Rajasthan, India (staying 6 feet apart)

“When you go out and see the empty streets, the empty stadium, the empty train platforms, don’t say to yourself: it looks like the end of the world. What you are seeing is love in action. What you are seeing in that negative space is how much we do care for each other. For our grandparents, for our immune compromised brothers and sisters, for people we will never meet. People will lose their jobs over this. Some will lose their businesses. And some will lose their lives. All the more reason to take a moment, when you are out on your walk, or on your way to the store or when you are watching the news to look into the emptiness and marvel at all that love. Let it fill you and sustain you. It is not the end of the world. It is the most remarkable act of global solidarity we may ever witness.” -unknown

Metta (in Pali), meaning loving-kindness, was taught by the Buddha to monks to cope with fear. Once he sent monks to a forest for a prolonged practice but they returned and reported that they were frightened. They were afraid of hostile tree-spirits and begged him not to send them back. The fear was as real to them as our current situation is to us. The Buddha vowed to give them the only protection needed, metta. When the monks returned to the forest and practiced kindness and goodwill for themselves and their fear. They began to feel at ease, the perceived hostility gone, they could focus. This practice creates a sense of safety which eases fears.

May I be safe,

May I be happy,

May I be healthy,

May I be at ease.

Eased fear paves the way for wise action. We can investigate whatever is real and take appropriate action.

There is an Indian story of an artist who drew a tiger on a wall. He looked at it, so large and scary, he ran away. Sometimes we create scenarios in our mind, and we run away, scared and unable to act. Fear about the future can keep us up at night, distract us during the day, and make it hard to find the motivation and energy to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. Everything you are feeling is entirely natural. However, when we shift our focus to others, we often stop worrying about ourselves.

Both animal and human research has found evidence that stress can increase caring, cooperation, and compassion.

In the midst of COVID-19, we must support each other to get through this.

A report on how people responded during 9-11 showed that people, risked their own safety to help others. While most attention has properly focused on the three-thousand people who lost their lives in the World Trade Center, five times that many escaped due to others’ heroic efforts.

It may simply be human to be kind and helpful.

Today, people who work in stores or hospitals are putting themselves at risk to support us. Just as I wish to have peace, happiness and to not suffer, so do all beings.

May all being have peace,

May all beings have happiness,

May all beings be free from suffering.

Now bask in the joy of this open-hearted wish to ease the suffering of all and how this brings joy, happiness, and compassion to your heart.

Along with my practice, what is helping me is, prioritizing a goodnight’s sleep, a healthy diet and exercise. Walks in nature, my connection with family and friends and limiting exposure to the news sustain me.

Fear, fueled by imagination, creates anxiety. We must return to the body, stabilize it and then we can stabilize the mind. When we are caught in flight, fight or freeze, if we can pause and breathe with intention, it can become a habit.