Educated people and those who have been brought up on the internet are challenging expert advice. They think that they know everything. Even though they may know a little bit about many things through the internet, they still do not have the knowledge and wisdom gained by the experts through their in-depth study, reflection and practice.
People often forget the old sayings: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” or “the more you know, the more you know how little you know.” Americans in particular are brought up to believe in their radical freedom or “leave me alone” mind-set. I know as much or more than anyone else because I can read and write and get information from the internet. Therefore, I do not have to rely on the experts. I even know more than the experts.
This might lead to some major problems. For example: Experts and policy makers are two different kinds of people. Experts advise, whereas policy makers listen to this advice and take their own decisions affecting many people. Experts have no power except that of advising, whereas the policy makers might take wise decisions or politically motivated ones depending on their own priorities.
However, a number of people who use Facebook might utilize it as their major source of information. Since they learn about the COVID-19 virus and this pandemic from other people like them, they take their decisions on that basis. Nevertheless, the country in which we live to enjoy its comforts of electricity, gas, water, clean air, food and other amenities is also the one with whom we have signed an un-written social contract. In keeping with this alliance, we are committed to doing our part and society will do its part. We are a team that works together to achieve victory in the game of life. If 30% of the members of any team say that they would not go along with the other 70%, of the players, the end result might be a humiliating defeat for the entire team and its supporters. This pandemic might be our testing ground! Are we going to beat this opponent or is it going to defeat us. The choice is ours!
At present, our society, the world and each of us are facing the challenge of COVID-19. This pandemic is a test of whether we can follow our social contract. Since we belong to one humanity, we can beat this menace together. As human beings, we have survived through millenniums of adversity. We can also beat this calamity if we leave selfishness aside.
We should think about our children and grandchildren, whose future is being decided upon today by our actions. Do we want to leave the world safe for our offspring and, if so, how could we accomplish it? That is a big question. Can we bracket off our selfishness and think about the future of humanity during this pandemic? Are most of us going to be vaccinated to save our children and grandchildren? Our destiny and that of our offspring is in our own hands. Are we bold enough to take that difficult decision? Are we ready to confront this situation head-on? Once again, the choice is ours!
Most of us who try to digest bits and pieces of this enormous information feel stressed out. When this problem becomes unbearable, we rush to adopt some technique to lessen this mental anguish. During these uncertain times, we try to figure out the correct way to wade through this un-charted territory of information. We search for a tool to help us become one-pointed. We might explore various techniques.
One of them available to us is that of mindfulness meditation. Philosophers call it reflective thinking, whereas religions name it as prayer.
Driven by our intellectual or religious inclination, we might adopt one or the other which is convenient to offer solace during this difficult time. At present, to reduce this stress people might opt for the practice of yoga and meditation. When we are desperate, we are ready to seek the advice of the philosophers or religious people.
Whatever one does, hopefully it will lead to the easing of tension we are undergoing. We might be willing to take our chance. During a conversation between Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, they offered a distinction between prayer and meditation that might be useful here: “Through prayer, you can talk to God to provide help to get through difficult time, however, through meditation God talks to you so that you can help yourself and others.” The choice is yours!
Caution: The exercise below is a suggestion only. If done on a regular basis, it might help.
Sit in an easy posture on a mat or in a chair. Keep you back, neck and head straight up. Close your eyes. Breathe in and out for two minutes. Observe the flow of breathing. It will feel good.
Now, when you breathe in, think about love. When you breathe out, think about compassion. If other ideas come through your mind, recognize them and then go back to breathing in love and breathing out compassion.
Do this exercise for five minutes and then stop. Enjoy the relaxed feeling.
This exercise can also be done in bed before you fall asleep or when you get up in the morning.
Dr. Ashok Kumar Malhotra has been a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. He is Emeritus SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor and founder of the Yoga and Meditation Society at SUNY Oneonta. His 20 videos on “Ashok K Malhotra Yoga Institute Interviews” are available on YouTube and his books through www.amazon.com and Kindle. Malhotra donates all royalties from books to the Ninash Foundation (www.ninash.org), a charity that builds schools for underprivileged female and minority children of India.