I’ve been quiet on this blog since the corona virus was declared a pandemic, but I haven’t been resting. Like many, the most active, crowded place I’ve been is in my head, and there’s been so much going on there, that it’s been challenging to sort through thoughts, hopping from one urgency to the next. Yogis call this monkey mind, and mine has certainly been that. Knowing I’m not alone in this mental flitting about is somewhat comforting.
Rather than slow down, like we were expecting to, I’ve been super busy pivoting. Everyone I know that’s actively working seems to feel busier than ever, even though we were expecting calm. This pivot has been so ubiquitous that it manifested in a mysterious tear in my meniscus (we think, no official diagnosis yet) and for the past two weeks I’ve been essentially immobilized (essential – that’s another word that is often on my mind). My injury feels like one juicy metaphor for all the ideas around transformation (personal, school, and societal) that have been occupying my thoughts and my time: A pivot created a situation that is hard, it is painful, we are still figuring out the underlying causes, and we don’t know how long the immobilization will last – physically and metaphorically.
Earlier in lockdown I took the anxiety I’ve been feeling, reflected in conversations I’ve been having with parents of young kids in my Little Global Citizens class, with educators I work with, and friends and family (that’s a lot of conversations!) and translated that into a program I’ve been running for groups on Zoom that I call Reflect + Recharge (R+R).
The premise of the R+R sessions is pretty simple: Amidst unprecedented crisis, we cling to some truths: social distancing is crucial to slowing down virus spread AND community sustains us; technology can help move learning forward AND we learn from human contact and insight. This may be the defining moment of our lifetimes – and it’s exhausting. I have run the session as a volunteer for groups in need, like working parents of young kids and teachers, and am starting to offer these to professional associations. I’m deliberate about keeping the sessions to 45-minutes so that participants can have the rest of the hour to close their eyes or clear their mind or stretch or whatever they wish – like a credit they earned. During the 45-minutes we practice mindful meditation and centering, active gratitude exercises, and run discussions centered around self-care, reflection, checking in on our strengths and on what sustains us, tailored to the specific perspective/work of the group. Tools in Zoom like Chat, break-out rooms, and live, anonymous polling have created surprisingly intimate and honest reflections.
As a gauge of the deep well of need among stretched members of diverse communities, the response has been overwhelming. It’s not unusual to have 100+ people show up for a R+R session, based on just one email. Afterward they report a significant mood boost.
While anxiety has been high, and news has been discouraging, there has been much that inspires me each day. Here are a couple quotes from the Baha’i writings that I’ve been pondering, around the theme of becoming a source of social good, and service to others as a form of worship:
And the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good. Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men?
. . . all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. Service is prayer. A physician ministering to the sick, gently, tenderly, free from prejudice and believing in the solidarity of the human race, he is giving praise.
Research shows service to others builds mental and emotional well-being. And I see this as the R+R sessions have really boosted my (and participants’) spirits! Have you tried taking small steps of service to boost your mood? Are you practicing more active reflection or meditation? What works for you during this uncertain time?