“Don’t try to calm the storm. Calm yourself. The storm will pass.” ~Buddha
As we all now know, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been spreading globally. It is a serious threat, less because of the raw numbers involved (as of March 22, 2020, there are less than 340,000 known infected cases with a global population of over 7 billion people), but more because the trajectory is dangerous, the spread is exponential, and the growth occurs very quickly.
The virus contained would not have been that big of a deal. The virus spreading is a big deal. It is now clear the virus is spreading far and wide quickly.
The main issue is that the hospitals in affected areas don’t have the capacity to treat the huge spike in coronavirus cases.
We have already seen this in Italy: People are dying because there are not enough ventilators and other medical resources to keep them alive.
Yogically, we are trained to make decisions from a place called “neutral mind.” There are three yogic mind centers: positive mind, negative mind, and neutral mind. Ideally, we activate and use all three minds, but the best decisions come from a place of neutrality. This neutrality helps maintain balance.
Below is an overview of these three mind states and how they might influence your decisions relating to the coronavirus.
The Negative (or Protective) Mind is given for survival. It is reactive, protective, and searches for potential danger. It is sensitive to pain, and it seeks to shield you from the forces that may disrupt or destroy.
The negative mind might say:
-I’m buying toilet paper, bottled water, face masks, surgical gloves, and rations for the next six months. I’m hiding all these rations and developing a plan to fend off my neighbors. If I hear that hospitals are short of face masks and surgical gloves, I’ll ignore it. I need to keep these things for the future. Things are probably going to get ugly—I need to take care of myself first and worry about my community later.
-The virus is increasing in my area, so I’m going to leave and go outside the city to sit things out for a while. And if the new place gets too many cases of the virus, I’ll leave there too. My plan will be to stay a step ahead of the virus and leave whenever I notice the number of confirmed cases is getting high.
-I’ll check the local and national news from the big mainstream sources every hour to get an update on the spread of the virus. I’ll update my Facebook feed each hour with whatever I learn. And I know if I add lots of exclamation marks, more people will read what I wrote, so I’ll make sure each post starts with READ THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!
-I know the virus can travel through the air, so I will stay indoors with the windows closed and the blinds down until the virus is contained. Despite the fact I have a private, enclosed backyard, I won’t use it or even look at it. You just never know…
It is easy to see how our negative mind can spin out of control. The worldwide spread of the coronavirus is extremely serious. Panic and over-reactivity are not just counterproductive, they are potentially dangerous.
Hoarding resources when others are in dire need may cost lives. Undermining government efforts for containment is dangerous and may cost lives. If free movement hasn’t been taken away in your area, it means you need to be even more diligent and responsible about your actions. Your poor judgment may cost lives.
The Positive (or Expansive) Mind searches for pleasure, fulfillment and possibility in how you can utilize things in your experience. It is constructive, risk-taking and active.
This mind might say:
-Self-isolate/shelter-in-place means I can work from home. Apart from that, I can still go out and do my regular things. I’ll try to rally my running group for a run and since most restaurants are closed, I’ll invite my friends over to my house for dinner. If I do this right, shelter-in-place can be a great socializing tool!
-I feel 100 percent fine. There is no way I have the virus. And if I get the virus, then I get the virus. I’ll risk it. I’m healthy and young, so I’m going to carry on with my business as usual. Vulnerable people should stay in, but since I’m not in that category, I’m going to take a more relaxed attitude.
-I don’t personally know anyone who has the virus. I understand it is an issue, but I don’t think I have it in my community or my social groups. And keeping our mental well-being is important too. I’m going to continue to hold my events until someone I know falls ill.
In the environment of the coronavirus, the positive mind can be dangerous. It is important to understand the big picture and how your positive mind might actually endanger other people during this period. We are in the middle of a serious worldwide crisis battling an infectious disease. It is everyone’s job to get educated, accept the reality of the situation, and exercise personal responsibility. Lives are at stake.
The Neutral (or Meditative) Mind is the mind that judges and assesses without attachment in relation to your own purpose and reality. The Neutral Mind observes the actions of both the Negative and Positive Mind and judges both in relation to your higher self.
In order to maintain balance, this is the mind we need to use when making decisions. The neutral mind might suggest:
-I’m taking self-isolation seriously and not going out unless it is a mission-critical task. I’m keeping my immune system healthy, keeping a rhythm to my days, and staying as productive as possible. This too shall pass, but it might be months, not weeks.
-I’m studying the virus growth trends but not obsessively. I want to stay informed, but I understand focusing on bad news I can’t control over an extended period of time is bad for my immune system. Instead, I’m exercising extreme self-care. I’m eating well. I’m making my environment comfortable and nurturing. I’m working out and staying connected with people who are close to me through video and calls. In fact, I’ve even reconnected with some people I haven’t spoken with in a while.
I continue to be mindful of my news sources as I read about the virus. I’m not getting pulled into sensationalism by going to mainstream news sources to get an update on the coronavirus. That would be misguided. I’m triangulating sources between the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and my own county or country’s health organization to stay current on the spread of the virus.
-When I get invited to do something by someone else, I remind them that I am staying in because I understand the gravity of the situation. I remind them:
- The fact they are “feeling fine” is irrelevant. The virus can pass asymptomatically (with no symptoms).
- The virus can live on surfaces in excess of seventy-two hours.
- The virus can pass through the air for over three hours.
I understand that unless I’m extremely careful, I might start the day without the virus and end it with the virus because of someplace I went or something I touched.
I don’t yell and scream at my friends who want to get together, but I help them understand the situation more clearly. And most importantly, I am staying in.
-I understand the virus can pass through the air, but I’ve done my research carefully and I understand I can go outside, alone, and maintain appropriate distance from other people. I’ll try to use my own yard as much as possible, but if I exercise the right precautions, I understand I could take a walk outside while minimizing my risk.
-I’m trying to find ways to be useful and of benefit during this period. Lots of people are struggling. I wonder if I can help them.
-I’m realistic this virus has ushered in a new way of life. I’m focusing on how I can succeed and thrive in this new environment. I’m researching new ways to do business online, and I’m using this time to sharpen my skills. I’m not focusing on when we can get back to “business as usual” because I understand there no longer is business as usual. I’m staying open and alert for opportunities that are heading my way as a result of this new world we are in.
I write this because I’m observing a lot of chaotic thinking and everything that goes along with that. There seems to be a worldwide mix of the negative mind in overdrive and the positive mind in denial.
The coronavirus also gives us a great opportunity to exercise more balanced thinking. Scientists predict more situations like this over the next decades from extreme weather and natural disasters, to widespread disease and epidemics. If we are going to survive and thrive in this new world we’ve created, we are going to need to learn to access, cultivate, and exercise our neutral mind.
Thank you for reading this. Stay safe.