“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
As we approach the one-year mark of the start of COVID-19 related shutdowns across much of the U.S. and Canada, some hope has begun to emerge that one day very soon, we will be able to put this pandemic behind us and return to some semblance of “normalcy.” However, as we begin to do so, let us remember the profound spiritual lessons that we have learned during this challenging time.
The past year has forced each of us, as individuals, to take a long and honest look at ourselves. The many hours that we have spent in solitude have afforded us with a rare and temporary respite from the hyper, fast-paced material world we inhabit.
Undoubtedly, more time alone due to social distancing has been a great source of extreme mental suffering for many. Prolonged periods spent in isolation have exasperated an already worrisome mental health crisis, as indicated by an alarming spike in suicide rates and a rise in reports of depression and anxiety.
What holds meaning
However, the greater time spent in solitude has led others to reflect more deeply on what holds meaning in their lives. For those people, it has been a fruitful time to quiet their minds and re-channel their attention from outward egoic concerns (like money, jobs and social status) to the inner realms of spirit.
Since the start of the pandemic, I have talked to many friends and acquaintances who say they have used this time to start a regular prayer or meditation practice. I also have spoken with others who relate how this period has sparked a renewed sense of love and gratitude for the natural world. Still, other inspiring souls I have crossed paths with say that this pandemic has pushed them to follow their dreams and spend their time doing what they love.
Over the past year, a very dear friend of mine has spent his time at home starting an uplifting YouTube channel that now has nearly 25,000 faithful subscribers! Another close friend of mine has honed his love for woodworking and now hopes to abandon his office job and sell his woodwork for a living. Other folks in my orbit have spent this time planting beautiful gardens, experimenting with off-grid living and diving into various forms of creative expression.
Most importantly, other beings I know have used this time to fully commit themselves to serve those who have endured extreme emotional, physical and financial hardship, and who understandably see little to no positive benefits in their lives from this pandemic.
Unquestionably, COVID-19 has brought unimaginable suffering for at-risk and oppressed populations like the homeless, the working poor, the physically disabled, the elderly, Indigenous peoples, minority groups and those with pre-existing health conditions.
With this awareness of countless peoples’ extreme suffering in mind, crucial opportunities for those in more fortunate circumstances to serve others who are struggling have emerged. Relieving the suffering of our fellow brethren is truly the greatest spiritual practice that we can all engage in at this time.
COVID-19 has taught us that we are all interconnected and that our intentions, thoughts and actions have karmic consequences that impact us all. As one world, we have truly suffered through this trying ordeal together.
As the world charts its recovery from this time of profound suffering, the following question emerges: How will we incorporate the higher wisdom that we have gained from this shared experience towards building a more loving and peaceful world? The fate and soulful evolution of our species hinge upon this question.
Deep within me, I have a mountain of faith that we are all up to the enormous task of becoming the wisdom that has blossomed from our collective experience of this period of suffering. Despite the heavy and tragic loss of life left in its wake, COVID-19 may soon be regarded as one of the latest lightposts on the path of humanity’s spiritual awakening.
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image 1 Christiaan Huynen on Unsplash