Ep. 1 Transcription "Coping with COVID-19"
Hi. Welcome to the first edition of the Get off your Affirmation podcast. I'm Leona Evans, and I'm here with my son and co-host Matthew J. Evans. Matthew: It's great to be here and great to be recording this podcast with you. Leona: I know I'm really excited, So let's get started. Get Off Your Affirmation is a call to action. Each week we will challenge you to take an in-depth look at your old habits and beliefs, and find out whether they're helping you or blocking you from achieving your highest goals. We will also provide loving support and innovative tools to guide you toward greater levels of creative fulfillment, self acceptance and inner peace. Since the coronavirus has recently been identified as a global pandemic, we wanted to connect with you about this really important topic, and look at some ways we can use our inner strengths and wisdom to deal with these issues as effectively as possible. Matthew: There is a lot of anxiety out there, a lot of fear and a lot of change in people's lives. Our lives have certainly changed a lot. My life as a student at CSU Long Beach has changed drastically. The campus is effectively closed. We're switching to online classes, and as a music major so much of our curriculum is performance based. Now, all of that is being suspended, including our performances and gigs. We've been facing big changes at Unity of San Luis Obispo as well. Leona: Yes, I've been minister at Unity of San Luis Obispo for more than 26 years. And for the first time ever, we're being asked to close our doors due to the recommended guidelines of the state of California, and to stay at home as much as possible. So we will be doing a Facebook live-stream of our Sunday morning services, from another location. We will actually be broadcasting out of our dining room, and this could represent some financial challenges for us as well as well as logistical ones. But you know what? We're going to make the best of it and we're gonna be okay. Matthew: Yeah, we're gonna be there doing the live-stream, singing the music, and you'll be giving the talk. I really think it's going be a powerful way to help maintain our sense of community through all this. Leona: Now, we don't know a great deal about the particulars of this pandemic, but we know this, it’s an international crisis involving great anxiety and great fear of the unknown. And right now, as we record this podcast businesses are shutting down.
Matthew: Everyone I see is taking this pandemic seriously. Leona: Well, I appreciate that, and I agree that we need to take it seriously and behave responsibly to inhibit the spread of this virus. However, what we want to address today is panic and depression, and all of the feelings that can come up when we're faced with a crisis we were totally unprepared for. Matthew: It's really hard to be faced with something of this magnitude and and not know what to do about it. Leona: We're actually being called to change the way we live our lives, to distance ourselves from one another, to be careful of what we touch, to take nothing for granted, and to use extreme caution in everything we do. Every day we hear news of more people dying. Every day we hear politicians being contentious with one another. Now, unless we access a higher level of our inner strength and power, we risk becoming overwhelmed and not being able to function at all. And so right now I respectfully challenge everyone within the sound of my voice, to Get Off Your Affirmation and choose to call forth the overcoming power within you! Once again, I respectfully challenge each of you to Get Off Your Affirmation and choose to call forth overcoming power within you!
Now let's talk about four key ideas to help us access and strengthen our inner power. They are:
Cultivate a Solid Support System
Practice the Art of Acceptance
Generate Peace through Spiritual Practices.
Now, at first these ideas might sound simple or even obvious. But as we listen to the rest of this podcast, most of us will find that up until now, we've only tapped the surface of these life-altering concepts. So let's begin with the first step: Cultivate a solid support system. This is truly an underrated practice because most of us feel we have to be independent and handle things on our own. Now, in many ways we are, and in many ways we can. But it becomes obvious as we look back on our experiences that there are times in life where we need one another, not out of dependence, but what is called interdependence. It's a realization that there are times when needing one another is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and emotional maturity. It's part of our growing realization that were all part of this wonderful human family, and that we are stronger together than we are on our own. So if you're struggling with the belief that you should do everything on your own, or that you don't want to bother anybody, or that you're embarrassed to admit your vulnerabilities, please do everything you can to let that go of that misperception. Matthew: It can seem hard to be interdependent, though, when we're in a state of quarantine or lock down and not really able to get together socially. But there are many examples around the world of people creating interdependence even from their bedroom windows. We can see the videos from Italy and Spain of people reaching out to one another by singing songs of hope, banging on pots, and creating all kinds of joyful noise together. Then in Barcelona, Spain, at eight o'clock every evening, people lean out their windows and thank the doctors, nurses and first responders for their sacrifices and tireless work for humanity. Many other countries are following suit as well. Leona: This is so beautiful to witness, and it strikes us at a core level of our being. It fills us with a sense of wonder at the beauty of life itself and the inventiveness and originality of the human spirit to be able to find ways to come together in love, even when there are extreme limitations. Matthew: What an era we live in with all the video conferencing available to us, we can have that sense of interdependence with anyone around the world, not just people in our immediate environment. Leona: Yes, and we need to keep in mind that being successfully interdependent requires a healthy balance between our ability to give and our ability to receive. Most adults are much more comfortable when we're giving instead of receiving. We are willing to support others when they come to us and ask for help, and we are often generous with our time and resources. But when we are in need, we often feel reluctant to reach out. Our memories of being rejected by others are triggered and suddenly all we can think of is people turning away from us, telling us we're too needy, exposing us for not being strong enough or powerful enough to do things on our own. So we walk around looking and sounding very independent and very in control of things. Remember, the ego is frightened of losing control, and so we perpetuate the belief that other people need help, but we don't. Other people need to unburden themselves, but we’re strong, we can handle things and shouldn’t have to ask for help from anybody. Matthew: What a difficult place to be in, feeling so locked up inside, wanting to ask for help, but being afraid of appearing needy. Leona: Now, I'm not suggesting that we take a pendulum swing and start sharing our deepest secrets with everyone we see. But I am saying that there are great advantages to being interdependent, and realizing that we can be both givers and receivers. We lift ourselves from that ego centered facade of invulnerability, and we become wonderfully and beautifully human.
Matthew: That's been a challenge for me as someone who is more introverted. I'm not prone to talking about my feelings, and I have a tendency to fall into some of those traps of being more ego centered and feeling that I just want to take care of myself. Leona: Yes, I think most of us are dealing with those issues on one level or another. But the really important thing about having a support system and being a support system is that we’re developing community, we’re developing authentic relationships. We're feeling free to be who we really are and to realize that who we really are is enough. And so the first key to self care is to cultivate a solid support system. In this way, we develop our ability to give and receive while connecting authentically and lovingly with others.
The second key to self care is to practice the art of acceptance. Now, true acceptance is an act of nonresistance. It is beyond approval or disapproval. It's a practice that allows us to come to terms with what is, rather than trying to fight or deny our present reality. And when we come to see how important acceptance is for our well being, we realize that so much of our stress and anxiety comes from fear and denial. We don’t know who to trust to tell us about the corona virus. How lethal is it? How long is it going to last? When are we going back to work? We don't know any of those things, and it causes us anxiety. And so we fixate on an object of much less importance, like toilet paper, something we can control. And we feel we can alleviate some of this anxiety if we get enough toilet paper. But no matter how many rolls of toilet paper we accumulate, we're still anxious. We still don't know what we don't know, and we're not okay with it. Matthew: And that's when we start to see all the panic buying and all these conspiracy theories going around on social media and people really, really getting upset. Leona: Oh yes, we lose our sense of perspective. We believe that we're either totally in control of everything and need to get all the toilet paper there is, or we worry that everything is beyond our control and there's nothing we can do about it. It's a really difficult place to be.
True acceptance is a spiritual act of nonresistance that goes beyond altering the facts, exaggerating the facts, or pretending they don't exist. Acceptance allows us to see reality as it is at any given moment. It doesn't make dire predictions about the future or try to minimize the current situation. So, right now, we need to accept the reality that we don't know much about this pandemic, except that we need to stay inside and stay safe. Coming to terms with these facts gives us the opportunity to focus on what we really need to be doing that will help create some sort of order for ourselves and our families. Matthew: Accepting the facts of the situation, doing everything within our power to keep ourselves as safe and healthy as possible, and avoiding the pitfalls of control fallacies. Leona: Yes, and we need to remember that acceptance is not the same as apathy. It doesn't mean that just because we are experiencing crisis, that there's nothing we can do about it. Acceptance is a reality check that empowers us to do what we can and not waste precious time in anxiety and depression about what we can't do. It also helps us understand why we feel stress and fear without judging ourselves or others too harshly. When we admit that we don't know how long we're going to be sequestered as a result of the coronavirus, we can let go of the physical anxiety that has taken over us because our imagination has gone out of control. Acceptance provides us with a way out of desperation, a way out of confusion, a way out of apathy. Acceptance leads to a state of mind where we can actually think rationally and figure out how to help ourselves and those around us, without catastrophizing and becoming overwhelmed with worst case scenarios. We can brainstorm with one another and and make plans and think of solutions that we never would have thought of when we were too busy living in fear and denial. Acceptance moves us forward from the level of the problem to the level of the solution. This doesn't take away the problem, but it does put it in perspective. And so when you find yourself off balance, frightened, angry, or anxious, accept the fact that you're in a negative space and make an effort to get back to center. Take a moment to get off the anxiety train and put yourself back in reality. Accept who you are, where you are, and what is yours to do.
We're working today with keys to self care. Our first step is Cultivate a Solid Support System. The second step is Practice the Art of Acceptance. The third step that will discuss right now is Express Gratitude. The fact is gratitude is highly underrated. Most of us think gratitude is a response to a kindness. Someone does us a favor and we say, “Thank you,” we express appreciation. But the gratitude I'm talking about now and inviting us to experience is much more than a polite response to the actions of another. Gratitude is a spiritual power. It's not just a response to the action of someone else. Gratitude is a catalyst. It is our ability to recognize and acknowledge the spirituality in everyone and everything. Most of us only feel that kind of gratitude during special times in our lives, especially during a crisis. As we've said before, so many of us have stepped forward recently to help one another and express love and concern, not only for what people are doing, but for life itself. It’s as though the crisis, itself, shocks us from our small, ego-centered world and awakens us to life as it really is. I remember some critical times in my life. The New York City blackout in the 1960’s, the New York Public Transportation Strike, a monsoon that I survived in the Philippines. All of those deeply challenging times made even more extraordinary by the love and the selflessness of the human spirit. Matthew: Gratitude is so important, and I've noticed a lot more gratitude lately. I've seen a lot of videos and posts online with people thanking doctors and nurses and first responders, and it's been so inspiring to see so many expressions of gratitude. I feel really inspired to keep it going in my own life. Leona: Now I'm not saying everyone will respond from the highest level of awareness. There will always be some in our world who will take advantage of the discomfort of others, and I acknowledge that. But I believe that most of us will respond in love. Matthew: Yeah, I agree. History shows that in these times of crisis there have been many who tried to oppress others or make a profit. But today there are literally hundreds of thousands of examples all around the world of people responding to one another with love and gratitude. Leona: But what happens when the crisis is over? Sadly, we begin to fall asleep again. Our gratitude for life is replaced by our daily complaints and criticisms of ourselves. Our world becomes smaller, and slowly but surely, our gratitude is replaced by dissatisfaction and we fall asleep again. Matthew: It does seem to be a pattern. I can think of so many times around the world when we've had crises that really bring people together. But then afterward, things always go back to what we call “normal.” We go back to the same complaints, the same sort of self-centered thinking, the culture of violence that caused us problems in the first place Leona: Yes! And the word normal in this case doesn't mean healthy. The word normal means the norm, what is acceptable to most people. Unfortunately, most people are asleep, unaware that there is so much more to us than we're currently experiencing, unaware of the transformative power of love and gratitude. So this time after the coronavirus crisis passes, we need to focus on staying awake. And one of the best ways to do that is to practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude is like any other train of thought. When we get on it, it might start slowly, but the more we are grateful, the more we have to be grateful for Matthew: Right. But sometimes it can be hard to get that train of thought started Leona: Exactly. One of the biggest reasons for that is because we're not in the habit of generating gratitude. And so when someone says, What are you grateful for? It almost takes us by surprise. It's not that we have nothing to be grateful for. It's just that we're not used to generating that thought process for ourselves. We’re much more used to criticizing ourselves and finding fault with ourselves than we are with generating this idea of gratitude. It's all about perspective. Even in the most challenging times we can find something that we can be grateful for. Matthew: There is so much to be grateful for, even in this coronavirus. We talked before about the selfless work of our first responders. But there are other things that I didn't even hear about until very recently. Pollution levels are down, air quality is improving, rivers are clearing up that haven't been clear for years because people aren't driving or flying as much. So there is less pollution in the air and in the water. Even if it's only a temporary thing, maybe it's something that we can see and be grateful for now and try to preserve more in the future when we go back to regular life. Leona: And I'm grateful because once we're able to see the difference between what happens when we pollute the air and when we don't, it can give us tremendous incentive to do more to protect our planet and keep the air cleaner.
Now I'm not suggesting by any means that we should be grateful for the coronavirus. That would be quite insensitive to those who have been ill and to those who have lost their lives. I do think, however, that we need to take responsibility for finding something of value in our experience and feeling gratitude for the opportunity to grow from it. When people say,”Look for the good,” that's always a bit confusing because we don't want people to think we're grateful for the pandemic, itself. What we are grateful for is our inherent ability to find something of value in our experience which can help to increase our compassion and empathy for ourselves and one another. Matthew: Finding value is another form of gratitude. Leona: Yes, it is. So our goal is to practice gratitude every day to create balance in our lives, to keep from permitting the negative to take center stage, to become more aware of the beauty and love around us without taking it for granted. I invite you to keep a gratitude journal and write in it at least three times a day. Soon gratitude becomes a habit and our stress levels respond accordingly. The more we practice gratitude, the more we find to be grateful for.
Now let's move on to our fourth and final key to self-care which is to generate peace through spiritual practices. Matthew: So by spiritually practices, we're not just talking about religious traditions, but any practice that will lead us to an experience of inner peace Leona: Right! Now the term “spiritual practice” does not imply that we need to learn how to be spiritual. We already are spiritual beings, created by the Universal, Omnipresent Spirit of Life, Love and Wisdom. What we're talking about here is cultivating our relaxation responses by stepping away from our normal routines and taking time each day to breathe deeply, relax in mind and body, focus on that which connects us to nature and the universe itself, and allow healing to take place as we release stress and tension. Again, these practices won't make us more spiritual because we are already spiritual beings. Instead, these practices will awaken us to the reality of our spiritual nature and allow us to become more fully human, more fully ourselves and better able to take an active part in the richness of life. Matthew: Recently when my school closed, we were all sent home, all of our rehearsals were canceled, and everything was shut down. It really put my friends and me in a big funk. I sat on the couch for several days and was feeling kind of lost and not motivated to practice. But, I woke up one morning and was determined to get myself out of this mood. I had established a routine at school of practicing outside because we have a beautiful campus, and I love to stand outside and resonate with nature. It's lovely, and I was determined to recreate that environment at home. So I got up early in the morning, got my warm clothes on, stood on the front porch and played my bass for several hours. It was so comforting to recreate that feeling of being at school and being in that comfortable routine. Then after I practiced and felt like I had expressed all the music that was bottled up inside me, I went into the house and ran on the treadmill. It was a really good workout. I felt this great release of tension both through the artistic expression of playing music and the physical activity of exercising. It was relaxing and rejuvenating. Leona:
This is the reason I'm not going to be specific about which spiritual practices work the best. It is a process of experimentation to find what our system needs to attain relaxation and inner peace. It is not the same for everyone, but the internet is filled with all kinds of stress-reducing techniques. We need to keep searching until we find the ones that work for us. Matthew: This reminds me of a project by the famous cellist Yo Yo Ma called “hashtag songs of comfort.” He's encouraging musicians from around the world to upload videos of themselves playing uplifting or inspiring songs to help people nurture themselves and feel a sense of comfort in these troubling times. Since musicians don't have a venue to perform in right now due to the coronavirus, it can be really discouraging for an artist not to be able to share their work and feel an audience responding. So it is wonderful to have this digital venue to connect with other musicians and to find new and different ways to express our art form. Leona: You're doing that right now with a wonderful new project that should be finished by the end of the week.
Matthew: I'm really looking forward to it. It's putting me out of my comfort zone, playing multiple instruments that are not just bass and voice, but expanding into guitar and piano. It's been challenging, but also rewarding and gratifying. I am very grateful to Yo Yo Ma for coming up with this great project that will have a positive impact on so many people. Leona: Let me share once again the Keys to Self Care.
Cultivate a solid support system
Practice the art of acceptance
Generate peace through spiritual practices
Remember, these ideas are only powerful when put into practice. So once again, I respectfully challenge you to Get off your Affirmation and choose to call forth the overcoming power within you.
Friends, although we're deeply saddened by those who have been affected by this coronavirus, we continue to extend our love and prayers for brighter days ahead. We can overcome this and we will. In the meantime, stay home and stay safe. Thanks so much for listening. Your support means a great deal to us.
Matthew: Please get in touch with us. We're looking forward to building the Get Off Your Affirmation community. We're on Facebook, please get in touch with us there. We look forward to hearing from you