COVID-19 Disciplines as Spiritual Practice

The COVID-19 situation calls for both active and passive roles. For most of us, our role is passive. It is important that we abstain from doing certain things, like encroaching on another’s six-foot safety zone. Even further is following stay-at-home orders. We also have had to master the discipline of control of what we touch with our hands and the practice of effective hand cleansing. This is what love of neighbor and love of self look like right now. Since these are difficult disciplines, we can be tempted to just want to get through them so our lives can return to normal. But what if we could emerge transformed instead of just returning to normal?

Approaching these practices as a moral and spiritual disciplines can help. In many spiritual practices, abstaining from one thing opens other doors. Silent retreats help us focus on the non-verbal. Custody of the eyes, also used in spiritual retreats, helps increase singular focus on what is most important. As a spiritual practice, staying in place is akin to cloistering. By putting a container around our lives, new things can grow that wouldn’t otherwise.

I have been on a couple of retreats where we had extended periods of staying in place as a solo practice. I found myself engaging more in the few things around me and experienced that the few became many. I was also better able to notice and value what was happening inside me. It is sort of like the spiritual discipline of savoring, where we slow down to explore what we eat and engage it more fully. Often my mind goes to the life that was lost on my behalf, where the food came from and the people who tended to it and made it available to me.

Whether our homes contain a little or a lot, there is rich opportunity to marvel and savor. Trees were cut down for my benefit so I could enjoy the beauty of their grain. I benefit from human curiosity, discovery and ingenuity with the amazing inventions available to me. How did someone figure that out, I wonder? What about ceramics and glass – humans finding ways to create what they saw volcanoes create. Metal working, wood working, art, music, cooking and baking, were all originally recognized as awesome, magical processes – alchemy.

If we share our space with other humans, like partners, spouses and children, that is also rich and complex. So too, with our inner lives – the deeper awareness that is more possible with the container of restricted movement.

I could go on and on about the richness that comes with staying in place and maintaining the six-foot safety zone, and so could you. May we do just that with this opportunity. It promises to increase our admiration, respect and gratitude for God, neighbor and self.