Originally published in the Erie Times-News, April 4, 2020
The monotony of confinement behind the four walls of our homes is starkly contrasted against the terrifying news we read around the worldwide epidemic of COVID-19.
We are all experiencing a pair of human emotions, boredom and fear, that are rarely paired together. These are trying times for all of us, for so many reasons.
The wisdom of different spiritual traditions has carried their practitioners through all kinds of crises; disasters ranging from national to personal, and illnesses of the body, the mind and the soul. Here are a few suggestions from my own faith tradition that might help folks of any faith get through these difficult times a little easier.
In times of fear, it is a natural human reaction to put ourselves first over all else. The spiritual person resists this impulse and remembers that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Quarantining ourselves is an example of this principle – we avoid others in efforts to stop the spread and keep our neighbors alive. But we must also remember those around us in need – the elderly folks on our own block that might need help shopping or our local food bank that is seeing increased demand because of all the laid-off workers. The Jewish tradition demands of us to do acts of kindness – “Gemilut Hasadim” – and give monetary donations – “Tzedakah” – as basic components of our faith. We must put the needs of others on par with our own needs.
Make time for a spiritual practice
Take time away from the news on TV and from computer screens and take a moment to yourself, every day. Go someplace quiet – or just put on some headphones. Clear your mind. Just breathe, and think about your breath. Focus on a tree or an image out your window and hold that image. Take a phrase that is calming and uplifting – maybe the same one all week or all month, maybe a new one every day. and repeat it softly. Do this every day for 10 minutes. Make time and space to just be, and to be calm.
Call at least one person each day
Being alone in a crisis can be awfully scary. Now is the time to reach out to friends, acquaintances, and family members, if only to check in and say, “I’m thinking about you.”
We must all put forth more effort to care for ourselves and for others right now. We will get through this together, even if we are socially distanced.
Reflections is a column by religious leaders in the region. Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman is the spiritual leader serving Brith Sholom Congregation, 3207 State St.