I felt resistant to participating in social distancing.
I love people and have built my life and career around teaching others how to connect in meaningful ways. My livelihood is intricately tied to being with people and engaging them in ways that are close and personal. My teachings encourage face-to-face dialogue as the foundation of a rich and fulfilling life. Social distancing feels counterintuitive to who I am and the strong call of my vocation.
I know that part of my resistance to social distancing is sheer denial. I have not wanted to accept the serious nature of COVID-19 and the uncertainty of the days and weeks ahead. At times, it feels too much to bear.
And I'm aware that my denial is self-centered. I have found myself having these thoughts: “I am strong and healthy. I likely won’t contract this virus and if I do, my symptoms will be mild. I will survive it.”
Or, “It will never happen to me.”
A few days ago, I woke up.
Social distancing is not about me. It might be true that I am strong and healthy and that if I contract the virus, I would survive it. But what about my parents who live just a few doors away? They are strong and healthy but are part of an age group highly vulnerable to COVID-19. What about my nieces and nephews—so young and new to this life? Although there are few, if any reports about this virus attacking children, this could change.
As someone who works primarily in public settings and often with large groups, it is ethically irresponsible for me to be resistant to social distancing or to be in denial about the need to stay home.
We know that until very recently social distancing has been hard for so many of us to commit to and perhaps others felt as I did about it. However, something has indeed shifted within me just as it has shifted culturally. This shift is rooted in the realization that if we are to care for one another during this challenging and uncertain time, we need to stay away from each other.
Staying away from others may indeed be the most kind, loving, and compassionate thing I can do for those I love and for those with whom I walk this path called life.
And this includes: everyone.
I’ve been devoted to daily meditation for the last thirty years. I have learned that the core of meditation is awareness. This awareness is accompanied by acute experiences of clarity, focus, keenness, and a sharpness of mind. It is also accompanied by a softening, spacious, and expansive opening of the heart. Awareness, mental acuity, and an open heart create a trinity of sorts that offers us a strong foundation from which to navigate the complexities of life.
I can think of no better time for this “trinity”—awareness, acuity, and an open heart—to be the ground from which I stand and meet the uncertainties and fears of our current shared reality.
While walking my dog Stella a few days ago, I realized that social distancing is compassion in action. Choosing to maintain distance from others is presently the highest act of love and form of caring we can enact now. We must disconnect to maintain and perhaps even save our connections to others.
Each time I lament a training that has been canceled or a class that has been postponed, a coffee or dinner date that has been indefinitely put on hold, I breathe deep, connect to my heart and say: “This is compassion, Christine. What would love do in this moment? Love would stay away.”
Mindfulness practices teach us to accept and to navigate the impermanence of all beings, of all ways of life, of all joys and challenges. As such, I do know that this crisis, indeed, shall pass. In the meantime, the way that we each choose to meet what is before us really matters. I choose to practice social distancing without exception.
I invite you to do the same. Each time you lament doing so, place both hands over your heart. Take a deep breath and say: “Compassion…compassion in action. This is how I shall love now.”
Dr. Christine E. Kiesinger is Vice President of Development and Lead Trainer of Emotional Intelligence and Conscious Communication for studio BE.
Feature photo via Pixabay