Fearlessness in the Face of the Coronavirus
This past January when I was in India with my young son and my colleagues at our annual retreat, a stomach virus started spreading around the hotel where we were staying. Everyone started dropping like flies. I'd be talking to someone about it, then five minutes later, I'd hear they were getting sick in the hall. I started to get a little bit paranoid, every elevator button I pressed, every door knob I turned could be contaminated, so I was afraid to touch anything. I chastised myself, "Why did I bring my baby to India where he could get really sick and I'm such a bad mom, etc, etc." After a couple days, I got the virus and so did the baby. And as awful as it was (there's nothing quite like being abroad on your own with a toddler with a stomach flu), I couldn't help but notice how relieved I felt. Turns out the fear was worse than the illness. I don't mean to downplay the seriousness of the Coronavirus. I tell this anecdote because we are in a state of collective fear the likes of which many of us have never experienced in our lifetime. And this fear, in many ways, is just as much a threat to our well-being as the virus itself. While letting go of fear is easier said than done, any decrease in anxiety will help protect you against the illness and increase your peace of mind. The Purpose of Fear Our cave dwelling ancestors lived a mostly pastoral life, but every once in a while, a lion might come into their camp and they would have to either flee as fast as possible or fight the animal if cornered. Because of this, we evolved to have a fear response which floods the body with stress chemistry and causes a variety of responses–the blood coagulates, energy is redirected from the immune and digestive systems to the extremities, peripheral vision is lost (to focus on an attacker), the skin becomes acidic (so it doesn't taste as good) etc. All these reactions and others evolved to save your life in an fast-resolving, urgent situation, but in the situation of a globally spreading virus, remaining in this state not only isn't particularly helpful, it compromises the immune system. Some might think that their fear is what is driving them to protect themselves, but often fear has a paralyzing effect (a version of the flight response of fight/flight) and causes the mind to have difficulty processing. Letting go of fear Much of what we fear, viruses or otherwise, has to do with things we anticipate in the future that often never end up happening. When we bring our attention to the present moment and deal with what is, we see there is little relevance to being afraid. That's not to say, don't be cautious. But you don't need to be afraid to remember to wash your hands and avoid large groups. We also experience fear if we don't feel confident in our ability to adapt. And our ability to adapt is greatly reduced by fear as well, so it becomes a vicious cycle. Lastly, fear also comes from the belief that there is "other" in the universe. To the extent that we experience the universe as one thing and that, in the bigger picture, everything is only happening for our own evolution, we experience fearlessness. How meditation helps Now is not the time to start skipping meditation. Not only does meditation greatly support the immune system (for example, meditators experience 30% fewer infectious diseases), it also is one of the few ways to dramatically reduce fear and anxiety. Meditation immediately starts working to pull the stress chemistry (cortisol, adrenaline, etc.) out of your cells' receptors and replaces it with bliss chemistry (dopamine, seratonin, etc). It works to release deep stress stored in the tissues as well, which in turn increases adaptation energy. The more adaptation energy you have, the more likely you will have a creative response to a situation as opposed to a stress reaction. Meditators also have their awareness more in the present moment and tend to experience self as part of a larger extended self that is aligned with nature. This creates a sense of trust that everything is happening for all reasons. When we are able to fully let go of the idea that we are in control (which none of us are really), and accept what comes our way, nothing, not even a global pandemic, can bring us down.
Fearlessness, Delphine was born with it