I am thinking about my readers, those who have found my writing helpful in the past, whether you have read my books or just enjoyed my blogging. It is a time of buckling down to practices that soothe and bring us out of unnecessary mental stress. Easier said than done, I know, however, it is what I have to offer you. I will share what I do for myself in this time of strange crisis. In the world of this work, nothing has really changed because it is only a matter of putting different thoughts/fears/worries up against our physical reality. But, as we know, the more emotionally loaded our mental narratives, the harder it is to surrender to our practices. For me, it always comes down to “should” thoughts that argue with how I spend my time, that little voice that follows me around claiming that the way I am managing my life or doing something is not the right way. Mindful Reality gets at the heart of this by showing us exactly what we should be doing all the time, no matter the situation on our mind (or in the world).
With the Coronavirus, there certainly seems to be many things we should be doing to protect ourselves and others. I, personally, follow a lot of political and health news, which I appreciate, but then need to filter with my practice. How do I do this? I separate out the difference between my thoughts and my physical reality. I am going to say that anything that ever passes through my mind as news, information, monologue, narrative, commentary, opinion, judgment, even intuition, can go into the category of thought. Physical reality is the physical existence of my body in the space it is occupying, along with its bodily movements including talking, writing or texting. The body moving in its continual physical activity is the only action that ever occurs by any individual. You can look down and see yourself on some surface (chair, couch, floor) occupying some specific space in the room, car, or outdoors. This is the real you, the body that moves through the day interacting with its immediate environment.
If you have followed any of my work in the past, there is nothing different now except the stakes may be higher for many of us. So, you find yourself sitting in your living room judging yourself because you are not washing your hands enough, haven’t found the right way to do your work online, are worried you will run out of food and don’t want to contaminate yourself at the supermarket, are feeling pressure to quarantine and social distance but you really must mail something at the post office, have people dear to you that you’d like to interact with up close but do not feel safe, etc. These worries are referencing possible actions by your body in a past or future moment. That’s all action ever is; it is real-time bodily movement.
There are dire concerns right now about how to manage our personal lives in ways that don’t expose us or others to danger ranging from: what cleaner to use on our doorknobs or faucets, how to work out the timing of when to clean them after you’ve just been outdoors, how often to wash your clothes, how high the temperature needs to be, how to open a package, is it better to order food and home supplies or get them from the local market, etc. To engage in this Mindful Reality practice, simply notice your mental stress in the moment and identify the should thought/pressure behind it. What is your mind telling you you should or should not be doing? Find that. Then stare at your body to see exactly what it is doing. Next, realize that you must be in that physical movement (action) because you can only observe it after it has occurred; there was never a way to get behind/prevent it the way it feels.
There you are, touching your face after you just blew your nose, came in from the supermarket, turned the ignition on in your car, picked up your child’s toys, worked on the computer, texted, or tidied up the apartment. There you are in that bodily movement and there is no way to go back in time and erase it. What to do? Nothing. Simply understand that whatever you see yourself doing physically in each moment is your only option because there is no way to find out what it is until you have just done it (performed that act). There was never anything else physically available to you no matter your deepest beliefs, or what you preach to yourself or others. Thoughts are fine and wonderful, but actions are absolute and presenting themselves as we speak.
Other kinds of Corona concerns may be: you wish you could be creative in figuring out how to earn a living online now that you can no longer engage in your normal career, you are spending money on Amazon even though you are worried about your future finances, you are yelling at your children because you are trying to work and they are driving you crazy, you didn’t wash the chicken bags before putting them in the freezer even though you just read that freezers don’t kill the Coronavirus, there are people you should be calling but you are not, you spend all day on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter because it’s so tempting, you keep forgetting to wash down your phone, or you are up at night believing you should be finding a way to sleep better.
It really doesn’t matter what the issue, our physical reality will always override thoughts and beliefs even if our actions don’t match up with our moral code. There is no reason to call something good or bad in this case; it’s just what is. Recognizing isness is the first step in acknowledging that we do not have conscious control over the behavior of this virus, or the behavior of our own bodily movements. This doesn’t mean we don’t take in information and often make very good decisions in terms of our health, safety and security. We do. It means that in terms of action, the only thing we can ever do is what we find our body doing in this moment (and it’s always this moment), and by the time we see that activity, it is something of the past. There is no way to get around this; it’s just a matter of accepting that what we each do is the only thing we could have ever done. Our brains take in information behind the scenes and our bodies move as they do throughout our day. See it, and then tell yourself that the way you are acting, every single movement and task, is the right action because it is all that is/was physically possible. Then you can go wash your hands, if you do!