I am a big fan of guided meditations, especially those Deepak Chopra offers through the lovely 21-day themed meditation experiences produced in collaboration with Oprah (the app is an actual pleasure to use). They usually include around 5-7 minutes of discussion on a topic, followed by introducing a mantra, roughly 15 minutes of meditation with ambient music, then releasing the mantra. Over the series, they build up concepts around broader themes like healing, compassion, relationships, and so on.
In February, there was a series on the body and health, and one of the most staggering points Deepak made has not left my awareness since. He was discussing the things we consume: what quality of food, drinks, entertainment, etc. we take in and how they affect our mind, body, and wellbeing.
“What you consume most, by far,” he quipped, “are your own thoughts.”
He continued to explain that how and what you think establishes and shapes your reality. If you choose to be negative and look at things through a cynical lens, your experience of life will be negative. If you dwell on anxieties and fears, your life will be lived in that state. If you look back on your past with hurt, it will keep hurting you. And if you look toward the future with anger or resentment, you will carry that forward. All of these thoughts are not only self-fulfilling, but they become self-limiting, in the deepest, most spiritual levels.
Societies are rarely transformed through brute force or sheer will — they may be temporarily upset and reorganized this way, but the genuine evolution of culture and thinking really only comes through a change in heart. Artists have always known that the challenge lies in showing the possibilities of what may be, when those ways of being don’t yet exist in the real world. Once people adjust their beliefs to different possibilities or ways of thinking, it feels strange and cruel to force them backwards. Similarly, to get to the future we want, we have to be able to envision it, to imagine more decent ways of treating each other and living in better balance with the environment. It feels abstract or even impossible until we’ve been able to imagine it, and then it becomes the only way we know.
The covid-19 pandemic is challenging even my deepest reserves of idealism and imagination, but I keep trying to focus my thoughts in the direction I want to go. I am using anger, frustration, and sadness as tools of awareness and signposts toward the things that need to change. And I am taking the pauses I need to regroup, collect my thoughts, and consume more of the ones that push me toward creativity, discovery, and compassion.
I think it is worth reminding you of some things you probably already know. Think of these as some supplemental thoughts you can add to your daily consumption.
- Everything we are doing right now, with social distancing, quarantining, and sacrificing, is in service of the greater good. Humanity is better when we care more for each other, and every choice you make to stay home, keep your distance, and stay safe is an act of love toward your fellow humans. That is beautiful, generous, and kind. Thank you.
- You are under no obligation to accomplish anything special during this time. If you feel pressure to tackle some big project or achieve something that will show you’ve made “worthwhile” use of time at home, it’s okay to ignore it. The great thing you’re doing is surviving and helping others have a better chance at surviving. Anything else is gravy.
- It is okay to feel frightened, angry, scared, horny, confused, elated, hungry, and exhausted, all in the same five minute span. You’re not alone, and your feelings are normal. Almost no one alive now has lived through something like this before, and no one knows the right ways to think or feel about it.
- If you feel isolated, remember that everyone else is in this too. You’re not carrying this weight alone. We are unified in separation and uncertainty, and there is beauty in this solidarity. If you’re reading these words, that means you know at least one person who cares about what you’re thinking and feeling (me) and wants you to feel okay. (This is always the case, but it’s nice to be reminded, right?)
- Whatever else is going on in the world, your precious and finite time on Earth is happening right now. We don’t get a refund for this time at the end. That can be a terrifying thought, but I hope you will see it as encouragement to continue learning, growing, seeking joy in small moments and meaningful experiences, connecting with the people you love, exploring your interior life, expressing yourself, creating, and being the person you intend to be.
- Uncertainty is unsettling and frightening, but it can also be an opportunity. You might not have chosen the cataclysmic changes that have happened in your life in the past, but what you built afterwards and how you grew in response made you who you are today. Look at trees. If nothing happened to challenge them, they would just grow up straight and even. Instead, their gnarled branches and twisted trunks tell you the story of everything they’ve overcome. You are more resilient and stronger than you know, and however bleak things may seem at times, you can become a more powerful and extraordinary version of yourself by working through them. Your character is who you are in times of adversity.
- And lastly, there will be an After. You have survived every challenge in your life up to this point, and one day you will probably find yourself sitting with friends or family out in public, surrounded by crowds, enjoying good health, and saying, “Do you remember the pandemic back in 2020??” You may change careers, you may leave your spouse, you may move to a new home, you may lose a lot… but you will keep living as yourself and building the life you want after. Just like you’ve done with everything else before.
If these are all redundant or obvious thoughts to you, good. That means you’re consuming positive, life-affirming thoughts and beliefs about yourself and your existence.
And if you haven’t considered time or existence or your own life during this time, that’s okay too. If you are thinking of others and letting your best nature guide you, whatever you’re doing right now is okay. Just remember to be kind to yourself and others and take time to breathe.