Waiting is not something many of us are good at, and we don’t like uncertainty. Yet this is where we are, and it’s uncomfortable and monotonous. We can do little but wait - for lockdown to end, for testing for all, for a vaccine to be discovered and universally made available, and for the economy to get back on its feet. None of us knows how the chaos we find ourselves in will turn out, whether life will ever return to so-called ‘normal’, and what the long-term implications of a world turned upside down may be.
Life before coronavirus struck was for many of us busy, full of variety, and often noisy. Restless, with plenty of amusements and distractions, we were always on the move, going somewhere, meeting up with friends or family. For some it may have been more like a roller-coaster or merry-go-round, with no respite, and a feeling of exhaustion. Now, suddenly, all that has been stopped in its tracks - routines are disrupted, plans and dreams shattered, and hearts broken. There will be much grieving for all those who have lost their lives, and pain and suffering for those who have lost their livelihoods.
World-wide lockdown has forced us to stop and to wait. What else can we do when life seems to be on hold? We feel powerless and cannot have the certainty we crave. In spite of new and welcome distractions like Zoom, Houseparty, virtual tours of museums and art galleries, and quarantine concerts and choirs, much of the time we have to face ourselves alone, struggling with fear and confusion.
The French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote:
‘All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quiet in a room alone.’
When confronted with ourselves, the turbulence of our thoughts and emotions becomes more obvious. We can however choose to call a halt to the ceaseless chatter of the monkey-mind. When we stop and slow down and find a quiet place to sit, we can focus our attention on our breath, the one thing we can always count on as long as we’re alive. When we practise mindfulness of breathing, we find that our breath begins to slow, and we relax. We are aware of both the immense universe that we inhabit and the silence that prevails within. We catch a glimpse of the present moment and what it might mean to live in the ‘now’. In touch with ourselves, which is not possible when we’re distracted and anxious, we find a sense of tranquillity, and at the same time we know we’re not alone - we feel connected and united with others. We’re more able to feel empathy for our fellow human beings, as well as gratitude for what we have in our lives, especially this sense of connection with others. We know that we are not alone. In the stillness and silence of waiting and not knowing the outcome and the answers to our questions, we find that hope, trust, and love become realities.