Faith and spirituality during a global crisis
What is spirituality? — Spirituality can mean different things to different people. For some, it is mainly the participation of a certain organized religion in which they believe; for others, there is no need to participate in just one religion, but the joining of various beliefs that allows them to access the Divine. For still others, it is not necessarily a religious experience, which involves getting in touch with your spiritual self through prayers, yoga, meditation, reflection, etc.
Before the spread of COVID-19, we were all living the life we chose. And then, we were impacted in a way that no one could ever have predicted. But here we are, in quarantine, so that soon we can return to live our lives peacefully.
As we are called to stay at home, we must use this time to think about our lives and how we can do things differently. An idle mind can lead to anxiety and depression. It is paramount that we do something that can increase our spiritual energy. In other words, focus on where the Divine wants you to serve, and that will be the most effective job you can do right now.
Isaiah 41:10 says: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be discouraged, because I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold it with my victorious hand.
‘Just praying is not enough, we must take responsibility’
Dalai Lama gave an interview to TIME magazine last month and said he would like more compassion in the fight against the coronavirus. The spiritual leader said that he has prayed for the victims since the first reported cases in the city of Wuhan, but warns that more than prayers are needed to face the pandemic. “We are all concerned about the future and our loved ones, but prayer is not enough. This crisis shows that we must all take responsibility. We need to recognize the courage that doctors and nurses are showing with science to begin to change this situation and protect our future from further threats of this type ”
For the doctor and author Deepak Chopra, there are levels of response to the pandemic and how it affects us physically, mentally, and spiritually. The physical response comes first in isolation and social distance. The second effect, in our psyche, is everything that is being experienced personally. He believes that the best practice for mental health is the use of meditation and yoga techniques, daily, not only for relaxation but also to find joy and comfort in our lives.
Our faith and spirituality will always have moments of questioning, trial, and growth. Moments like this that we are experiencing, tend to bring it all up.
And how are we going to experience this journey?
As a holistic therapist, I have answered and found answers to some questions from my clients and coachees.
It seems that people are relying more on their faith and spirituality during the pandemic. Why do you think this is happening?
This is true … when things happen that are beyond our understanding or control, we look for deeper meanings. We expand into realities beyond ourselves when we are faced with the fact that we are not always in control and we are certainly not the center of the universe (although we are a precious part of it). Every choice we make for the highest values of life, for the search for truth and goodness during this time, is placing us more firmly on our journey of faith and spirituality.
For those who follow the traditions of faith, a common question is: Why is God doing this? Is there an answer?
Well, here is my answer, born out of my faith, not that it is the ultimate truth, but it is my truth: God is not causing this. An out of control virus is. Our world, though adorable and deeply esteemed, is still vulnerable, limited, and imperfect. God gives us the gift of freedom and respects our freedom. We make choices that not only affect us but also others and the Earth community. There is nothing like the experience of this pandemic to confirm the depth and extent of that impact! We and everything are interconnected. Our faith traditions also teach us that God is all-powerful, merciful, that He can make all things turn towards our good, if we open ourselves to good — just look at the positive signs around us: Unexpected people entering contact to ask if we are okay; university researchers trying to find treatments and cures; health professionals who are struggling to continue caring for others; meaningful interactions with family, friends and work through digital platforms; creation of movements, groups, events, donations to those who need it most, etc.
The idea of community is being redefined now, it is different for everyone, but where do you see the positive impact on that?
Above all, this worldwide pandemic is inviting us to an expanded idea of community, as we realize that the whole world is in this together. We are experiencing the pain and sadness of the global community. We realize that the development of the “I” depends critically on the development of the ALL. What I do affects everyone. What others do affects me and the one I love. It is about considering common sense and the common good. Look at the extreme sacrifices we are making now. Why are you doing this? The answer in each of our hearts is much more than “because it is good for me”. I hope this is a positive impact that will never leave us and that we can pass on as our legacy for generations after us.
I would like to practice faith and spirituality in a meaningful way. How can I discover new opportunities to do this?
Spiritual practices are individual or community. Each of us needs to find what we mean and be open to the fact that it can be something very different from what we did before. There are so many online resources, community events, meditating alone, studying and reflecting on sacred texts, attending mass, listening to religious concerts. This is a great time to explore, learn, and practice.
Sometimes I feel like I’m losing faith, I have negative thoughts or non-productive behavior. How to avoid this?
When we are conscious, life presents itself with a path to follow. Our primary propensities call us to evolutionary growth. They never end, but they continue to perform at deeper levels. It takes a lot of confidence to know that the struggles of the past prepared us for this next wave of growth. Faith has to do with a relationship with the Divine. Relationships deepen, grow, and evolve if they are healthy. There are setbacks, but the general trajectory is ahead. Simply put, we need not be afraid. Everything we are going through presents us as an invitation. Sufi poet Rumi’s “Guest House” teaches us this:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Spiritual strategies for your quarantine
1. Pray — God is listening. I firmly believe that He is with us, as close as we are to ourselves. Pray and wait for an answer. It always comes.
2. Stay connected — Staying connected through video programs, text messages or phone calls are great ways to maintain a relationship with others. Human beings are social and need that connection!
3. Help — If you are not at risk, see what your neighbors need. We can still practice solidarity in social distance. Social distance does not mean the ‘end of service’.
4. Be grateful — There is always something to be thankful for. Ever. Gratitude gives us perspective and makes us see how blessed we are.
5. Slow down — We often wish to have more time for contemplation. Today, we have more time to contemplate and watch the sunrise or look at a beautiful tree through the backyard window. Those little big things that bring us a sense of peace.
6. Engage in meaningful work — Monks have always known this: we need a balance of work, prayer, and leisure in life. Invest in your ideas, your projects, this is the time to plan before starting over.
7. Love — Love is contagious. Saint Ignatius says that love is shown in deeds, not just in words. But it also helps to tell the people we love. How do you want to share the love today?
In the same way that a physical examination benefits our body, it is also important to do a spiritual examination. Our spiritual lives need adjustments to work. While a physical examination helps to prevent illness, a spiritual examination allows us to have a better quality of life, peace, and harmony. Symptoms that something is wrong can go unnoticed and negatively affect our lives. You can do something now to fix:
:: Make a plan with your spiritual experience and fulfill it — In the science fiction film “Star Wars”, the divine is portrayed as a spiritual force that unites everyone. One of the best examples of a spiritually healthy person is Master Yoda. This character spent some time growing in spiritual strength, instead of neglecting his spiritual life. He saw the value of the religious basis of strength and built his spirituality, becoming one with strength. To you, this commitment may seem promising to do good deeds or practice your divinity daily. This is not a single model and is different from one person to another.
:: Start with something and use it as a springboard — Someone once told me that everyone has an unlimited capacity for spiritual growth. For that reason, the key is to start with something like the stepping stone to growth. This can be attending a spiritual retreat, getting involved in the study of a good spiritual book, or many other activities.
:: Set goals for spiritual development — Yes, it is important to assess where you are now with your basic spirituality. You may have committed yourself to do this in the past and failed to continue the work, but it is never too late to start again. However, setting a new goal will take you further.
My view on the practice of yoga in quarantine and its results
Yoga (in English yoga) (in Sanskrit योग) is a concept that refers to traditional physical disciplines originating in India. The word is associated with meditative practices. Several Hindu texts discuss aspects of yoga, including the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bagavadguita, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Shiva Samhita, the Mahabharata, and several Tantras. The word derives from the root yuj, which means to control, unite, or concentrate.
The videos of YouTuber and yoga teacher Adriene Mishler have been part of my daily practice routine for some years now. Today, almost 8 years after the launch of her channel, I and about eight million people have used her videos. Mishler is known for his encouraging behavior and his videos always have a philosophical and meditative purpose to follow.
Practicing non-possessiveness One of the ten moral or philosophical foundations of yoga is aparigraha, usually translated as non-possessiveness. As is typical of yoga, we first encounter this practice on our mat. We learn very quickly as our practice develops, that there is no prediction of how things will happen as we move and breathe. Some days we are on the loose. Some days we are rigid. Some days we made progress. Some days we are late.
Abandoning our attachment to results There comes a day for all yogis when we realize that it doesn’t matter what we do or how we feel on our carpet. The only thing that matters is that we practice. We release our attachment to achievements, progress, and physical achievements in general. This is deeply liberating. This change usually happens without our conscience. We find ourselves doing things on our carpet, without attachment to the results.
Give without expectation of return We give because we can. We act because we are capable of. We share because we are blessed with abundance. We say “yes” to someone in need, because it is possible, right now, to do so.
Here’s the key: we do it without expecting anything in return.
We can see all these teachings at present!
The choice to practice social detachment is an example of pure generosity. We are making a series of decisions, many of which we may not like very much, to care for people we don’t know or will never know.
Each of us is choosing to make sacrifices for the greater good.
We are doing this not because we are afraid of contracting the virus. We are doing this because of the person who is in a high-risk demographic group who can stay healthy because I haven’t touched so many door handles, elevator buttons, or anything else.
You may never know the effects of your generous choices — and that is part of the practice.
On second thought, as I watch the world around me respond to this crisis, my world is full of good, generous, and loving people, and it is with them that I want to join.
I hope you can use this moment as an instrument for learning and developing your spirituality. Faith and happiness on your Journey. Namaste.
Get in touch to schedule an appointment with me. Assistance and guidance with reduced and/or free of charge while the quarantine lasts #IAMHereToHelp #WeAreOne
Kátia Brunetti — Holistic Therapist