Viewpoint: Mindfulness in the midst of COVID-19

As everyone grapples with the ever-evolving situations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with the anxiety created by such conditions is paramount for our own well-being. Realscreen reached out to producer ...
March 30, 2020

As everyone grapples with the ever-evolving situations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with the anxiety created by such conditions is paramount for our own well-being. Realscreen reached out to producer and long-time meditation practitioner Tim Duffy, co-founder of Ugly Brother Studios, for his thoughts on navigating our way through this time, through mindfulness.

My friends, we are immersed in a world filled with uncertainty, fear and anxiety. Messages of sickness and death are seeping into every aspect of our experience. Our minds are filled with repeating thoughts and questions.

Will I and my loved ones get sick? How will I pay my bills? Can my business survive? Will life ever be the same again?

As these unanswerable questions dominate our lives, how are we to live?

Step 1: Just Stop and Sit.
As a meditator, I know that I can’t live wisely if I’m filled with fear and anxiety. My first course of action is to just stop and sit. Try it with me:

Take a seat. Inhale deeply and slowly and then let it go completely. You deserve a safe space to take a break. That space and that time are right now. Now, let the breath breathe itself without you having to do a thing. Pay attention to what it feels like to breathe. There are short breaths and long breaths. There are shallow breaths and deep breaths. Every breath is different. Notice how each in-breath feels as it fills the lungs. Notice how the body relaxes with each out-breath. Just pay attention to the breath and give yourself a break.

Congratulations, you’re now a mindfulness meditator. If you’re like me, you’re going to need a tool to help you work with the uncertainty of what’s to come. Mindfulness is that tool.

Mindfulness is intentionally paying attention to what’s happening right now. When we pay attention to what we’re experiencing, we’re not lost in planning for the future or regretting the past – we’re alive to this moment. Mindfulness helps us see the beauty in a flower, the happiness in a baby’s smile and the joy of a freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie. It’s a tool that we can use to enrich our lives and deepen our connection to the present moment.

Here’s a huge bonus: mindfulness makes you calm. This calmness helps us respond wisely to whatever comes our way. Even fear.

Step 2: Watch Fear
Right now, in many of us, fear is present. Fear is not something to be embarrassed about or to struggle against. It’s a natural response that allows us to recognize and react to danger. But how do we work with it?

Just like we did a moment ago with the breath, we can watch how fear feels in the body and mind. For me, it arises as looping thoughts paired with tightness in my chest and shoulders and heaviness in my throat. There’s so much comfort in the realization that fear is nothing more than thoughts paired with bodily sensations. When I recognize this fact and I’m able to see fear as it is, a state of calm follows.

But just recognizing our breath and our fear is not enough. In order to truly relate to our world, we must widen the lens of mindfulness so we can see the beauty and the love through which all life flows… which brings us to Step 3.

Step 3: Feel The Love
Gratitude opens the heart and reminds us of the sacred connection that binds us all together. Right now, throughout the world, there are tens of thousands of human beings who are sacrificing their own safety in order to protect ours. The collective power of their love is a gift never before seen on this earth. Take a moment to feel gratitude and compassion for this gift. Give thanks for their presence on this earth.

Feel your body and mind let go of your own difficulties as you direct your attention towards these selfless people. Where do you feel this release? What does gratitude feel like? What does love feel like?

Now expand these feelings of love and gratitude to include all human beings. As you widen the circle, apply these feelings of love and gratitude towards yourself and your loved ones.

It’s been said that when we begin to heal the suffering within ourselves, we can help heal the suffering of the world. May these mindfulness meditations bring you comfort amidst the suffering and may we all heal together.

Tim Duffy is co-founder and an executive producer at Ugly Brother Studios, a multi-Emmy Award winning and James Beard Award nominated production company founded by twin brothers Mike and Tim Duffy.

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