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Ten Minutes of Sanity and Love: A Meditation in the Time of COVID

Posted on Friday, April 03, 2020 by Or Mars

Mindfulness teacher Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote that “Just stopping, is a radical act of sanity and love.” This stopping is happening on a grand scale in our society with self-quarantine and with the orders to “shelter in place.” This is a hardship for all of us, especially those who are losing wages, needing to balance work and family in a new way, and those who need to “shelter in place” all alone – and, of course, for those who are afflicted with COVID-19 and fear for their lives. 
 
But this world-wide stopping is also a radical act of sanity and love. Through these worst of circumstances, we realize how interconnected we are and how, in normal times, we often exist in an illusion of separateness. COVID-19 is shattering this illusion. If we didn’t understand it before, we understand it now - that that no one really lives alone and each of our actions (or inactions) impacts everyone else. 
 
The ancient teacher Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Leviticus Rabba 4:6 teaches about “a person in a boat who began to bore a hole under their seat. The fellow passengers protested. ‘What concern is it of yours?’ The person responded, ‘I am making a hole under my seat, not yours.’ They replied, ‘Yes, but when the water enters and the boat sinks, we too will drown.’” In its original context, this story is about the Jewish people, but it is equally true about the entire world. We are all in the same boat.

Mindful meditation is one great way to practice on an individual level what we are now doing communally – stopping for sanity, stopping for love. It can also help us exercise our compassion muscles to come closer to understanding our world-wide interconnectedness.

Meditation is a practice for developing one's concentration and awareness in order to become skillful in living fully in the present moment. Meditation helps us to not miss our appointment with this moment. A good place to start is on the breath and below I offer some focus phrases based on our moment in history on which you can concentrate your breathing.

Our minds will wander – often. That is natural and just fine - it gives us the opportunity to realize that our minds our open to distraction and when we realize it, we can go back to paying attention to the breath. It is that moment of realization of the present moment that is often referred to as being "awake."  Over time, and with regular practice, we become more skilled at being in the present moment. Being in the present moment can bring a sense of calm since we will realize that most of our past regrets and future worries are found exactly there, in the past and the future – not the present moment. And in these troubled times, where the present moment is indeed stressful, we can begin to see things as they really are and to start to understand that everything is part of the whole - we can attempt to break through the illusion of our separateness, just as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s story helps us to comprehend.

Ready to get started? 
You can do this anywhere at any time, but I suggest you find a quiet place where you feel at peace. First, I invite you to say the Jewish blessing for being the present moment:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha-Olam She-he-chay-anu V’kee-yimanu, V’hee-gee-anu la-zman ha-zeh
Blessed are you, holy oneness who gives us the life force to bring us to this present moment.

Meditation 1: For those that are sick
Breathing in: I bless you with a complete recovery 

Breathing out: I bless you with refuah shleimah 
In: Complete recovery
Out: Refuah Shleimah (10 breaths)

Meditation 2: For those that work in health care
Breathing in: I bless you with strength 

Breathing out: I bless you with health
In: Strength
Out: Health (10 breaths) 

Meditation 3: For those that are losing wages, childcare, those seeing their project or programs get cancelled, for our friends, for our families
Breathing in: I bless you with calm 

Breathing out: I bless you with patience
In: Calm
Out: Patience (10 breaths)

Meditation 4: For our leaders

Breathing in: I bless you with wisdom 

Breathing out: I bless you with courage
In: Wisdom
Out: Courage (10 breaths)

Meditation 5: For ourselves
I bless myself with health (5 breaths)
I bless myself with compassion (5 breaths)
I bless myself with calm (5 breaths)
I bless myself with peace (5 breaths)

Jewish meditation teacher Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg writes that “our mindfulness practice…invite(s) us into the depths of our own minds and hearts leading us to awaken to the truth of truths and to the depth of Oneness. We do not really have to get close. We only need to discover how close we are already.” We are, truly, all in the same boat. 

I hope you enjoyed your 10 minutes of sanity and love. May it have residual effects that last throughout your day. 

I bless you with health. 
I bless you with peace. 
I bless you with sanity and love. 
I bless you with the discovery of how close we are already.

Interested in discovering more on Jewish mindfulness? Check out: 
Or Halev and the 
Institute for Jewish Spirituality.

Or Mars is a Vice President of The Wexner Foundation. He can be reached here.