These days it is vital to stay focused on the present. What is before you today is what is real. Beware of the “what if” and “could be” scenarios which can buzz mosquito-like around your consciousness. If you should let one land on you, it could temporarily infect you with fear and anxiety. And these are truly anxious times, with an invisible enemy potentially prepared to invade your body with a virus for which there is as yet no cure. Even if the odds of your survival and those of your loved ones are quite high, nevertheless, it will likely generate pain and suffering, and there will be tragic losses.
Most all of us undergo periods of anxiety. When you know what you are afraid, you experience fear. When you do not know just what you are afraid of, you experience anxiety. Anxiety is one of the most potent and seemingly debilitating of all emotions. Among the best definitions of anxiety: living in the gap between the now and the then; the experience of a lost child in a potentially hostile world; the vague foreboding that something terrible is about to happen (but you do not know what, when or from where).
I would add from my life that anxiety is the experience of groundlessness, of having lost the footing of what you had counted on to bear the weight of your being in the world. This is rather like an earthquake, only of heart and mind rather than body – although physical earthquakes can definitely generate instant terror and panic. Again from my life, anxiety is the dire dread of a future without God. And by “God” I mean the One greater than historical religions; I mean Love itself, vast as the universe.
So here is a surprisingly simple, proven way to overcome and inoculate yourself from anxiety. In a word, “trust.” If you have a belief in God, trust God. If not, risk trusting in Life itself, and that however you came to be, you will somehow continue to be. Either way ask yourself, how have you gotten by thus far? What good things has life shown you? For what can you give thanks today, in this very hour? Focus on these things. Stay in the light of the goodness you have seen and sensed, rather than sliding into the darkness of doubt and despair. You have the power to determine how to see your life.
These words of the Apostle Paul can work, regardless of your faith stance:
“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Good can come even from horrific events, whether war, famine or disease. Good has already shown its gently beautiful face through humanity responding to the virus, from medical staff seeking to save lives, even at real risk to their own, to volunteers delivering free food to hungry children, unable to go to school. The list goes on and on, and will continue to go on. In times like these, you witness the best that is in us (along with the worst).
Stay in the present, which has sufficient troubles of its own. And above all, trust. Trust that, as a wise woman once told me at a time of crisis, “Yes, this too, will pass.”