• Jessica Richmond

Is the Corona Virus Making You Contract or Expand?

Updated: Mar 17, 2020

The corona virus is causing a big panic now, and for good reason. This deadly virus is spreading all over the world at a rapid clip. People are dying. Schools and work places are closing down. Flights are being cancelled. Self-quarantining is a commonplace term now. Public gatherings and events are being postponed or just outright dropped. Uncertainty abounds about what the future holds for us. We feel confined and constrained. Our thoughts, constricted. We wonder, just how long will this thing last? Do I have enough food? Toilet paper? Will I survive? What about my elderly parents? Grandparents? Siblings? Partner? Kids? How can I protect myself and my loved ones?

The corona virus has wreaked havoc worldwide, and from what I can see, it is just getting started. From everything we hear in the news, it is hard to remain calm. It is difficult not to feel anxious and worried. Our lives are changing now as we adjust to protect ourselves. And change is difficult, painful, and scary. We don’t like it. We withdraw and constrict to avoid change. But this change is unavoidable. We are forced to adjust, despite our desire for things to just go back to normal.

My question is this: does it really have to play out like this? What I mean is, do we have to react emotionally like we are? Do we have to be riddled with panic, fear, anxiety, and worry? What do these emotions do for us? How do they help us? How do they serve us? I don’t see any benefit coming from these emotions. Do you? I am not saying that we should be in denial, and act like nothing is happening. No, not at all. What I am saying is, what about if we use this situation as an opportunity to slow down and reflect? Reflecting is expansive. It makes us feel free and open. We have to keep our social distance now anyway, so what about we use it as a quiet time to introspect? However, it is difficult to do so when we are anxious. Anxiety blocks our thinking capacity. Worry and fear drive us to act in a reactionary way, on animal instinct. Fight or flight.

But beyond all that, all of those frantic emotions, lies peace inside of each and every one of us. We were all born with it. We were born with a peaceful state of mind. It is actually our natural state. And we can choose to go back to it at any moment. We don’t have to let our mind run wild. We can bring it back home to calm.

For example, here in Vrindavan, India, despite the corona virus taking its toll, life is going on as normal. People are calm, and peaceful, like any other day. Some are sick. Some are coughing. But no one is freaking out. Nobody is stockpiling food or hoarding. I don’t see any worry, fear, or panic. No constriction. Many Europeans who were visiting at the ashram where I am living have decided to stay longer in India. But it was a quiet, thoughtful decision. One woman from Italy's flight got cancelled so she cannot go home to care for her elderly mother with Alzheimer’s disease. However, I did not see her crying, fretting, or freaking out. Instead, she calmly arranged for the caregiver to stay on longer with her mother. It is not that she doesn’t love her mother, nor have concern for her health. In fact, she knows that she might not see her 92 year old mother ever again because she is at high risk of dying if she catches the virus. And Italy is the most infected country. My friend realized that there is nothing she can do about the situation. And so, she accepted it.

Interestingly, the same night that she realized that she cannot go home to care for her mother, a newborn puppy arrived in her life. The puppy got hit by a car. Someone had run over its back leg. It’s right back leg was completely limp. The puppy was crying loudly. My Italian friend scooped the baby puppy up into her arms and wrapped her in a blanket and took her to the vet. She got painkillers and has slowly been nursing the puppy back to health. The puppy is jet black in color, with a bright white patch on its belly, and all four paws have white tips. It looks like she dipped them in white paint. She is so cute and energetic. Although sometimes she forgets she has a broken leg. When she gets in a playful mood, she thrashes her head around, but then yelps loudly as every small move hurts her little leg. My friend is keeping the puppy in her room, pampering her, and nurturing her. She has been giving her a strong pain killer for the last 4 days, to help ease the pain so she can sleep at night. She sleeps wrapped in a hand-knitted pink and yellow pastel blanket made by my friend’s sweet Italian mother, an avid knitter.

We don’t know if this puppy will make it. Many puppies die here in Vrindavan each year. The local people think of dogs as rodents, no better than a rat. They don’t keep dogs as pets, so they are left to fend for themselves. But, my Italian friend has a big heart. She loves all beings and her nurturing nature overflows to her mother, the puppy, and any lucky person that comes across her path. In fact, this is not the first puppy love story I have witnessed. She has had many. Over the years that I have known her, I have seen her regularly taking in stray puppies. One time she even came to my room for a meeting and she had the baby puppy wrapped in a blanket in the winter time and I didn’t notice it. I thought she had the blanket wrapped around her hands to keep them warm. But after about 20 minutes I heard a puppy squeal, and she opened the blanket to reveal a chubby golden colored puppy, snuggled up against her. That puppy’s mom had died in childbirth, so my friend was doing her best to raise the puppy. The other puppies in the litter had been killed by dogs, so this puppy was the only one remaining out of the lot.

That is the interesting thing about love. It is not so picky about its object of love. My friend’s heart is so full of love, that when she is with her mother, she loves her and nurtures her. When she is apart from her mother, her love still flows. She told me one time, "We are all under the same sky, and we should respect and protect all beings in this wonderful creation."

When we remain in our heart, we are expanded. We don’t let our mind take over, and constrict us. Then there is no room for panic or fear or worry. We only can worry about that which we possess. We feel scared that we will lose something or someone, so we freak out. But in love there is no such thing as possession. We don’t worry about losing someone we love because they are not ours in the first place. We accept whatever is happening and we love whatever is there, in this moment. For in the moment, there is love, expansion. Constriction comes from worrying about the future, where there is no love. I am touched by the Indian culture and how gracefully they are dealing with the corona virus in the present moment. And by my Italian friend, who has embraced the culture so beautifully. These past few weeks with mounting chaos around the world, I have only witnessed peace and sweetness around me. I wonder what the world would be like if we could all take a step back, take a deep breath in, and just accept our situation? Instead of letting our crazy minds rule the show, making us contract, what would it be like for us to let our soft hearts just expand into the present moment and love what is right there in front of us? Be it a puppy or a mommy or our neighbor, or our very own self.

To contribute to my friend's efforts to care for the puppies and cows of Vrindavan:

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