Each day I attempt to understand more deeply the spiritual challenges found in the present isolation we are experiencing because of the Coronavirus pandemic. The sense of community integral to our human and religious experience is now often circumscribed physically by our living space and the neighborhoods in which we reside. Some of us are connected to others via technology which does open us up to the larger world, but still it lacks the intimacy of physical contact with those who are friends, relatives, or spiritual sojourners. Our seclusion can be a kind of spiritual retreat much like a monastic enclosure to discover interior resources that can enliven us when we emerge from this cell-like existence and become sensitized to the suffering that is occurring because of this virus.
The Coronavirus pandemic has taught us that all humanity is interconnected in a web of life that cannot be constricted or contained within the boundaries of nations, ethnicity, social class, or even religious beliefs. In our time of increased silence, we can take time for meditation on the nature of our own life trajectory, which often gets lost in the onward rush of daily events. Eastern methods of meditation that encourage mindfulness can become part of our daily life. Rituals can also help us to make sacred the rhythm of our day through prayer times and silent walks in which we open ourselves to the sounds and vistas of nature which our Native American ancestors found to be the source of immense spiritual nourishment.
We can take time to reflect on the relationships that have informed our life and we have allowed to lapse. This time of separation from others may help us to realize the connections that we want to rekindle. We can have time now to realize the incomplete nature of many parts of our life and imagine new ways to achieve wholeness through deeper connections with nature, with ourselves, with friends and family, and with the global human family. We can have diverse experiences of community with the ordinary people who come into our life such as the grocery store clerk, the postal worker who brings us our mail, the neighbor who contacts us about our well-being, or who assists us by shopping for our groceries. Each one of these interactions can enhance our sense of solidarity with everyone who is part of our human experience. We cannot take for granted anyone or anything because each human experience is a window onto the spiritual nature of the universe.
During the Coronavirus pandemic we have an opportunity to recreate ourselves to be vessels of Light in an age of seeming darkness. Almost all our world spiritual traditions have spoken about Illumination as an important aspect of spiritual experience The Illuminated or enlightened person transcends his or her own ego and personal interests to identify with those who are impoverished, marginalized, or cast out of their homeland because of war or ethnic cleansing. We learn to give of our time and resources to organizations that can reach out to others such as Food Banks, Homeless Shelters, or other social service organization needing our help and support. I see the long lines of automobiles lined up for miles on television waiting to receive a bag of grocery and it prompts me to donate to my own Local Food Bank. We can become sensitized to the suffering of humanity during this Coronavirus, open our hearts, and find ways to respond to the needs of others locally, nationally, or internationally. Each of us is a microcosm of the whole universe that exists within us, yet we are often are unaware all the dimensions of ourselves. We can take this time of separation from our outer world to explore an inner world that contains both the expanse of the stars, yet also the intimacy with our own childlike nature that makes us whole again.
Are there relationships in your life that have lapsed? Make a point to reach out to two people this week that you’d like to reconnect with.
What are three things you can do to spread a sense of interconnectedness and hope during this pandemic?
Doctor Gerald Grudzen teaches courses in Philosophy and World Religions for San Jose City College. He has authored or coauthored eight books in Philosophy and Religion. He received the Templeton Foundation award for his book on Spirituality and Science. He also serves as President of Global Ministries University which has developed an interfaith education program for Kenyan educators since 2012. His most recent book is Pope Francis: Conscience of the World.