In the 2000 movie Castaway, Tom Hanks plays the roll of Chuck Noland, a FedEx employee whose airplane crashes in the South Pacific. Chuck survives the crash and is washed up onto a small, uninhabited island. He remains there for four years, completely alone and isolated with no one to talk to other than a volleyball and nothing to do other than survival activities. Much of the movie portrays his response to his predicament. Mental illness clearly became a part of his experience.
Now it’s our turn to feel isolation, restriction, and fear of the unknown. While this won’t last four years, it’s a significant challenge. We’re worried about our finances and our health. Perhaps more important, we’re concerned for others near and far who are faring much worse than we are. Our hearts go to them, offering love and grace.
Yet, as an individual, have you faced a challenge like this before? Reflect back on a time in your life when a great unknown was directly ahead of you. This could have been a financial or health crisis of your own or that of a direct loved-one. We feel waves of uncontrolled anxiety because our survival is not clear. we can’t help it and we can’t get away from it.
I like how White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci frames the timeline for this virus. He says the timeline is up to the virus, not us. All we can do is mitigate our risk. When a tsunami hits there’s nothing you can do except get to high ground. There are times in life when we simply aren’t in control. This just happens to be one of them.
The question for us is, how will we respond to this situation that has presented itself. How will you as an individual person, deal with the isolation, fear, and worry? How did you deal with it in the past? If only we had something, a tool or a technique, that could help us through this time.
Perhaps we already have it. Our mind/body fitness practice, our yoga practice, provides us with an approach to wellness that serves us during these challenging times.
Our yoga practice helps us live more fully in the present moment through conscious breathing and movement. But this is no easy task. Our brains constantly seek distraction that sends our minds away from what’s happening now. When we practice experiencing the present moment, we go deeper within where peace and fulfillment reside.
When you watch your breathing and move your body with focused attention, nothing can harm you. Doing this is so peaceful. Each time you do so, you teach your mind not to over-react to what’s happening.
Maria Popova writes…
“The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is,” Kurt Vonnegut observed in discussing Hamlet during his influential lecture on the shapes of stories. “The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad,” Alan Watts wrote a generation earlier in his sobering case for learning not to think in terms of gain or loss. And yet most of us spend swaths of our days worrying about the prospect of events we judge to be negative, potential losses driven by what we perceive to be “bad news.” In the 1930s, one pastor itemized anxiety into five categories of worries, four of which imaginary and the fifth, “worries that have a real foundation,” occupying “possibly 8% of the total.”
Life is complex. We don’t truly know what the good is or what the bad is. All we have is this moment. Smile. Breathe. Feel joy. All is well.