There is widespread panic and fear about the COVID-19 virus making its way through our society. What only a week ago seemed like a distant new story, has now become the centerpiece of our lives. Schools are closed, parking lots are jam packed as people stand in long lines to buy the last of the canned food, toilet paper, and supplies. Everywhere is out of sanitizer and disinfectant. Cafes, concerts, and all gatherings are canceled. My friends are canceling play dates. Programs at my work are being canceled, affecting our bottom line. Wow, this is real.
As we all make meaning of this sudden pandemic and try to strike the balance between social responsibility and overreacting, there is no better time to call upon our spiritual resources and the resilience tools we’ve been given. We are being asked to stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible. What better time to go inward and use the tool of meditation to ground ourselves in the reliability of the present moment and the transformative power of the breath?
It’s easy in these times to slip into fear and panic. Fear of getting sick, fear of the unknown, fear of others…. The list goes on. But when we’re afraid our nervous systems go into high alert and the stress response takes a toll on our entire system. Anxiety becomes our default mode and pretty soon our entire system-both in our body and our home system-becomes compromised.
I experience anxiety as a clenching of the stomach. My shoulders tighten and it’s as if I’m living entirely from the frontal lobe of my head. I overthink everything. I spin out scenarios of what could and should happen. I get busy doing things: cleaning, moving stuff around, getting on the computer, go go go-as long as I don’t stop, I think I’ll be fine.
We all experience some version of this anxiety bubble, and the more we practice noticing when we’re in it, the more empowered we become to pop it.
What does it look like to pop the anxiety bubble? We STOP. Literally, just stop. Your child might be tugging at your skirt but either pick them up or ask them to hold on for a few minutes while mama takes a few deep breaths. If you’re at work or in a public place, wait until you’re in your car or excuse yourself for a few minutes to “go to the bathroom”.
Take 3 deep/huge breaths. Inhale feel your ribs expand, feel the delicious air enter your body; exhale blowing hot air out of your mouth-making a hissing type noise. 1. 2. 3.
Once you’ve taken 3 deep breaths, find a seat and close your eyes and continue feeling the breath in your body. Whereas a moment ago your mind was scattered in a million directions, now you have the one-pointed focus of the breath in the body. As you breathe, feel the feet on the ground, feel your bottom rooted on the earth. Feel your rootedness to the earth body. For a few minutes just BE with whatever it is that your feeling. Breathing in and out, slow and gentle. You can place one hand on your belly, and the other hand on your heart. Repeat this mantra: Even though I feel anxious, I trust my body and the earth
Often the anxiety wants to pull us out of the present moment, it doesn’t want to feel or be present. Anxiety wants to pull us into the future. When we stop and just fee lhow we’re feeling, we realize the present moment is not going to overwhelm us. Even if it’s uncomfortable and we still feel the clenched stomach and the spinning mind, just allow and accept whatever you’re feeling. We can handle our lives and our feelings. We can trust. Trust is the opposite of Anxiety. When we can stop and breathe for a few minutes, we remember that even thougth the world is unpredicatable, we can rely on our breath and our body. We can trust the earthiness of the present moment and just BE.
Step 1: STOP. Literally. In your tracks. Just Stop. (as long as it’s safe 🙂
Step 2: Take 3 HUGE breaths. Breathe in to feel your ribs expand, breathe out through your mouth, hissing hot air.
Step 3: Take 5 minutes and harness your mind’s attention to the breath in the body. Be with what is arising. Feel your feelings. When your mind begins to race, simply come back to the breath. If your mind is super active, you can count your breath. 1 inhale, 1 exhale, 2 inhale, 2 exhale and so on until you get to 10.
Place one hand on the belly and one hand on your heart. Repeat the mantra a few times: Even though I feel anxious, I trust my body and the earth
These three steps can help shift the course of your day from being ruled by anxiety, to putting your resilience and power back in the driver’s seat. It’s true, these are unpredictable and scary times, but when we shift from being in stress response to being grounded and responsive, we have the power to help others and be present for our lives.