One of the most important things during this pandemic is to take care of our minds as well as our bodies. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives. Change generates uncertainty and stress. And that means finding new ways to cope and even thrive.
For me, this year started out rough even before the pandemic. By mid-February, there were five deaths in my Kuhniverse (as my friends call my world), including three in my family. One was my dog, and she was actually the toughest loss. Tells you something about her.
And while in France to handle one of the family’s deaths, I was the victim of not just one but two burglaries and jewel heists, including one from my bedroom – while I was asleep in it. (No, I’m making this up. But I am available to discuss book and movie rights.)
I awoke at 4:30am in a state of disbelief to see that someone had entered my room and stolen my suitcases, with my clothes, passport, wallet, money, driver’s license, computer, a pile of official documents, jewels, family heirlooms, and the key to my rental car (they stole the car, too). I had exactly €4.70 and an urn with ashes. (Movie rights, anyone?)
Then came the pandemic, bringing even more devastation on a far vaster scale around the globe. Suffering. Economic destruction. Financial loss. Joblessness. Stress. Despair. Illness. Death.
Loss. Everywhere, loss.
And yet I throughout all of this, I feel an equanimity that’s somewhat new in my life. For example, on Feb 29th, the day of the robbery from my bedroom, I had a truly lovely day. And through the pandemic, I’ve felt strangely peaceful.
Certainly, I’m surrounded by wonderful friends and family. And I’m among the more fortunate, especially compared to the first responders, health care workers, the homeless, the unemployed, and so many others who are struggling mightily. Bless them all.
But there’s more to it. For years now, I have practiced meditation every day. It’s a traditional Buddhist meditation called samatha, also known as concentration or tranquility meditation. (Some of you may be familiar with vipassana, or awareness meditation.) A big part of samatha is letting go and nonattachment, leading to profound states of mental stillness and even joy. It’s about purifying the mind stream by letting go of the compulsive thinking that so many of us suffer from. And I attribute a large part of my equanimity to samatha. It has given me the power to withstand far greater stresses of life than I was ever able to before.
In these very stressful times of profound loss, I encourage you to set aside even a little time each day to allow your mind to find stillness, freedom from the chaos of the world, and enjoy the inner strength that comes from it. It takes commitment and it’s hard, but so worth it.
Due to the pandemic, two prominent Samatha teachers, Tina Rasmussen and Stephen Snyder, today announced that they are offering their Retreat-in-a-Box free. What a wonderful gift and a great way to get started on your meditation practice!
Read more about the author, Stephen Kuhn.