I'm sure by now you've heard that this pandemic, and the measures that we are taking to slow the spread, will be "more like a marathon than a sprint". How do we prepare ourselves for that? The Buddhist concept of training in "the Middle Way" comes to mind for both practical matters, such as going to the grocery store, as well as for larger-scale mental health issues, such as staying sane during this undetermined time of social distancing, working from home and homeschooling.
I just got back from Sprouts, where I did my weekly grocery shopping. They were well-stocked today. This was not the case at the end of last week, when my husband had a tough time finding a certain type of produce that we eat everyday. This item was plentiful today. My first response was to grab extra. It's human instinct to make sure that your family is taken care so I forgave my first thought, but luckily I was able to pause on the spot. It's because of my meditation practice and concepts such as training in the middle way that I was able to have that moment of mindfulness and only take what I need. I got enough for the week and I moved on. I stayed in the middle.
I've been very mindful regarding my intake of news, articles and discussion because I WILL get anxious and fearful if I take in too much information. I have been guarding my sanity like a lion. This has meant keeping really strong boundaries. I have had to politely cut people off mid-sentence when I sense that they are about to give me a piece of doomsday information. For a recovering people-pleaser this is not always easy, but it is essential. What keeps me motivated and strong enough to keep setting these boundaries is my desire to be helpful to others during this time. I can't be there for others if I am overcome with fear myself. All that being said, some information is obviously essential in order to be a responsible member of society. Staying in the middle means that I keep myself informed enough so that I can do the right thing but not overloaded so that I am paralyzed with anxiety. There are so many more useful things to put my energy towards, such as praying for the employees at Sprouts who made sure I had a clean cart and who showed up at work today so that I can feed my family.
I practice meditation so that I can put some space between my initial thought and my reaction. Meditation also helps me breathe through emotions, knowing that no matter how uncomfortable I feel at the moment, it will pass.
Here's a quote that I love from a book called "The Pocket Pema Chodron":
"Meditation provides a way for us to train in the middle way- in staying right on the spot. We are encouraged not to judge whatever arises in our mind. In fact, we are encouraged not to even grasp whatever arises in our mind. What we usually call good or bad we simply acknowledge as thinking, without all the usual drama that goes along with right or wrong. We are instructed to let the thoughts come and go as if touching a bubble with a feather. This straightforward discipline prepares us to stop struggling and discover a fresh, unbiased state of being. " - Pema Chodron