Can we imagine feeling alone, unappreciated, forgotten, with the news of peers dying from Covid-19?
A new toolkit is being promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to help older people during the pandemic. Called Living with the Times, it contains five illustrated posters with key messages on how to maintain their wellbeing, while supporting those around them at the same time.
Poster four encourages older people to get help if they need it. It shows several colourful scenes with a person or group of people doing the following:
I know I wasn’t alone in the shelled-out, disorientated state. The trauma of Covid-19 was clearly seen after a year of coping and doing what was necessary to keep my head above water. I had many psychological and spiritual tools to my belt – from meditating to running to spending time with family – but my strength and resilience was dwindling day by day. I wondered how long I could keep it up. I wondered how long I could survive.
It was a time when I learned to love myself – that warm, expansive feeling in my chest that makes life meaningful.
I have just finished another eight-week programme, this time a Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) course with the Mindfulness Centre in Dublin. Based on the pioneering work of American psychologists Kristin Neff and Chris Gerber, it was a crash course of the heart that left me hungry for more. Each week we were presented with different meditative practices and workbook exercises that focused on the three factors of self-compassion: mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness. I offer you some of my learnings based on three stages of progress.
How tender is your heart when you hear of someone like Sarah who has recently tested positive for Covid-19? How much do you really listen? How much do you really care? I became aware of my own hard-heartedness some years ago at a 30-day silent retreat known as the Spiritual Exercises. I was invited, through much soul searching, to let go of what no longer served me and to embody a new way of being in the world. I invite you to listen to Sarah’s story from this more contemplative perspective and to see if it has any resonance with you.
“You need a strong back and a soft front.” – Tara Brach
I’ve been meditating for years, but I realise the outcome is not always warm and compassionate. I am sometimes like a person who is hitting his head with stones. My inner critic says, “Keep your back straight, put on a serious face, listen to your breathing, and be tough”.
Joe Biden’s birthplace of Scranton in Pennsylvania was the first spot I learned to cultivate the American ‘Can-Do’ attitude. Don’t my University of Scranton buddies know what I’m talking about? Even later illness as a volunteer and struggle with mental health could not shake it off. Here’s to the best of the USA!
What becomes obvious from Barack Obama’s latest best-selling book, A Promised Land, is that he wanted to tune into a bigger picture, something beyond his own ego and ambition. Over time, he aligned his own will with the will of the American people.
He learned to deeply listen to his constituents as well as to those from outside his reach. With his family and team behind him, he brought promise to those who believed in a humanity that is enhanced through a shared sense of pain and suffering.