March 21, 2020
It occurred to me on my early morning walk today, that how most people present themselves is different than it was, say, a few months ago. And, how we are in the world matters. Let me explain.
I went to the grocery store yesterday. Shelves were about 30% full, many empty, gaping, reminders of the fear-based rush we’ve seen in the past week. People in the store were wary, still generally respectful to each other, but not open. Instead, their faces showed fatigue, fear, distrust, and uncertainty. People were wearing facemasks, gloves, and some carried paper towels or other cloth to use between their hands and the shopping carts and checkout pens. Nobody spoke except the checkout clerk. The only sound was the loud beep of the scanner as each item was registered for payment.
I have been a member of our Chevrah Kadisha, taking care of Jewish dead, for some 25 years. Yesterday, our chevrah took the unprecedented step of deciding that we will not perform this ritual during this time of potential life or death risk for our team members. Unbelievable.
On my walk at 6:00am, I saw no one. Not a single person was out walking, enjoying the gorgeous early morning fresh air and lovely sky, serenaded by birds as they awoke. On most days in past years, this time would be filled with runners and dog-walkers. Today was unusual. Walking in the crisp air, as is usual on my morning walks, I was reminded:
- I was hyper-aware of Self, and of the world around me
- I was alive, I was breathing, I could see, hear, smell, feel, touch
- The world around me was brilliantly lovely, beautiful, rich, and abundant with life
- Spring was unfolding, buds bursting forth from winter slumber, baby rabbits joined me in my exploration of the day
- I was so very lucky
All of this filled me with an overwhelming sense of wonder and gratitude. And, this was not new. This has been my daily sense for years now – never take a moment for granted – this moment is very special and worth celebrating. I have a lovely framed Japanese calligraphy in my kitchen, where I’ll see it every morning when I fix coffee. It was a gift from my wife, a capable artist, who made it for me. It says, loosely translated, “this is a moment” – meaning, every moment is special and unique.
Later, while making the morning brew using a hand-held press that requires manual assembly and operation to create coffee, it dawned on me that what’s important these days, in this time of pandemic fear, isolation, confusion, and uncertainty, is to slow down. To be IN this moment fully. To connect to ourselves, to our world, to each other, moment by moment, authentically.
By slowing down, living deliberately, consciously, actively, we can make a difference. We can travel calmly through this turmoil. We can support each other gently, lovingly, patiently through deliberate kindness, awareness, and presence. Sometimes just being present is enough. Today, maybe the best thing we can do for our friends and family, the ones we love, is to simply be here for them – not “do” for them – but be present with integrity, and maybe even silently, and stand in our love.
What does this mean? Since now we must spend less time in-person with those we love, we must ensure that they know we are loving them, standing with them, as we pass through this experience together. We must use FaceTime, Skype, social media, text, email, to let them know we’re here, and we care. We don’t know who will be in our lives next week or the week after. And, we don’t have to do much. Just be calmly authentic in our love. This is what will sustain us, support us, and uplift us. Help us to handle this unprecedented experience.
Ask yourself, “How am I being in the world?” – Am I radiating fear, anger, disharmony, or perhaps kindness, inner peace, and joy? We each get to choose our response to each moment. And, today, this pandemic day, is a moment.
The great teachers throughout time have always said that now is all that matters – the past is gone and future not yet, so what we do now, how we are in this moment, that’s what makes life alive. Now is where we can make a difference. Now is the only moment we have to love.
Remind your friends and family today, of the exquisite beauty in this moment. Remember that our appreciation of beauty extends naturally into our gratitude for life, friends, family, blessings. Share this as an integral part of being present in this moment.
Today I was reminded. Today is a blessing. Each of my friends and family members is a huge blessing in my life. And, if I live deliberately, consciously, intentionally, I can make my life a blessing.
Together, we can make this strange time better.
Richard A. Light has been meditating and teaching spiritual development for four decades. He teaches about conscious living and dying, as well as Reb Zalman’s, “Spiritual Eldering” approach to aging. He is a graduate of and a senior instructor for the Gamliel Institute and has published seven books. His latest book, Sebastian, helps us find Self and live through kindness. Read Mr. Light’s full biography and learn about his books at https://richardalight.com.