One of the strangest and most disturbing aspects of the coronavirus
crisis is the enforced isolation - ranging from isolation of one
country from another, down to the isolation of family members from each
other. This seems to make the current situation even more difficult and traumatic
that experienced during wars, when normal interactions between people
- visiting bars and restaurants, participating in and watching sports,
visiting theatres and museums, and attending places of worship for
spiritual and emotional support - remain largely possible.
The scientific view is that all matter originates from a single
cataclysmic event which brought the universe into existence. So from
that point of view, whatever their physical isolation from each other,
all humans remain connected with each other and with all other living
or inanimate entities, by this common ancestry.
At the deepest level of many religions, one finds the doctrine that
divinity is a compassionate consciousness which pervades and underlies
everything. One meaning of the "namaste" gesture, use of which is being
encouraged as a replacement for the handshake, is: "the divinity within
me salutes the divinity within you".
It occurred to me that the current isolation might offer an opportunity
to affirm this unity and interconnectedness and perhaps transcend the
isolation itself. I would like to offer the following meditation - I
suggest that the best time to do it would be midday.
Find somewhere where you can be reasonably undisturbed for about
half an hour. If appropriate to do so, turn off mobile phones. The room
doesn't have to be dark, but make sure the light levels are low enough
not to be intrusive. Also make sure that the room is reasonably warm.
Find a comfortable position, either sitting on a chair, or lying on a
bed or mat on your back. Experiment to find the position of your hands
and arms which feels best: if sitting, try having your hands in your
lap with one hand cupped in the other, or with the fingers interlaced;
if lying down, try laying your arms by your sides.
Relax. There are various ways of assisting this - one of the most
common is to use your internal attention to work through your body section
by section, looking for tension. If you find it, increase the tension
slightly and then let it go. If at the end of the process, you still feel
some tension, just be with it: meditation in itself often aids relaxation.
Close your eyes
Bring your attention to your breathing. Station your awareness at
your nose or mouth, and watch the way the breath passes, in, and then
out. Don't follow it down into your chest, or attempt to change your
breathing in any way - just watch the breath as it passes.
You may find that your breathing changes of its own accord - it may
get slower or shallower. If so, this is fine - just keep calmly watching
You may find that your attention drifts away from your breathing and
thoughts start passing through your mind. If this happens, eventually
you will become aware of the fact that you are thinking, and recall that
your intention was to meditate. At this point, just gently return your
attention to your breathing.
After doing this for some minutes, and when you feel the time is right,
bring your attention to the centre of your chest (in many religions,
this is seen as the "spiritual heart" and the seat of compassion and
unconditional love). Imagine a warmth, or even a soft glowing light -
maybe light blue or golden yellow - at this spot.
Bring to mind someone to whom you feel close. Visualise them as
clearly as you can, looking happy and well.
Now visualise a connection between the centre of your chest and
that of the image of the person to whom you feel close. If earlier
you visualised a glowing light over the centre of your chest, imagine
it extending and touching a similar glow at the person's own chest; if not,
maybe just experience a shared warmth and feeling of companionship.
Allow this connection to be whatever it seems to want to be.
One by one, bring to mind other people to whom you feel close - family
members, friends, neighbours, even people whom you have seen on the
media - and visualise a connection between you and them.
Also notice that they themselves are connected to others in the
same way. If you have pets, feel free to include them. If you feel able
to do so, try including people with whom you have unresolved differences,
and allow compassion and forgiveness to flow between you.
Imagine that you begin to rise above your house and neighbourhood,
and as you do so, keep the consciousness of the connections between
yourself and everyone in the area. Continue rising upwards, and as
your viewpoint expands, see the network of connections expand with
it. Eventually see the entire earth, surrounded by a vast web
of connections between all living creatures and the earth itself.
Experience and acknowledge your own part in this all-encompassing interconnection.
When it feels right to do so, allow your attention to return to
your body, and become aware of your surroundings again. Give yourself
a few minutes to return to normal waking consciousness - look about you,
take some deep breaths, stretch, and rub your legs and scalp. When you
feel fully ready, get up and carry on with whatever's next on the agenda.
Dealing with interruptions
If during the meditation you get
disturbed by something - maybe a phone call or a domestic problem - come out of
the meditation as gently as possible, and deal with the issue. When you're
sure the problem has been resolved, and when you feel comfortable to do
so, carry on with the meditation. If you do the meditation regularly,
dealing with interruptions will become easier to manage:
some very experienced meditators report that
their entire life has become a meditation.
quite common for people to find it difficult to get a clear mental image
of another person - even if it's someone to whom they feel extremely
close. However, visualisation improves with practice. Here are two
exercises which might help (others will be found on various websites).
your eyes, and bring to mind a simple shape - maybe a triangle. When you
have a clear image of it, start to manipulate it mentally - turn it upside
down; turn it edge on; change the shape and the colour, etc.
feel ready, move onto other more complex shapes, and solids like cubes,
then try real objects that you might find around the home.
have a photograph of a person whom you would like to include in your
meditation, try looking at it for a while, then close your eyes and try
to remember the image in the photo, as accurately as possible. Open your
eyes and check your recall, then try again.
People who are unwell
you bring someone to mind during the meditation, if you know that they
are ill, then as well as visualising them looking happy and healthy,
you may also like to imagine them surrounded by light - either blue or
golden, whichever feels best.
If you have recently lost someone close, whether as a result of coronavirus
or from some other cause, you may like to consider including them in the above.
The denial of the opportunity to say goodbye, or to attend funerals, is one of
the most heartrending aspects of the current crisis: this exercise may
possibly help with the grieving and healing process.