A Time for Collective Compassion

Surreal. That’s the word that keeps coming to mind for me.

It feels like the world has flipped upside-down, and we are all just trying to process it. The COVID-19 virus is impacting everyone across the globe.

And, depending on where you live, each of us is at a different stage of processing. We are seeing a multitude of reactions – and not just to the virus itself. We are also witnessing reactions to others’ reactions.

I have been thinking a lot about this over the past week and want to share my thoughts.

YOU vs REALITY

It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned it, and it won’t be the last. But, right now it’s the time for being honest about what we can control and what we can’t.

In my post, What Happens When You Stop Fighting Reality, I explained how we create suffering when we fight against reality. Having learned this from Byron Katie, I try to notice when I’m arguing with things outside my control.

I used the example of traffic or the weather – two things we often wish were different. A global health crisis is the same.

It’s happening.

And, a negative reaction to the pandemic doesn’t change that. Instead, it creates suffering for you.

So what you can do is focus on the things you can control. And, let go of the things outside your control. In other words, “Okay, it’s happening. What can I do?”

EMBRACE COMPASSION

Earlier I mentioned reacting to people’s reactions. And, no surprise here, other people’s reactions are also outside our control.

It is so easy to think of all the ways people’s reactions should be different. Or how government responses should be different.

Honestly, I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard myself say, “I can’t believe they…” as I read the news. It’s easy to do. And, it’s a normal reaction.

But a normal reaction doesn’t mean it’s a helpful reaction.

So when you catch yourself reacting, here’s what I’d encourage you to consider instead.

COMPASSION FOR OTHERS

The only mind you have access to is your own. This means you can never really know another person’s experience. You cannot know what it’s like to be that person.

So this also means you can’t presume to know how a person should feel in the midst of a global health crisis.

You might have some strong opinions about how people should react, but that’s all they are – your opinions.

Instead of judging the actions and reactions of others, try embracing compassion instead. Whether you actually believe everyone is doing the best they can or not, let’s try to suspend any criticism we might have.

When you let go and instead focus on what’s within your control, you will feel lighter.

This is not to say you can’t take steps to inform or educate others. You absolutely can use your voice to help influence others towards a productive response during this crisis. But you can’t control what people do with that information.

COMPASSION FOR YOURSELF

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been critical of my choices over the past week. I question whether I have been part of the problem. Maybe not doing enough fast enough.

But when I notice these judgements arising, I remind myself that I, too, am trying to process what’s happening in the world. And, this situation is unprecedented.

So I’m trying to show myself grace. With each day, I learn more about what helps and what doesn’t. As I know better, I’m working to do better.

And I encourage you to do the same. Recognize there is no one way to respond, and, please, be kind to yourself.

I believe it is the time for collective compassion. Embracing kindness and grace instead of judgement and anger.

It takes intention and awareness on our parts, but it’s worth the effort.