With all my heart, I pray that you and your family are safe and healthy. No doubt, COVID-19 has caused unprecedented upheaval, uncertainty, and human suffering. As such, as a longtime psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and lover of humanity, I am reaching out to offer some perspective and suggestions about how best to navigate this very stressful time. My intention is to help you make the cognitive/emotional shift from despair to hope, so you can see the silver lining in these dark clouds, and keep yourself on an even keel in these rough waters.
How we think about things, how we frame them in our own consciousness, has everything to do with how we feel and how we act. As human beings, we are creatures who seek meaning and direction. As such, we must recognize that there is crucial and beautiful guidance for us in this crisis. There are pearls at the bottom of this stormy sea. We must dive deeply to find them. Look deeply. Contemplate deeply. So we can harvest the pearls.
This pandemic is a cosmic wake-up call. The reset button for the entire planet has been activated. The message is clear. We are ONE interconnected human family. Everything we do, individually and collectively, has an impact, for better or worse. We have been incredibly out of balance for far too long when it comes to social, economic, and environmental justice. We have forgotten that as human beings, we are responsible to love and take care of each other and the earth that sustains us all. NOW is the time to chart a new course.
We are being summoned to return to a way of life that is less material and more spiritual, a life that is less digital and more actual. We are being summoned to return to the universal spiritual values that have sustained humanity for millennia, values that make life joyful and meaningful: Home. Family. Simplicity. Frugality. Generosity. Gratitude. Worship. Service. Community. Humility. Compassion. Contemplation. Connection with the earth. Connection with the sacred.
Sadly, these are the very things that have largely disappeared in the digital age. Restoring these universal spiritual values is half of the Circling The Wagons® mission. The other half is eradicating the pandemic of digital addiction, and flushing out the digital toxins that have poisoned the emotional/psychological bloodstream of much of humanity.
Before COVID-19, people were already spending excessive, dangerous, I daresay lethal amounts of time on their devices. During this time of social distancing when everyone is spending even more time on their devices, the risk of falling into the anxiety>>>depression>>>suicide cycle has gone through the roof. I am offering this very strong warning because I love you and want only Goodness for you and your family.
There are only two ways to respond to everything that happens to us: skillfully and unskillfully. As such, I urge you to vigorously limit all non-work and non-school screen time, and to be especially mindful not to consume too much news. Avoid ingesting everything that is harmful, and take in only what is beneficial. I urge you to put into practice right away the following two safeguards to protect yourself and your family from mental health problems. Decades of data confirm that these two simple practices act like emotional/psychological vaccines.
* Spend as much time as possible outdoors.
* Practice mindfulness to reduce stress.
The Great Outdoors
Reams of scientific research demonstrate the connection between spending time in nature and enjoying excellent mental health. Everything listed below can be done in compliance with the social-distancing guidelines.
1.) Taking a brisk walk every day is the best thing you can do. It strengthens the respiratory system and makes it more resistant to disease. It is a tremendous hedge against anxiety and depression. It is a great way to meet up with friends who have been observing the same degree of social isolation as you have, and enjoy meaningful conversation keeping 6 feet apart.
2.) In a recent conversation I had with our CTW Pediatrician Dr. Peg Sheehan, she spoke adamantly about the need for kids to explore nature & play outside. Here are my concrete suggestions: Give them frisbees, jump ropes, binoculars, magnifying glasses, sidewalk chalk, seeds to plant, supplies for making kites. Implement nightly star-gazing as a family. Have your kids start keeping a nature journal. How many birds can they identify by sight? How many of their songs can they identify and imitate? What kind of edible plants are growing in your neighborhood? Mine is full of chives! Which trees and flowers are blooming today that weren’t blooming yesterday? How many constellations can they name? How is the moon changing day to day? How many sunrises & sunsets did they watch this week?
Restoring their sense of “WOW” is the best thing you can do to get them off their devices and out of the house. A few years ago, the all-volunteer non-profit I founded started a program called ‘Unplugged & Wondrous!’ The refugee families we serve absolutely love it. You and your family will also love being unplugged and wondrous!
3.) Take your family hiking. “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you…while cares will drop away like Autumn leaves.” (John Muir)
The CTW Stress-Reduction Series
(Available on the Mindfulness Page at www.circlingthewagons.live)
Reams of scientific research demonstrate the connection between practicing mindfulness and enjoying excellent mental health. Our CTW-SRS is a complete resource that provides everything you need to learn mindfulness from the comfort of your home. It includes 10 professionally recorded MP3s and a 22-page Practice Guide that helps you integrate mindfulness into your daily life. COVID-19 has given you the gift of being home and having more time. Getting into the swing of mindfulness practice now will not only help you navigate this crisis with more serenity, it will help you protect yourself and your family from the pandemic of digital addiction.
During this time of crisis, pay particular attention to the track of inverted postures, which teach us how to stay peaceful and centered when our lives have been turned upside down. Take full advantage of the track of standing postures, which help us cultivate strength, courage, resilience, focus, and fortitude. In times of crisis, these are the greatest gifts.
In times of crisis, people tend to recognize their shared humanity, and feel moved to help others in need. In addition to offering material and financial help, we can also offer spiritual help if we have the inner resources to do so. The fact is, we can only give what we have. As you learn and practice mindfulness, may you discover within yourself the bottomless wellspring of peace, kindness, patience, resilience, generosity, clarity, tenacity, strength, wisdom, vision.
These spiritual resources are never diminished by circumstances. They are always available, ever-present, within you. The more often you tap into them, the better you will feel, and the more grace and grit you will have to navigate this crisis.
My prayer is that the whole world wakes up and recognizes our ONENESS at a profoundly deep level, and that we move forward with this awakened consciousness to restore harmony and balance in our selves, homes, schools, corporations, governments. My prayer for you and your family is that you enjoy the fullness of life’s blessings.
As such, I urge you to practice mindfulness and spend time as much time as possible outdoors. Your positive actions will not only benefit your family during this crisis, but will also contribute to the commonweal. The positive impact of our collective efforts in this regard is incalculable. To that end, I urge you share this email with your circle of family, friends, & colleagues.
“When someone asks what there is to do, light the candle in their hand.” (Rumi)
By your side in love,
Circling The Wagons®
P.S. The CTW Team is working diligently to make Provisions for the Digital Frontier® : What Every Parent MUST Know available on demand. Stay tuned via the CTW Community Newsletter.
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