If I were to sum up this moment in one word, it wouldn’t be “coronavirus” or “COVID-19.” It would be “anxiety.”
This wild and unprecedented pandemic is challenging every aspect of our lives and social structures. In times like this, I’m grateful for my background in meditation and mindfulness.
And I’m struggling.
I’m worried about my family, frazzled by this massive disruption, saddened by the bombardment of sickness and death, concerned about healthcare workers, bummed for my sister who’s having to cancel her wedding…I could go on and on.
For sure, certain things, like social distancing and proper hygiene, are within our control, but so many others are not. And, as I find myself laying awake at night feeling panicked, it’s becoming clear that I need to stop harping on things that are out of my hands.
I’m sure I’m not alone.
There are so many things to dislike and want to resist right now. But shedding some of that armor and truly allowing where we’re at—as rough and uncomfortable as it is—is a critical part of overcoming anxiety.
So, on that note, here’s a meditation that I hope can help:
The meditation is based on the premise that stress shows up in our bodies. It focuses on releasing that physical tension as a starting point for unwinding broader stress, too.
First, we pay attention to a few hotspots of bodily stress. Generally: around the top of your head, jaw, throat, shoulders, upper chest, low belly and hips.
The initial part of the practice involves moving attention through these various parts of the body, starting with the head. I find that tension tends to automatically soften as I turn my mental gaze to each zone. The idea is to experience a visceral release and openness in each area, then in the body overall.
After going through the body scan, it’s helpful to give your mind an anchor. Something to help hold your focus. I like to use the mantra “I release.”
Silently repeating these words reiterates the physical mission (to let go of body tension), and it’s a gentle reminder to continuously let go of thoughts and fears that arise at the same time. Instead of allowing panic to enter, escalate and take you out, the intention is to drop all musings, moment by moment.
After repeating the mantra, the final step is to release entirely. No mantra. No holding mentally; no holding physically. In this phase, let yourself feel as open as possible. Sure, you’ll have inclinations to tense up, but for these few moments, choose not to engage. In this part of the exercise, your entire concentration is on a mind and body experience of openness. This step may be peaceful, or it may be uncomfortable. Either way, spend some time completely allowing whatever is there for you.
I think it’s helpful to meditate when you can, and incorporate this broad principle when you feel anxiety acutely arise as well.
I pray that brighter days will come soon, and in the meantime, that we’ll continue to learn, grow, and see the light. It may take some effort. But we’re getting lots of practice.
Marci Izard Sharif is an author, yoga teacher, meditation facilitator and mother. In Feeling Matters, she writes about self-love, sharing self-care tools, stories and resources that center around knowing and being kind to yourself.
Renew Houston: Get the latest wellness news delivered to your inbox