Connection, Compassion, and the Interconnectedness of All Things
“Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.” ― Nadeem Aslam,The Wasted Vigil
In a short time, life as we know it has been turned upside down and twisted into a square knot. With the intention of fostering wellness, and slowing the spread of Covid-19, we've been told to isolate ourselves. On one level, limiting contact with others seems the safest measure. And yet the reality of this new normal isn’t necessarily an adjustment that comes easily. With the news playing to our deepest fears, and an uncertain future, it’s natural to experience a sea of emotions. As anxiety levels run high, there’s never been a better time to practice calming Yoga breaths, meditate and watch a video of gentle rain tapping on the window.
Perhaps it might also help to think, not about being apart from others, but to recognize that even if we aren’t physically together, shaking hands and embracing, we are still linked in profound ways. It’s kind of like those paintings done in pointillism. Up Close, the image appears to be infinitesimal dots. But step further away and those dots appear to do something pretty miraculous; they morph into one masterpiece.
Nature too, is like those tiny spots: Leaves on branches build upon themselves to form trees. Just look at a piece of fruit. Consider all it took, from soil, root, and bloom, to transport to our plates. Think of the countless atoms that make up our bodies and minds… In a way, we are all tiny energetic dots of paint that together make up this sprawling beautiful canvas called life.
Embrace The We
Something curious and amazing is happening: as we are being pulled apart, we are also being brought together. At a time where hearing a friend’s voice, or seeing their face can brighten the day, it’s reassuring to know that those we love are just a Facetime or Skype away.
The Internet offers us a far-reaching mindfulness tool... it's called “the Web,” for an awfully good reason. The digital landscape is a vast portal of interconnectedness, threading us to one another. Something our ancestors weren't lucky enough to benefit from. Now more than ever, social distancing and isolating has opened the Internet up in new beautiful ways; this solar system of people, knowledge, and information, has the potential for exponential self-growth and human interaction. Care to learn a new skill or brush up on a rusty old one? Lynda.com offers countless remote classes; and access is free with a public library card. In need of day-to-day inspiration? Bestselling author, and spiritual teacher, Ekhart Tolle, offers free teachings and resources. Additionally, numerous Facebook groups are cropping up to build community, and offer emotional and creative support. Social media allows us to form new alliances, promote projects, and stay threaded to people we might have otherwise lost touch with. Think about how those connections influence our lives.
Compassion, the Missing Piece
Over a decade ago, I trained as a Yoga teacher, and had the privilege of learning about Raja Yoga, from Swami Ramananda, the Executive Director and President of Integral Yoga, San Francisco. Today, thanks to the miracle of social media, I am still inspired by the words of this infinitely wise teacher on a regular basis. Recently on Facebook, Swami Ramananda wrote of compassion, “It arises naturally from the awareness that we are all a part of an interconnected web of life, with the same spiritual consciousness at the heart of each being.” Still, it may be challenging to offer empathy to others when their situation appears very different than ours. So it’s essential to offer a listening ear, towards one another. In Yoga philosophy, compassion, “is a positive expression of Ahimsa, or non-harming, which is one of the most fundamental precepts in the eight-limbed path delineated by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” says Swami Ramananda. Therefore it's important to be empathetic and release judgment. Ways to help during the Coronavirus crisis, include sewing masks, donating blood, and contributing to local food banks. For more ideas on giving, read NPR’s The Best Ways To Give to Charity During the Coronavirus Crisis.
This attitude of kindness also extends inward, “Showing compassion for ourselves can be a simple way to begin this practice and ensure that it does not reinforce an unhealthy habit of self-denial,” says Swami Ramananda. One way to practice compassion is through Hatha Yoga.“We can each direct this intention to the body when we practice asanas, responding to its messages instead of imposing how we would like it to be. Then we can develop that same compassionate awareness towards our minds, witnessing its moods, desires, harmful attachments and aversions, then patiently correcting ourselves without unhealthy shame,” says Swami, Ramananda.
Rest in the awareness that we are all in this together. Today. Tomorrow. And for whatever is yet to come. So check in with friends and family. And for those feeling lonely, who love animals, consider fostering a shelter animal in need. Remember, while this time has caused unexpected change, and devastation, it also has illuminated and strengthened our overall connectedness. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it's beauty.”