The world feels like a scary place right now, even for those of us who get to stay at home. There’s so much uncertainty about what the future holds. And that uncertainty is incredibly uncomfortable at times.
When we try to process the discomfort that we’re feeling, we turn to many different things for relief. We all have our things. When we’re scared and we’re anxious, it’s natural to seek relief. Sometimes we just want to feel a bit less in touch with the stark reality of the moment. But sometimes while we grasp towards relief we can end up numbing out pretty hard.
We can only numb for so long though. And this pandemic is looking like it’s going to last for months, not weeks. This is going to affect us all for a while, and numbing isn’t a good long-term solution.
What we need for the long term is more than just relief. In order to be okay in the long-term, we have to move towards a sense of peace instead of just a sense of relief.
The problem with relief is that we need more and more to fuel our relief from the moment. We need to consume things for relief. Relief helps us push fear away. But it takes a lot of effort to keep pushing the fear away.
Peace is more sustainable in the long term. Peace is accepting the fear. Peace is being okay, despite the fear.
We can continue to seek relief from our fear by pushing it away, or we can try to find peace amidst our fear by accepting the fact that we’re feeling fear.
Peace is available to us in every moment. Peace is not something for rich people or monks or simpletons. Moving towards peace is always an option. Peace is one of those simple but not easy things.
We move towards peace by noticing when we seek relief. If we notice our impulse for relief, we can bring awareness to it. And in that tiny gap of time between noticing the impulse for relief and doing something to try to create relief, we can choose to try to move towards peace instead of relief.
On the most basic level, when we notice the impulse to seek relief through some kind of numbing or consuming, we can just sit there and try to notice what the impulse feels like, instead of acting on it right away. Sitting with that impulse might not sound very appealing, especially compared to doing the thing that we think will give us immediate relief. But noticing the gap between the impulse and our response is the first step to peace. The second step is to allow it to be okay that we’re feeling the impulse.
In order to move deeper into processing that impulse, without acting on it, we can turn towards a Buddhist meditation process called RAIN. It can be helpful to do a short guided meditation to help with this process. Tara Brach’s free RAIN meditations are my go-to for this.
Even if we don’t have the bandwidth to meditate, though, we can move towards peace, through even just a few seconds of increased awareness. It’s a step along the path to peace. Notice the impulse to seek relief and sit with that impulse for a second or two. Try to notice what the impulse to seek relief actually feels like.
The point is to create a gap between the impulse to seek relief, and the action of seeking relief. In that gap, we have the chance to choose a different response instead. And in that gap, we can find a moment of peace. Perhaps with time, and practice, our peace will grow.