In times of fear, we return to the simple joys, and to each other.
Yesterday, with all the craziness going on in the news, all the reasons we should avoid each other, not touch anything, not trust anything, not trust each other, I decided to take a walk in the park. Why not? It was a beautiful day as mother nature herself seemed to be conspiring (in my narrative) to encourage us back into her embrace. I headed to Central Park, not expecting to find anything particularly surprising, maybe just some fresh air and the normal healing that comes from being in nature. But I was wrong. Wow, was I wrong.
What I found was a park with people. It seems that everyone in New York City had the same idea. Everyone was out—playing frisbee, playing catch, playing with their dogs, playing games, playing music, just playing … period. People were talking, walking, running, singing, laughing, flying kites, conversing, biking, yoga-ing. It was remarkable, a beautiful thing to behold. Yesterday in the park reminded me of who we really are as human beings.
When life feels uncertain, in times of instability, we return to what is most basic—the simple pleasures: conversation, walking, nature, making music, being together. When we are stripped of the ability and opportunity to acquire, avoid, distract, and entertain ourselves in the usual ways, we come back to what is most precious; we come back to each other and to nature.
Yes, there will be suffering that comes with this current health crisis. And, at the same time, perhaps there can also come some profound wisdom, a reminder of what really matters, and what’s always here. Yesterday was a gift, a kind of shared Sabbath. It was a day we all took a communal breath, a step back, a beat to assess what really matters. When we are frightened, when our existence feels threatened, we return to each other. When everything is in flux, changing from moment to moment, we remember what is unchanging, what cannot be taken away, no matter what is happening in our life situation. We come home to people, to mother earth, and in a sense, to love. We return to what truly nourishes us, calms and connects us, and reminds us that we are well—no matter what.
Under all the anxious thoughts, the choppy surface waves of our mind, there is a deep presence within us, an experience of being—a stillness, a silence. You can feel this presence right now. Just for a moment, unhook from the thoughts swirling in your mind, the fears and what-if scenarios (you can pick them up when you finish). Bring your attention out of your head and down into your body. Take a conscious slow breath. Invite yourself to relax. Sense your own presence, feel the experience of just being, the here-ness below the thoughts. Within each of us, there is a peace, a calm that’s always here. Now is a time to tap into this presence, this ground in the midst of the groundless.
This time of uncertainty will pass and our lives will again become stable and reliable, as much as life is ever stable and reliable. The time will come when we will again feel protected and sheltered by our external system—when the predictability of our world will again lull us into a sense of safety and immortality. While this health crisis may be temporary, and also extremely challenging, let us not get caught up in just the fearful thoughts and thus lose sight of the profound opportunity that a time like this offers. It is in times like these, which don’t come often, times when we can no longer rely on our system to ground us, that we have the opportunity to go within, to rethink and reclaim what really matters to us, to reacquaint ourselves with our deepest values.
Now is a time to keep company with our friends, family, and animals, to convene with nature, be of service, walk, listen to and make music, listen too to silence, and find love where it lives. This is also a time to cultivate the steady and well place within ourselves, the place that’s here with or without a system. Now, when the guard rails have temporarily come off our lives, when the structure that provides safety and indeed a sense of who we are, is momentarily dismantled; this is a time to ground ourselves in the present moment, find the steady place inside, and remember what really matters, what cannot be taken away. Ultimately, this is the moment to remember who we are—no matter what.