Like many people I was losing my mind at the onset of quarantine, thinking and acting primarily out of fear. My first instinct at the beginning of the coronavirus news, was to prepare for the worst, a doomsday type scenario. My family watched on in confusion as I bought camping supplies from REI and stocked up on non perishables from Smart & Final. In a sense I’d been anticipating a disaster of this nature for sometime and my mind was going wild upon it’s arrival. My instinct was to flee to the woods, away from all this uncertainty and fear-mongering in the media. I knew deep within me that there was a more sinister force at play behind the narrative of coronavirus and mandatory quarantine and I simply wanted to escape.
After some talking down from my family, as well as the realization that all campgrounds had been closed and I had very little money, I decided to hang back at the homestead. But the constant intake of news in conjunction with my intake of conspiracy theories surrounding the virus only heightened my anxiety and confusion until my mind was stirred into a froth. I know many other felt the same way at the time, and many still do at this point in the quarantine.
My paranoia and anxiety developed to the point where my days were tense and panicked. My mental space was simply an awful place to exist in and eventually became so unbearable that I knew I had to take action. The first method that came to mind was meditation, which happened to be the most profound realization of all, as it taught me I have control over my mind, a concept I had never fully grasped before.
My personal method of meditating looks something like this: placing a pillow between my tailbone and the ground, lighting a single candle in front of me, setting my phone timer for 20 minutes, playing some binaural beats in the background and closing my eyes.
The wonderful thing about meditation is that your session may look completely different from mine. It makes no great difference whether you meditate for five minutes or thirty, whether you time it exactly or just go until you feel finished. You can play background white noise or sit in silence. Even in a household full of noise (as is my circumstance) it can be deeply beneficial to practice drowning out the noise using control over your mind space.
You can use guided mediation tracks, or simply sit in silence and observe your thoughts from a third party perspective. It is helpful at first to simply notice your thoughts occurring and then gently push them aside. I like to picture my thoughts as clouds drifting across my skull, and when I notice one I simply push it along with a breath of imaginary wind, clearing the space in front of my head once more. In the beginning it will be a process of pushing thoughts out of the way over and over, until the moments you’re able to hold onto between thoughts become longer and longer.
If this all seems confusing, I invite you to look up guided mediations or read up on the countless meditation techniques practiced around the world and find one that you feel called to. The end goal is simply that we allow our minds some respite from mental chatter at some point in the day. And in this silence we often find a deep peace, as well as the occasional insight that comes from having a clear mind.
In the beginning, my daily meditation was a life saver as I’d enter a session frazzled and panicked and leave it feeling grounded and sure. The feeling however would generally wear off at some point throughout the day, depending on the kinds of obstacles I was facing, leaving me generally desperate for a reset by the time the next morning came around.
However, after some time with this daily practice, I’ve begun to develop a mental calm that stretches for longer periods through the day. Through my spiritual self-education I’ve also learned of the concept of mindfulness, which can be described as meditating as a way of being. This differs from a time set aside in a quiet place and with eyes closed for the sole purpose of clearing the mind. Mindfulness is a way of taking that meditative practice and applying it to every moment of your life. It can also be described as presence, as in being totally present in the moment.
While this practice can take a decent amount of discipline (it certainly does in my case), you can practice it in concentrated sessions to start, and gradually feel it’s affects begin to blend into your normal way of being. Practice being mindful while cooking, eating, going for a walk, riding your bike or having a conversation. Being mindful and present is the simplest way of existing, but in our modern world we’ve been taught to be distracted at all times, making a return to this practice a challenging but highly worthwhile pursuit.
3. spiritual education
Spiritual texts have been key for me in laying the groundwork of understanding a myriad of seemingly mysterious topics including: the workings of the mind, the purpose of individual and collective human life, good vs. evil, love and miracles. In all my academic studies, never were these topics touched upon in a truly meaningful way. I always enjoyed learning about philosophy and psychology to gain insight on the human experience, but there seemed to be an entire area of humanity left out of academia. For me, I began to find these answers within spiritual texts and the ideas I have gathered therein have given me an unspeakable amount of reassurance in the universal plan for all things.
4. minimalism (give it all away!)
Once you begin learning about the temporality of all things, the illusory nature of time itself, and identification with form (or the physical world), your ideas may begin to change surrounding what you need and don’t need. For me, this involved getting rid of clothing, sentimental possessions, books and devices I no longer used or felt attached to. Understanding that the act of giving is also very powerful through a karmic perspective lends an element of joy to giving as well. I encourage you to create increased physical space around you in an effort to clear the clutter out of your mind and your life.
5. bodily healing
Once I started healing my mind, I came to understand that my body was directly linked to the experience my mind was having. If I could lessen the anxiety in my mind, I could likewise reduce the tension in my body. I’ve had meditation sessions where I sit down with back pain and counter with the intention to clear that back pain. On multiple occasions, after reciting a silent mantra to ease my pain for ten minutes or so I have physically reduced my back pain.
Meditation paired with practicing daily mindfulness and body awareness has allowed me to become more conscious of relaxing the parts of my body I normally keep tense. Breathing exercises and becoming conscious of your breath can help tremendously with this as well. I also love to dance and love the concept of ecstatic dance, in which you dance without any regard for how you look but rather based solely upon how you feel and how the music moves you. All of these practices have improved my bodily awareness, helped me reduce pain and become far more comfortable in my skin.
If you find yourself with more free time on your hands, or more time working from home, consider it a wonderful opportunity to become closer with yourself and begin to heal and become more conscious. Even if your work load has not lessened, and/or you’re still required to work outside of your home, utilize these practices where you can to develop peace of mind.
It was the increased chaos around me that prompted me to turn within myself for solace. It’s incredibly powerful to realize how much control you possess over your mental and physical state, and with practice, no amount of noise or chaos from the outside will be able to penetrate your inner calm. (I’m certainly still getting there). These are invaluable tools as we move forward in an increasingly paranoid, fear-based collective state. Understand that the highest power you hold for change in the outside world exists within you and you must access it within yourself first.