Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of March 30, 2020


Spirituality in a Time of Pandemic

(A Meaningful Life: 3)

Left-click for MP3 audio stream, right-click to download

This world crisis, unlike anything in living memory, is having a riveting effect on us. When the question is living or dying, our survival instinct will not allow us to look away too readily. Yet the question is not only about the survival of our body: it also raises the issue of survival of our soul, and whether we actually have one.

We have little choice but to give our body its due and protect it as we can from the virus. Yet taking the necessary precautions still leaves us with an abundance of energy generated in the intensity of this moment. That may manifest as obsession with the world, national, and local situations, and as fear and worry for ourselves and those dear to us, both for the present and the future. A normally-routine outing to the grocery now can leave us drenched with anxiety.

Nevertheless, all this presents us with an opportunity. Part of that is to help outwardly, as appropriate for our own situation. This can be as simple as a friendly phone call. We are grateful to the many who serve at personal risk: the frontline health care personnel, the retail workers, the police, military, and first responders who attend to our safety, those who produce the food, drugs, and other products we need to survive, the medical researchers working to end this pandemic, those who shop for their sick, quarantined, and high-risk neighbors, and so on. These are some of the heroes of this time. Even if we are not in a position to serve in one of those ways, we can pray for the health and safety of those who do. We can make small uplifting gestures. If we are telecommuting, we can do our job well. Maybe we can make donations or otherwise fill a need.

These times also present us with an inner opportunity. That abundance of energy generated in us by the pressures of the moment can be put to positive use inwardly with important results. Inner work undertaken at difficult moments is that much more profitable, in part because it takes more than the usual amount of will just to be somewhat centered and present.

If we are in a state of being obsessed, constantly worrying and ruminating, and if we want to settle into presence, even a shallow and fleeting presence, then there are a host of methods we can use to help ourselves. We can try counting backward by sevens from 100 and then starting over whenever we reach the lower limit of 2. We can try walking meditation, walking back and forth in a limited space while inwardly thinking "right" and "left" to mark the movement of our feet and paying attention to the sensations of our whole body. We can try using a mantra in our sitting meditation, inwardly repeating some name, word, or phrase that is meaningful to us, and then dropping the mantra if our mind settles down. Or we could intone that mantra as an outward chant. Any of these and similar methods can help us focus, help us be a little more present, help us not waste all that energy.

Once we have a little inner space, we can stand in that space to gain some perspective on our state, seeing the fear and worry, the hope and despair, the shock of uncertainty and lack of control. Seeing how things are in us and accepting our state as it is, accepting our human condition, helps alleviate some of the agitation, helps take the edge off, and makes more room for presence.

Some of us are busier than ever, with young children suddenly out of school, or with our job having followed us home in the form of telecommuting, or with caring for someone who is sick in our home, or some combination of these and other situations. We may just not have time for sitting meditation. Yet we wish to keep our inner work alive. So we take up methods of practice suited to the midst of an active life.

Sensing our body is one such method and a highly effective one at that. We put and keep our attention on part of our body, or our whole body as we gain facility with this. A subtly vibrating energy arises there, an energy we call the sensitive energy. The more of our attention, the more of ourselves that we bring to this practice, the stronger the sensitive energy, to the point where it fills our whole body and provides a platform for presence, for I am here. We can work at this whenever it is safe to do so, i.e., when we are not engaged in some inherently dangerous activity like driving. Sensing brings a new dimension to whatever we are doing, making us whole and present and less prone to falling into ineffectiveness. We can practice sensing during our busyness, as it need not interfere but can enhance whatever we are doing by allowing us to be more totally engaged.

Times of suffering and mortal hazard can, of course, reawaken our need for the transcendent, which we can approach through creative acts and through prayer. Both permit a positive outlet for the pressures of the moment and connect us with the Greatness behind and within it all. Both allow us to transcend time and step into eternity.

Engaging in spiritual inner work during difficult times makes those times that much more meaningful. For this week, please live well, inwardly and outwardly.


        

About Inner Frontier                                    Send us email 

Copyright © 2001 - 2020 Joseph Naft. All rights reserved.