Covid-19 Selfish or Selfless?
There have been many stories of selflessness and charitable acts during the pandemic, but philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy suggests that the dark side of lockdown is the “iron-clad egoism” that has also surfaced. A newfound focus upon ourselves, resulting in pictures being posted of what good times we are having or of the new dishes that we are cooking “when one-fourth of our planet is on the edge of starvation”.
At 71 years old, Levy is France’s greatest and most outspoken public intellectual, says Bryan Appleyard of The Sunday Times. Levy feels so strongly about our reaction to the pandemic that he has rushed out a short book ‘The Virus in the Age of Madness’. He writes of “world leaders so terrified by the threat of a corona Nuremberg that they deemed it more prudent to put the world on hold, caring little for the outbreaks of hunger, violence against the poor, and authoritarian takeovers that were sure to follow”.
Charities have found their resources sorely tested during the pandemic, as donations dried up almost overnight. They are reporting a projected loss of 48% to their voluntary income, according to the Institute of Fundraising. In April of this year, Sue Ryder – a charity that DRUVA and its clients regularly supports - launched a major public appeal, saying that without new funds it would have to close its hospices.
Our ability to shut out the rest of the world during lockdown has perhaps lessened our exposure and sensitivity towards world issues. Covid-19 has forced each of us to focus more on our selves, particularly on the physical self. Unsurprising at a time when the government is constantly exhorting us to monitor our physical symptoms. We have become self-absorbed, our ‘world view’ shrinking to encompass only those closest to us.
In Yoga terms we see this as a focus on Mooladhara, our base chakra – a focus on ‘hearth and home’. A basic instinct to protect what we have, and those we love. The challenge is to nurture this base, but also to continue to work toward the higher chakras – toward compassion, understanding, toward our purer self.
We often think of a ‘self-centred’ person as being motivated only by the selfish urge to protect what is theirs, often at a cost to others. However, by developing ‘self-centredness’ – a balance in mind, body, and spirit - we can become stronger people. And from that strength we are better positioned to venture out once more into the wider world.
As human beings, we are not naturally isolationist in our behavior. ‘Man is by nature a social animal’ states the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Re-surfacing into a changed world, we can consciously choose to also make it a better world, re-establishing our sense of both local and global community.
‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’
We can use Dru Yoga to support this personal work, this moving toward equilibrium in our lives.
Try these positive steps:
Continue with your physical Yoga practice, but switch your focus to the breath. By allowing your breath to be your guide, you will experience a deeper sense of all aspects of your body working together. The Dru Energy Block Release 2 (EBR2) is a particularly useful sequence as it includes a number of movements that combine the breath with a particular positive aspect of self. For example, the ‘Breath of Arjuna’ concentrates on bringing the strength of the warrior into your practice, while the ‘Anahata Breath’ focuses on the qualities of love and compassion, embracing the world.
Introduce Meditation into your daily practice. The ‘Loving Kindness’ meditation is a powerful practice that helps move awareness away from Self. The meditation takes you through the stages of sending love and compassion to those closest to you right through to those in the far reaches of the world. This is a powerful meditation with proven scientific benefits for the meditator, showing that with practice people can develop skills ‘that promote happiness and compassion’ (Davidson & Lutz, 2008)
Using Affirmations during your Yoga practice can concentrate the effects of a particular sentiment. For example, while practicing the ‘Anahata Breath’ during EBR2, try affirming “I receive love. I send love out into the world”. Speaking the words helps to anchor the feeling within, allowing you to express that sentiment in a powerful way.
Having strengthened your Yoga practice, it is now time to take it out into the world. Research has shown that by helping others we also help ourselves. Being altruistic makes us feel good about ourselves, making us happy.
A win-win. What’s not to love about that?
Further reading & Information:
Charity Fundraising https://www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk/guidance/coronavirus/round-up-coronavirus-impact-on-charities/, Sue Ryder Peterborough hospice https://www.sueryder.org/how-we-can-help/sue-ryder-thorpe-hall-hospice/support, NHS Covid-19 symptom check https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/symptoms/, Compassion Studies https://centerhealthyminds.org/news/study-shows-compassion-meditation-changes-the-brain, Davidson & Lutz 2008 https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0001897,
Acts of kindness https://www.dartmouth.edu/wellness/emotional/rakhealthfacts.pdf