to come. I can’t change that uncertainty, but I can manage my reactions, so I turn to mindful meditation.
There are many good meditation apps for phones and tablets. Calm and Headspace are the most well known and worth the subscription cost (I subscribe to Calm, which has series on managing emotions, sleep stories, and more), but there are some that are free or have good free access such as Stop, Breathe & Think, Insight Timer, and Smiling Mind, which has a special focus on children. Experiment and find out what kind of mindfulness works for you.
The uncertainty of the pandemic means anxiety and stress are spiking. Days of increased isolation, the loss of steady schedules and predictable plans, and worries about loved ones and livelihoods, all this wears us down. Spiritual practices like mindful meditation – just sitting and breathing – helps us accept all of our emotions without being overwhelmed by them.
This is a time to tend to your spirit.