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How best to recover from the pandemic?

The Corona Virus pandemic has lasted more than a year. The whole world is struggling with the resulting fear, uncertainty and confusion. Amidst all this, there were many valuable lessons and insights to gather, if we are calm enough to see, examine and absorb. 

In 2020 March, within a matter of weeks and days we had to adjust from being globe trotting individuals indulging in our desires for travel, to being locked down at home. Some countries including Sri Lanka were under curfew with people not being allowed to even go to the shops to pick up basic groceries. This carried on for months before supermarkets went online after the first lockdown here in Sri Lanka. So for many, the first lockdown not only resulted in not being able to go out and socialise, it also meant they did not get basic necessities such as food and medicine! Those of us in villages surrounded by nature were gifted bountifully with fresh fruits and vegetables from our gardens and nearby forests whilst city folk rationed their food and queued for hours to get into supermarkets when curfew breaks were given once every two or three weeks. Those of us with big gardens did not feel the effect of the lock down as harshly, as we can walk outside and stretch our legs and enjoy the company of wild animals at play completely unaware of the pandemic. It was a bold reminder of the importance of nature and what the world would be if we destroy what mother earth has graciously gifted us with. 

We also learnt the hard way that we cannot fully control our lives and our environment. For years we have been feeding ourselves with the illusion that we are in control. We got used to controlling every aspect of our lives, our relationships and our environment. The sheer volume of information and tools available, have made us masters at carefully crafting our homes, our food, our travel, our surrounding, who we associate, how we work, all to our own specific desires. Anything or anyone we did not like was removed from our vicinity. Yet we spent year 2020 being restricted to our homes against our wishes, unable to travel, having to wear masks (in some cases against individual beliefs or wishes), and unable to meet those we love. Some of us tried to exercise what little control we had over our lives whilst some tried to rebel against these new laws and requirements. However we chose to handle it, last year broke this illusion that we had come to believe in so strongly that we are in control. All this raises the question we must ponder on – Are we are truly in control? Or was it a made illusion that feeds the part of us that so desperately want to control our own lives? 

This pandemic also made some of us question our sense of freedom. Lockdown and rules imposed by governments around the world saw many citizens fighting against what they felt was a lack of their freedom. Some others escaped their homelands to the likes of Sri Lanka and Bali where life of tourists were more free. We as individuals have now come to thrive on our sense of freedom – freedom to choose how we live. We have come to detest being told what to do and any restriction on our choice feels unsettling, frustrating and sometimes leads to anger. 

If any lack or restriction on this so called ‘freedom’ causes us so much dis-ease, it is important to reassess whether in all this we are truly free. It points to an uncomfortable truth that perhaps we are not, and instead ‘trapped’ or ‘bound’ to this sense of being free – the sense of control. Ancient philosophies of Yoga and Buddhism taught us that anything that we yearn for, that we are attached to, or obsessed by or desire for does not set us free. Instead, it traps us and bounds us to a suffering that will come from the invariable change that object or experience will go through. 

This is a great time to reflect on the subtle and hard lessons that are hidden beneath. Time to reflect on what we have truly achieved as individuals and collectively as humans. In a so called developed world, our minds remain undeveloped and weak in its fundamental nature and thereby causing an exponential growth in mental illness around the world. Buddha identified even the more common states of mind such as stress, frustration, sadness, jealousy and anger as mental illness. A mind that is truly healthy will be filled with loving kindness, sympathetic joy and is unshakable by changes within or outside of us.

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