If we (as a society) didn’t fear death as much as we appear to do, then would it matter so much when we die?
As the coronavirus has changed status to being called a pandemic, I found myself wondering about that question.
Of course, no-one wants anyone they love to die, that is normal, nor do we necessarily want to die ourselves.
Death is normal
But it IS normal for death to happen. In fact, life itself depends on death.
You see this everywhere in nature, with survival of the fittest, be it an animal, bird or plant. That’s why blackberry plants or dandelions tend to take over a garden; they are stronger than the others. It’s why predators in the animal world seek out the youngest or weakest of a species when they are hungry.
With coronavirus, it appears to be something that can cause death in those of us who are not so strong physically.
Obviously I don’t wish a death on anyone, but is living in fear of death actually a healthy thing to be doing?
The way we think affects the way we experience life
It’s well documented that the way we think affects the way we experience life, no matter what the outside circumstances are.
So here’s 3 things you can do to think differently when worries about coronavirus take over – such as in the middle of the night, when it is very easy to feel very doomy and gloomy. (Of course, this also applies to any other element of your life where you experience yourself out of control).
Move yourself physically (if at all possible) to another location.
Out of bed, another room, even a different area in the room is okay. Or if you can’t do that, then imagine yourself in a different location.
That’s because in the moment, it is the mind that is creating the fear. It tends to have a field day in the wee small hours when our defences are down, and when we are engaged in other things throughout the day, we stop worrying about it, even if it is still in the background.
During the final year of my husband’s life, when he was dealing with stomach cancer, the previous year’s financial worries (which had not changed) took a back seat. They just didn’t seem that important in the face of Philip’s illness. When the worries about him dying threatened to take me over, I would ‘talk myself down’ by remembering that I was dealing with a situation over which I had little control, but one thing I COULD control was my thoughts. That helped, because you can always choose different thoughts to engage with. The first thing to do to make this easier is to change your location. It breaks a pattern and forces you to think about something else, even temporarily.
Remember that thoughts come and go, as do feelings.
One minute there is a thought of being afraid of the virus and of dying; the next minute there is a thought of what to have for dinner. Pay attention to what is really happening. Of course take the precautions you are being asked to take, no-one actively wants to get ill. But also watch the insidious nature of your thoughts, which will determine to whisk you away to a land of sheer fear of the future, uprooting you from where you are (which is here, now, in the present), and keeping you prisoner in a place which feels pretty horrible.
Who you really are is underneath the thoughts, watching them. When you are engaged in fear, you have become the thoughts themselves, instead of watching them from a calm place, and then you are fully in the story, in this case the one called something like ‘what will I do if I or ____ gets coronavirus?’
Deliberately choose a different thought
You can imagine this as you walking down a path called ‘worrying about coronavirus’, and coming to a fork in the road. The left hand fork continues on very similar to the path you are on; it seems familiar, you can see ahead, even if you don’t like what you see.
The right hand path on the other hand doesn’t appear as a path at all – rather you would have to cut your way through some bushes to make any headway. But you instinctively know this path is the one that is going to stop the worry thoughts from taking you over. So you determine to go down it, with a knife to help you cut your path.
That means vigilantly turning your back on every thought of worry that presents itself to you, and choosing instead to say something like ‘It’s ok to be scared, it’s understandable. However here I am now, taking all the precautions in the best way I can, and right now, all is well. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I DO know that here in the present everything is fine.”
Then choose to look round you and notice all the things/feelings/experiences in your life that make you feel better. Just notice the flower in the garden, the colour of its petals, its fragrance, and shape of the leaves. Notice the smell in the air wherever you are. Pay attention to your breath, and how it comes in and goes out of your body without you doing anything about it. Be grateful for what you DO have right now, not feeling worried about what you don’t have.
In other words, get off the merry-go-round of these thoughts by noticing that YOU have them, not THEY have you (except when they do!) and make a deliberate and conscious choice to think a thought that makes you feel better.
This sounds really simple, and it is. But it is not necessarily easy to do because you consciously have to choose to focus on thoughts that are different from those that just present themselves to you. It will require dedication, discernment and deliberate choice. But the rewards – of finding a peaceful place within – are immense.
(And of course, you take all the precautions being advised, bearing in mind the wise saying “Trust in God and tie up your camel”)