2020 has certainly been a different year from all others. So much to do and also, at times, so little to do! We have all experienced so many worries, concerns, and distractions. At some points, I found myself overwhelmed and a little unsure how to stay sane.
In an ordinary year, how many of us fear that we may be one crisis away from losing it? For me, this year has been a real wake up call. My daily mindfulness practice has been like an anchor or rock, keeping me sane and grounded. My daily meditation practice has allowed me to see my ups and downs in a more objective light. Having space for myself has helped me ensure that worry and fear didn’t weaken my hold on what I considered important.
It’s true that along with everything else, coronavirus can be another worry keeping us up at night. Illness does happen despite our best intentions. However, using a mindful approach, we can help ourselves and do our part to lessen the likelihood.
Let’s face it, there are so many things we simply cannot control. It’s not in our power to decide if a coworker comes to the office with a fever or a cold. There will be those parents who dose their kids with Tylenol and send them to school despite the risks to other children.
The coronavirus is a global health crisis, and its seriousness deserves our respect. But it does not merit our worry. In fact, quite the opposite—we can use this time to step up and bring our best selves to the table, desk, or kitchen sink!
We can do that by bringing mindfulness to our every day. Let’s take hand washing as a great example, something that we are doing more frequently right now.
Hand washing is a wonderful moment to pause, breathe, and be more mindful. Here’s a way to bring mindfulness to this frequently done task.
Stand in front of the sink with your weight evenly distributed between both feet. Actively breathe and let go of tension from your shoulders and smile. It’s okay to relax. Turn on the tap and consider what a privilege it is to have warm, running water. Many in the world do not. Listen to the sound of the water. Using soap, warm water, and friction, give your hands a little massage, which helps to relieve stress. Notice if the soap has a fragrance.
Enjoy washing your hands, and be present with the experience. Use it as an opportunity to increase your sense of peace and wellbeing. After scrubbing your hands for a minute, rinse them completely. Then turn off the tap, dry your hands thoroughly and enjoy the feeling of having clean, fresh, and dry hands. Allow this to give you a feeling of centeredness and calm.
Let me share with you a well known quote from the Buddhist meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s such a wonderful thought. Here he talks about washing the dishes and the value of being present with that task. But, of course, you can apply this thinking to washing hands too, or any task, really. The idea is that if we are present and aware, we are, in a sense, more alive at that time. In being more present we have the opportunity to experience the joys of life with more color and vibrancy and that’s even if times are tough. That’s something wonderful a daily mindfulness practice like this can give.
When you really get present with an activity, you can sense the aliveness and also the stillness in your experience. Often our minds are so busy that it takes a while before the mind is calm enough to get present at all. We can, if we just allow ourselves to do so, enjoy what we are doing right now. Simply use the senses to experience the task at hand. Take your time, and when your mind disappears off to thinking about other things, simply bring your attention back to the experience of what you are doing in the present moment.
An important takeaway of mindfulness is that there really isn’t any need to rush to get to a future experience. Just enjoy using your senses to feel, see, hear, or taste whatever you are doing in the here and now. Indeed, as Thich Nhat Hanh points out, we can be tempted to be forever living in the future, thinking about what we will do later. However, if we don’t exercise that mindfulness muscle, without doubt, when we do actually get to that future task, we won’t be present with that either, but thinking about something else too.
“If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have dessert and a cup of tea, I will be equally incapable of doing these things joyfully. With the cup in my hands, I will be thinking about what to do next, and the fragrance and the flavor of the tea, together with the pleasure of drinking it, will be lost.” — Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Miracle of Mindfulness”
I’ve discovered that I can lessen my Coronavirus blues by letting go of worrying about things I can’t control. I really love using a mindfulness practice to help me, not just let go of thinking about the future, but actually enjoy living in the present moment also.