As the COVID-19 virus began to take hold across our world, our country and particularly in New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo has updated his constituents daily with facts and data given in a realistic, yet reassuring and calming way. On March 23, at the end of his update — with stay-at-home measures in place; mask wearing encouraged; work places, stores and schools closed; and the cases of COVID-19 rising at an alarming rate — Governor Cuomo stated: “Realize the time frame we’re expecting, make peace with it and find a way to help each other through this situation, because it is hard for everyone. And the goal for me—socially distanced, but spiritually connected. How do we achieve socially distanced, but spiritually connected?” Governor Cuomo never answered his own question but left it hanging for us to determine our own way of achieving that oxymoron of distanced yet connected.
Obviously, we get the part about being distanced — staying away from each other, in our own homes or 6 feet apart when near others for necessary reasons. Physically distanced for our own health and that of others.
Transcending all faith beliefs is the matter of spirituality. Most spiritual writers believe that spirituality is grounded in our personhood and gives fire to the perspective, meaning and purpose of our lives, while giving us comfort and peace. It connects us to a higher power and to one another, rooted in love, mercy and compassion. It gives value to who we are rather than what we do in life. Spirituality is the underpinning that holds us together in times of turmoil, change and trauma, like what we are experiencing now.
So, what are some ways we can stay spiritually connected to ourselves, God and others as we stand apart for this prolonged period of time? I came across a great article by a chaplain at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, Major Glen “JR” Harris, in which he listed some practical ideas for spiritual connection while in physical isolation: Write, read, converse, listen.
Write – Keep a gratitude journal and at the end of each day write down three to five things you are grateful for. These may be simple or amazing things, but they bring us to more patience, kindness, positivity and centeredness in our own lives.
Read – Inspirational books, poems, biographies, the Bible. Read things that touch your heart, make you think, move you to a deeper perspective in your own life. Fill your mind, heart and soul with “good stuff” to help weather the storm.
Converse – Commit to having good old fashioned conversations through FaceTime, Zoom or telephone. The human voice, laughter and a chance to interact and learn more about the other in a true conversation (listening and speaking) provide a deeper sense of connection and purpose in times of separation. Prayer is a conversation, between you and God. A time of meditation is a great way to check in on yourself.
Listen – Music is a wonderful way to become more centered and peaceful and uplifted. Set up a playlist that inspires and relaxes you or one that gets you going for the day. Play an instrument? Now is a good time to renew your skill for your personal enjoyment.
The reality of this COVID-19 pandemic, as difficult as it is, may be a call to step back and renew our personal, communal and global lives. Can we let the fire of our spirituality lead us so that our purpose, meaning, value and connection to God, others and our world are turned around right once again?
This article first appeared in the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas website and is by Sister Sheila Stevenson