What Does Mindfulness Look Like in a Quarantine?
Yep, here we are—participants in a worldwide pandemic, with most of us experiencing some level of quarantine. Kind of intense, right? (#understatement)
The Good News
The good news is that we have our yoga practice: asanas to keep our body healthy, and meditation to support deep relaxation (of both body and mind) and connect us to the deepest levels of clarity—and the peace, joy, and safety of our indestructible essence.
So, let’s take a closer look now at how mindfulness—an important aspect of yoga practice—plays a role in a daily life characterized by the rules and recommendations and necessary awkwardness of quarantine. What does mindfulness look like in the time of a pandemic?
Let’s Start With What Mindfulness Is
As the word itself implies, mindfulness, most basically, is about keeping something in mind. It is a relaxed attentiveness to something that we have deemed to be relevant: our breath, for instance, or the flame of a candle, or the physical sensations in our body.
The word mindfulness is derived from Pali word sati—whose literal meaning is the ability to remember. Moment by moment, we remember to remain attentive to what we’ve decided to pay attention to, without becoming distracted.
If I’ve chosen to be mindful of my breathing, then I focus gently upon each inhalation and exhalation, and the spaces between: inhale-gap-exhale-gap-inhale, etc.
If my attention wanders into thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner (leftover pizza or Thai food?) then, upon noticing this distraction, I bring my attention gently back to the breath. That’s all.
With body and mind deeply relaxed (but without falling asleep), there’s just a steady attentiveness to the breath. I remain awake and aware of the cycles of my breathing. This is mindfulness of breathing.
Being Centered in Relationships
We all know about “social distancing” and related recommendations from our health experts to keep us as safe as possible. Let’s just assume we’re all on board with doing these things.
But maintaining a safe physical distance doesn’t mean we have to emotionally isolate from one another. Quite the opposite, in fact! It makes it even more important for us to keep our minds open and our hearts filled with kindness—and to actively extend this to friends and strangers alike.
So, another aspect of mindfulness in this COVID-19 environment is to do things like:
- Smiling at strangers, even as we maintain a respectful six feet of physical distance.
- Expanding our subtle body from the heart-center, to offer energetic hugs to friends and strangers alike.
- Sending “stealth” blessings to people we see passing us in cars or in the produce section of the grocery store. For instance: May you be safe or May you be healthy or May you be filled with comfort and joy. Have fun with it!
Our Thoughts & Feelings
In a way, being mindful of our actions—of how we behave—is the easy part. More challenging is to mindfully notice emotional energy and thought patterns.
Remember: it’s not about forcefully changing anything.
Instead, it’s about becoming more intimately aware of what’s happening now … and now … and now. It’s about clarity and equanimity and kindness—and the freedom that these qualities engender. For instance:
Mindfulness in the Grocery Store
Next time you’re in the grocery store, become mindfully aware of your thoughts and emotions: Is there a kind of fearful contraction? Paranoia? Suspicion? Panic? The impulse to emotionally isolate or hoard supplies?
If so, just notice, without judgment. And then, see if you can find—beneath the fear—kindness, compassion, tenderness, and a sense of “we’re all in this together.” Act from this place instead of taking more fear-based actions.
Mindfulness on Your Yoga Mat
Next time you’re on your yoga mat, become mindfully aware of emotional energy intermingled with physical sensation: Is there anger or frustration lodged in your jaw? Is there panic in the pit of your belly? Is grief or sadness making your chest feel tight?
If so, no problem—just notice, without judgment. The energy of your mindful awareness will act, over time, like a healing balm. There’s nothing you need to do, other than giving spacious attention to these feelings and their corresponding physical sensations.
Mindfulness While Watching (or not) the News
Have you considered that mindfulness in relation to watching the news may mean not watching the news?!
According to the teachings of Ayurveda, our health depends upon fully digesting not only our rice and broccoli—but also (and equally importantly) everything we see and hear. So being mindful includes moderating our intake of news, especially the kind of news that is likely to create feelings of fear or agitation.
So, it may be very wise to dial back your news viewing quite a bit. When you do watch—just to find out what you genuinely need to know—make it into another type of mindfulness practice.
As we become more mindful of how we are relating to ourselves and others, this energy of mindfulness will quite naturally shift things in the direction of increased health, harmony, and deepening levels of tenderness and loving-kindness.
For additional guidance in this regard, check out this guided meditation—which offers specific tools and friendly support for cultivating feelings of good-will toward yourself and others. Stay healthy and safe, everyone!