By John Schorling
A new year has begun, one in which many of us hoped the COVID-19 pandemic would be behind us. Instead, we find ourselves in another surge, with more people having become infected than ever. Fortunately, illness caused by Omicron, the current predominant strain, seems less severe than prior variants. Despite this, because so many people have become infected, healthcare facilities are once again stressed, and those who work in them are having to care for more patients than ever, often with fewer staff due to healthcare workers becoming infected themselves as well as the number of people who have left the field during the pandemic.
The amount of suffering caused by the pandemic has been and continues to be profound, affecting those infected by the virus, those caring for those who were infected, and those whose lives have been impacted in so many other ways. In the midst of all this, it can be helpful to pause to acknowledge our present moment experience. We might be grieving for the loss of someone we loved, or the loss of our own health. We might be feeling the impact of the pandemic in other ways, the loss of getting together with people we care about, or the loss of doing things we enjoy. We might feel guilty because of the choices we have made for ourselves, or feel anger regarding the choices that others have made. We also might feel grateful that we or others we care about still have their health, or that as bad as things are, they might have been worse had Omicron been as deadly as Delta.
Regardless of the circumstances, we can pause to just notice what’s present right now. What do we notice in the body, what feelings are present, what thoughts are arising? And can we just notice our present moment experience with kindness and compassion for ourselves? These times are trying, and most of us wish things were different than they are. Yet in this moment things are as they are, and wishing they were different does not make them so. For just a few moments, is it possible to let go of thinking about the past and how things might have been, or thinking about the future and how we hope things will be, to just acknowledge things as they are, without any need to fix anything or change anything? Perhaps just focusing on the pause between the outbreath and the inbreath, noticing the moment of stillness there.
We are all connected in this pandemic, including with those who we might not agree with, perhaps over decisions to wear masks or not wear masks, or to get vaccinated or not. As a physician, I support masks and vaccines, including mandates to protect the public health. Yet many do not agree with these positions, and anger and frustration can arise when confronted with such opposing views. In these situations, we are all suffering, wanting things to be different than they are. When faced with disagreement, we have a choice as to how we respond. We can react with judgment and perhaps with anger, despite evidence that such reactions only harden opposing views. Or we might advocate for what we think is right and still respond with kindness and compassion for others who disagree with us, knowing we are all in this together.
Last week we celebrated Martin Luther King Day. Dr. King believed in both standing up for what he felt was right, and in loving those who opposed and even wanted to harm him. He had much to say that is relevant to the challenges we are facing today. Several of his quotes stand out to me, including:
“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”
“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
In these difficult times, Dr. King’s words can continue to guide us, and remind us of the choices we have in how we face adversity and interact with others, even those who disagree with us.
Filed Under: Monthly Musings