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Apr 02
Community Articles, covid-19
Staying Sane In Isolation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo by Natalia Figueredo on Unsplash

By “Jackie Writing Jackie”

The number of Covid-19 cases around the world has surpassed 872,000, leading governments to effect nationwide lockdowns to reduce the level of contagion. During this time, many people are surrounded by family. One of the hardest-hit groups, however, is those who are alone. In some countries, one in five people is alone during lockdown, which can increase their risk of depression and anxiety. Focus from meditation practice can help these individuals to lower stress and to feel a greater sense of unity.

What is Focus?

Shambhala teachings are founded on the idea that humans have an innate wisdom that can help solve even the most difficult challenges. COVID-19 is clearly one of the toughest health and economic crises humanity has had to face in over 100 years. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, scared, and stressed about the situation, particularly if one is alone.

Rather than allowing the mind to become caught in a negative cycle of worry, focus from the meditation practice taught in Shambhala can help people understand their own innate goodness and how their individual efforts can help themselves and others weather the current storm.

Why is Focus Important?

The opposite state of focus is that of panic. If you have anxiety and panic attacks, then you will know that when you are immersed in the ‘fight or flight’ reaction to traumatic or stressful experiences and events, it can be difficult to think logically and rationally, let alone to meditate and focus on the essence of Shambhala. This essence is defined by Sakyong as that of “creating and maintaining a good society.”

During the state of panic, the stress hormone, cortisol, overtakes a person. It raises their heart and breathing rate and their blood pressure. In the long term, cortisol can cause many health issues, including weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes. In order to give the best of oneself to others, inner peace is key. The Shambhala practitioner can turn to meditation to enhance focus and ‘ride the wave’, recognizing and accepting negative emotions.

The Expansiveness of Authentic Vision

In the book The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body, authors Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins explain that the way one pays attention in daily life plays an important role in wellbeing. Many people become stuck in ‘narrow-focus attention.’ This constricted, ‘survival’ style of focus can lead to chronic stress, depression, and anxiety.

“Everyone has the ability to heal their nervous systems, to dissolve their pain, to slow down and yet accomplish more, to experience the deeper side of life—in short, to change their lives for the better dramatically,” they write. One way to achieve a more expansive focus is through meditation.

Meditation and Connection

For many people who follow the Shambhala way of life, regular meditation is a vital way to stay focused and to understand that negative thoughts and emotions do not define them. Feelings like fear and loneliness do not determine who one is; they are simply impermanent states. Once you are in a peaceful place, you may or may not be in the mood to connect with others via social media.

If you do connect through speaking and videoconferencing with others, you may find that these others who are confined are facing a whole different set of challenges – for instance, that of completing remote work obligations while caring for children who cannot be at school owing to COVID-19.

As stated by the Druk Sakyong Wangmo, remaining in a cheerful, focused state is possible, even in tough times. This can be harder to do if you are in isolation without friends or family members, but there are many approaches you can take. These include meditation, connecting with others online, and finding joy in the small things that remind one of the beauty and interconnectedness of life.

After taking a career sabbatical to become a mother, Jackie now writes full time on topics ranging from health and wellness right through to news and current affairs. She has, in the past, battled problems with anxiety and panic, and in her spare time she volunteers for a number of local charities that support people with mental health issues.

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