This past 15-20 days have been very bad from the COVID perspective in India. I was distressed with all the news of death and sickness all around. No matter who you heard speaking or who you talked to, there was but one news all around - how the healthcare system has failed. While governments play a role and should have controlled what happened, we all know that all governments worldwide have failed at it. There is no healthcare system in the world which is equipped to admit in 20% or even 10% of its population and give them all oxygen cylinders.
That apart, the fear was real. I was so distressed that I took a break from the work and that did not seem to make a lot of difference. I stopped listening to news but that did not help. All of social media - Twitter, Insta, Facebook - everything was full of the same news. I shut that down too. But the fear is still there because you know that people you know are no longer there. That you will never see that face again and the worse part - we are all nearly helpless.
The Zen Master
I remembered a story I had heard:
A wannabe monk walks to the home of a zen master. He is talks about what he wants and feels and how he has come to gain knowledge and wisdom from the master. The zen master is talking back to him and other disciples. All of a sudden earthquake strikes. The wooden house is trembling. All disciples run out. The wannabe monk runs out too. Earth still shaking, he (and others) look back and realise that the master is still inside. They feel like a fool, wanting to rescue him, still scared to go in. The wannabe rushes though, gets inside. However, by the time he reaches the house, which is partly collapsed, the earthquake is gone. Carefully stepping so as not to make any further damage to the wooden collapse, he reaches the master and sees he is deep in meditation. He waits for him to come back out of the zone.
The master opens his eyes in some time and the wannabe asks “Why didn’t you run? The house could have collapsed on you”.
The master replies - there is no guarantee anywhere in an earthquake. I might run out but the earth will still be trembling. Not this house, but another house might fall on my head. There is no escape from the earthquake. So I went to the one place where everything is always silent and stable. I went inside myself.
The Revenant’s Wife
I also remembered the quote from the movie “The Revenant”. It went like:
When there is a storm and you stand in front of a tree, if you look at its branches, you swear it will fall. But if you watch the trunk, you will see its stability.
Hugh Glass’ wife had said that to him.
So yes, I tried that. I sat silently, spine erect against my chair, taking deep slow breaths leaving the pattern to be determined by the body’s need to breathe than by any predetermined rate, trying to free my mind.
It worked. Not a whole lot, but even a little is fine because I can repeat that for more benefit.
If you are out there, getting distressed with bad news of any sort, maybe this will help.