As I sat at my writing window observing the community dynamics of the variety of birds in the backyard on a chilly spring Saturday morning, there was much to learn. The blackbirds take their positions on the fence and the cattails. The robins take position in the thrush and the grass. The hawks have their nest at the highest point in a nook among the trees. The chickadees sing in the pine trees along the fence line. So much diversity, and yet they have figured out how to mostly live in harmony as a community. They seem to live in a manner where all of them can make nests, grow families, and thrive for the season. On more than one occasion, I have even seen blackbirds sounding the alarm and escorting the hawks back into their nests when they get too close for comfort.
The community in my backyard reminds me of one of my grandmother’s favorite expression, with which she would end every prayer session… sarve bhavantU sukhinAH – it simply means, may we act in a way so as to spread peace and prosperity to all. On the face of it, this seems like a fairly easy way for us to live our lives. However, when faced with tough choices which negatively impact our lifestyle, our livelihood or the health of our immediate family, we may tend towards making decisions which may negatively impact our communities.
She was so looking forward to this weekend, to playing back to back volleyball tournaments on Saturday and Sunday. She loves the sport, her team, her coaches and everything about the community that surrounds it. On Wednesday, her coach texted that the tournaments may be cancelled because the venue (a local community college) was being shut down. The initial disappointment was quickly reversed as a following text said that they would be allowed to play (as they are not a college team). Confusion led to uncertainty and some anxiety. However, on Thursday, the state’s Governor gave clarity by banning all gatherings of a hundred of all more people. Game over.
Schools closed for three weeks. Science centers, museums, nature centers, local libraries. All closed till further notice. At first glance, it all seemed a bit ‘over the top’. And yet, once we talked as a family about how ‘flatten the curve’ works, we understood. By limiting person to person contact, we slow the exponential spread. In turn, this gives the health system and its workers a fighting chance to treat those who are most at risk. In my three decades of living in the USA, other than the ‘coming together’ after 9/11, this is perhaps the widest action of community solidarity that I have seen.
So, as we adjust to our new ‘home boundedness’, what we can do to mitigate the sense of isolation we may eventually feel? I thought back to grandma’s invocation of sarve bhavantU sukhinAH. In times of crisis, she often would choose to do less, rather than more. This was her way of creating space for others, for community. She would have advised:
Eat less, drink more (water).
Stream less. Read more.
Frown less. Smile more.
Hoard less. Share more.
Talk less. Listen more.
Sit less. Walk more.
Less is more.
It is the wisdom of our elders, our mentors and those whom we trust to speak truth to us that can raise our spirit. When our spirit is that of calm, instead of that of anxiety, we become conduits of spreading calm instead of anxiety. So, how do we bring calm to our heart, mind, body and spirit? The answer depends on the individual. What brings you calm? Regardless of the answer, the health of the community depends on the health of each one of us. As long as we radiate higher purpose, our actions will be infused with the power to virtually hold on to each other, and keep our spirits soaring through any crisis.
Our true power is in the current that flows through us, and our community. Our power directs our actions towards a greater purpose. Our selfless actions inspire our spirits, and the result is the health and well-being of all.
P.S. Join us for our weekly twitter chat, Sunday March 15 at 9amET / 1pm GMT / 630pm India in #SpiritChat – we will raise each other spirits over tea, coffee, fruit and cookies as we gather online and engage in some Q & A – just like we’ve been doing for so many years 🙂 – @AjmaniK
Flowers – holding on to each other – raising each other up!