Finding Peace in Difficult Times


These are hard times. As the COVID crisis enters its third month, millions are struggling with difficult feelings arising from cabin fever, loneliness (or overcrowding!), unemployment, debt, and more. Overshadowing everything is an eerie anxiety, a persistent nagging uncertainty over our basic survival. Will I get sick? Will I die? Will a loved one?

On some level we’ve all recognized our mortality, but this is different. Never before has just deciding whether to grocery shop felt like a life & death gamble.

Emotional Impact of the Pandemic

Mental suffering is off the charts. The United Nations is warning that mental health has become an international emergency in this pandemic. The Council on Foreign Relations is reporting significant increases worldwide in domestic violence and sexual abuse. CNBC reports that 36.5 million claims for unemployment have been filed to date during this crisis, unparalleled in U.S. history.

The official death count from Coronavirus in the U.S. reached 75,000 on May 8. But that’s just part of the story. Stress flowing directly from the pandemic could lead to an additional 75,000 deaths from alcohol, drug abuse and suicide. This was the finding of a study by the Well Being Trust and Robert Graham Center.

These are hard times indeed — and it’s not like we weren’t already stressed going into the pandemic! You remember: that missed bus or traffic jam, burnt dinner, work deadline, screaming kids… our lives were already filled with constant stressors, big and small. Then along came the apocalypse.


Challenge & Hardship versus Suffering

Reactions to the crisis run the gamut. Some are upset to the point of suicide as reported above. Others are anxious, but hanging in. Others are angry and protesting. Others are more or less “normal,” as much as one can be in lockdown.

Admittedly the crisis is playing out differently for different people — some are working in harm’s way on the front lines, some are laid off, others are still working from home, and some have gotten sick. But even within these subgroups, the range and feelings and reactions still run the gamut.

These varied reactions reveal our power even in the face of something as immense as this worldwide pandemic. Challenges and hardship, unpleasant as they are, don’t have to cause suffering. Stress is a mental state of mind that we create for ourselves by the way we think about things.

For example… Ever notice how one day something will piss you off but on another day you might just shrug?  It’s the same thing, whatever it is. It’s not different. The difference is inside us — the difference is our thinking on the day we were pissed off versus the day we weren’t.

The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. – Eckhart Tolle

Those of you old enough will remember the opening narration to the Outer Limits TV show,

“We are controlling the transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity.”

It’s kind of a useful analogy. The “we’ in this case can be all of us. We can control of how we feel and respond, the vertical and the horizontal. We can blur or sharpen our focus. We can even roll or flutter our eyes! We all inevitably face situations in our lives that arouse stress, but we don’t have to be taken over by it. It’s possible to be at peace and free of suffering even in the midst of struggle and pain.

Sounds good, right? So have I mastered all this? Nope. Still working on it. But I’ve studied it quite a bit and I’ve succeeded for periods of time. I’ve succeeded enough to know it’s possible.

Finding Peace in Difficult Times

There’s a tool or method for achieving the peace I’ve described here, a way to clear the mind and ease stress, depression, anger, frustration and the rest: Meditation.

Meditation is wildly popular these days but often misunderstood. Many think it’s a Buddhist or New Age thing. It’s true that meditation has been at the core of Buddhist practice and tradition for centuries, but it’s equally applicable to any religion or none at all. No belief in anything in particular is required. All you need is a quiet moment, your mind and your breath.

My ‘Mind, Body & Soul’ Series

I began ‘Mind, Body & Soul‘ as a series here on the blog six weeks ago. I’ve posted a few things, and particularly like the posts featuring the music of this pandemic. People shut in with lots of time on their hands have produced some beautiful work. It’s been two months now since the crisis set in, and I don’t think it’s over despite the Grand Reopenings. So I’m going to pick up the pace with more posts, more frequently.

I’ll post a lot about meditation and related topics. But I want to do more. In this polarized age of anger, assault rifles and Deep State conspiracies, I want to call our attention back to our shared humanity. I will share lots of stories and videos focused on empathy, compassion, and human solidarity.

The Science of Meditation

But let’s get started with a look at meditation. These videos present in depth the scientific evidence that meditation can have a powerful impact on us mentally and even physically. Enjoy!


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