The Covid-19 pandemic has wounded us and significantly changed the fundamental functioning of our lives. From healthcare workers to the general public, we all have been overwhelmed by the demon of the virus. We have lost our equanimity by getting overwhelmed with stress, worries, uncertainty and anxiety. Patients with their pre-existing psychological or physical illnesses have become vulnerable as their illnesses have either been exacerbated by extra anxiety or with the Covid-19 infection.
Moreover, people suffering from substance abuse disorder coped by bringing their addictions back into their lives. Many people have been affected due to lost touch with their loved ones. Children and teenagers lost contact with their friends and relatives because schools and colleges remain closed since the inception of the pandemic and no one has been allowed to go outside because of the lockdown. They have lost their support structure that was previously provided by their educational institutions.
Old people have become vulnerable with their gripping fears and anxieties regarding their old age and by the situation of the external world. But with this showdown of brimming anxieties, this suffering world is trying to fine-tune itself with a sense of community, kindness and compassion. We know suffering is omnipresent since the inception of humankind. The Covid-19 pandemic has flooded us with suffering but it has also allowed us to become conscious, self-reflective and inward-looking. Through the practice of meditation, this objective can be accomplished and refined.
Meditation and mindfulness are often used interchangeably but there is a difference. Meditation is referred to the formal practice of calming the mind. Mindfulness is the practice of being in a non-judgmental awareness in the present moment. Both aim at grounding the mind in the present moment, but through a different approach. Meditation comes as an umbrella term under Mindfulness, which is a broader concept.
Meditation has been practised for ages by people from different religions and cultures. As a result, the practice of meditation has evolved as it has been influenced by different religions and their cultures. There are different styles of meditation such as mindfulness meditation, spiritual meditation, focused meditation, movement meditation, transcendental meditation and loving-kindness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation techniques help its practitioner to become fully aware of the present moment with a non-judgmental attitude. The practitioner observes their internal world and sees what is arising and what is falling away. In this manner, the practitioner develops the capability to observe their internal world consisting of their thoughts and feelings. When the practice matures with time and the practitioner becomes capable of recognising their thoughts and feelings, they eventually learn to sit with them and accept them as they are without passing any judgment.
In this way, the practitioner cultivates “awareness without judgment”, which is the fundamental goal of meditation, especially mindfulness meditation. The basic techniques of mindfulness meditation are practised by sitting in a comfortable room and starting to focus on one’s breath. For a newbie, spending a few minutes in a day can be extremely beneficial for practice. Some studies have shown that people who practise mindfulness for a few months or are long-term meditators have significantly increased activity in the brain regions, including the prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex and hippocampus. The Amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fears, also starts showing decreased activity, which ultimately results in decreased anxiety and worry.
In today’s world, no one has to go up to the mountains to learn meditation because meditation apps are on the rise and freely available on the web. A massive number of meditation apps are available where you can mindfulness meditation. Some of these apps include Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer. People can learn to use these apps to support their meditation practice. Non-healthcare-based mindfulness centres are offering to teach meditation techniques at reasonable costs. There has been a large increase in the uptake of these classes by people from different cultural backgrounds.
The Covid-19 crisis has shown the world that change is being constant. By practising mindfulness meditation, we can help ourselves to effectively cope with this constant change. The crisis has presented unprecedented health challenges among every stratum of society, so meditation and mindfulness shall help us to confront these challenges with mindful, compassionate and self-loving behaviour. People can even enrol themselves in online sessions of MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) and MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) to learn mindfulness meditation and reap the benefits in their lives.
Survival skills should be taught and regularly practised to make them beneficial for patients under healthcare and also for the general public. We can bring peace to our lives through meditation and mindfulness, they shall help us to bring that light of awareness required to destroy the darkness of the Covid-19 epidemic, ultimately helping the people to survive and make this world a better place to live.