The Ultimate COVID Paradox – A Poem by Terri Klein
A terrifying time—A clarifying time
A global tragedy—A global awakening
Unprecedented uncertainty—Unprecedented courage
Loss of life—Rebirth
Technology as distraction—Technology as a lifeline
Words speak—Eyes speak
Lonely with others—Lonely with self
Chasing success—Chasing safety & certainty
Life teaches—Death advises
Heart-aches (closed)—Heart-breaks (open)
Travel abroad—Travel within
Priorities neglected—Priorities remembered
Future plans—The here & now
I should—We could
I can & I will—I can, I can’t; I can, I can’t…
Self—The greater good
A life redefined—A life made beautiful
“Spiritual people” are expected to grow through challenging chapters—to evolve through adversity. They understand and accept that suffering often comes in the form of tests to offer us important lessons and invitations to grow.
It has been said that COVID-19 has been a huge test for mankind, and many have responded positively by rising to the challenge with deep introspection, an awakened heart, and courageous action. These “spiritual people” have used this time of a global pandemic wisely to clarify and honor their values, to hold themselves and others with kindness, and of course, to get creative and take up cause in a greater good.
With so many parents still working from home or without jobs, with so many children being home-schooled or learning on-line, and given all of the intense physical and emotional suffering… not everyone can readily show up this way.
There are many days when we feel too busy and burdened to learn, too scared and angry to think clearly (let alone have realizations!), and perhaps too confused and exhausted to even care. Clearly, many of us cannot reap the full benefits of this “spiritual” journey.
In the real COVID world of today, many of the ideas that we can understand intellectually simply cannot be experienced emotionally. Does that mean that we are in any way less spiritual than those who have supposedly “mastered” this new normal with dignity and grace? (Do these people actually exist?)
I’ve spent much of 2020 listening to podcasts and reading books and one general take-away that has helped me to navigate my way through the messiness is the understanding that being spiritual or even emotionally healthy does not mean having it all together, all of the time.
In fact, the real spiritual journey is about remembering and forgetting and then doing it all over again. Awakening in one moment, slipping in the next, and then returning. This kind of fluctuation is both normal and real. It’s the same in meditation. The point is not to try and stop our thoughts, but rather to return from our wandering mind and come back to our breath.
In life, as long as we are returning to awareness, that’s the key. It’s noticing that we have left and finding our way back. The goal is never to be in a constant state of equanimity and experiencing positive emotion at all times, but rather to be able to self-regulate and intentionally move between emotional states.
If we could write our very own pandemic permission slip, it might sound something like this:
I hereby give myself permission to go through this COVID-19 chapter letting every feeling arise and belong. I will accept the sadness and the loneliness, the fear and the anxiety, as well as every pocket of joy and peace. I will embrace and investigate all of my thoughts and feelings non-judgmentally—allowing them to come, stay, and go as needed—while nurturing myself every step of the way.
I will, however, not tolerate all behavior. I won’t excuse myself for yelling because I’m in pain. I will not allow myself to be rude and disrespectful because I’m suffering. Being lonely, bored, and exhausted does not offer me the right to mistreat myself or others. And yet, knowing this will not always prevent me from behaving this way.
And so, I hereby give myself permission to pass and to fail the multiple tests that arise daily. But when I fail, miserably or ever so slightly, I trust that I will remember or be reminded of when and how to apologize, genuinely and profusely.
This is the true spiritual journey. It is one that is lived and practiced but rarely, if ever, mastered. It is an ongoing, daily process—a lifelong journey, NOT a destination.
So, let’s be honest. Some COVID moments are still terrifying while others are clarifying. Some lead us to pettiness and others to kindness. Let’s honor all of it and remember to love ourselves no matter what. Self-respect & self-love are non-negotiables. Especially now!
Cut yourself some slack and find ways to be self-compassionate. And while you’re at it, remember to cut the next person some slack as well, and the next person…, and the next. Know that we are ALL suffering through this.
This past Monday was Yom Kippur (a day of fasting and atonement in the Jewish calendar), and due to the pandemic our synagogue’s service was live-streamed. To begin this sacred day, it is customary for the Rabbi to deliver a very powerful sermon. From his opening sentence, it was very clear that even our Rabbi, the spiritual leader of our very large community, was suffering too due to the far-reaching impact of COVID.
Grant yourself permission to be human… and just be your version of spiritual. Allow yourself to get curious about what might be possible. Curiosity and possibility can act as essential life preservers to not only keep us afloat during this challenging time, but to also keep us “invincible in hope.*”
*Pope John Paul II speech in Cuba, 1998