Here are Mark Van Buren’s top five meditation tips for surviving the Coronapocalypse:

Attention

Bring complete attention to your body and mind in this moment. If you’re not paying attention then you may be taken over by unhealthy, unhelpful thoughts and emotions flowing through your heart and mind. Worries, fears, frustrations, and anxieties will come and go during these crazy times. This is totally normal! But if you aren’t careful, they can wreak havoc. Paying attention allows you to relate to these experiences objectively, rather than wallowing in them.
Acceptance. Meditation practice is about being with reality, just the way it is. If you haven’t noticed by now, life usually doesn’t follow your way, but rather tends to follow its own. When reality hands you a difficult situation, you still have a choice. You can fight, freeze, or flow.

Acceptance

Meditation practice is about learning to flow with life as it is, in order to create the least amount of suffering. As we sit in meditation we are making a radical statement with our entire being, that says, “I am willing to be here no matter what. I want to be with my life as it is.” What life is presenting in this moment is simply the facts of reality. What’s the use resisting what’s already present? This may be a difficult time for you. Let it be just that, a difficult time. Accepting it will not necessarily improve the situation, but it will help you let go of a ton of unnecessary suffering that can make this feel a hell of a lot worse.

Impermanence

Although the coronavirus may be here for quite some time, this too will soon become a memory. As Zen Master Suzuki Roshi once taught, “When you realize the truth that everything changes and find your composure in it, you find yourself in Nirvana.” This is what meditation is all about. And remember, your practice is not limited to a cushion or chair, but fully expressed in how you relate to every part of your life. Pandemics are part of being human, and now it’s our time to experience it. We have gone through them before, and we will get through it this time. This too shall pass!

Curiosity

During the pandemic things may start to bubble up, especially if you’re spending a lot more time alone, or with your family or partner than you’re used to. There are only so many TV shows or movies we can watch to distract ourselves! Time without distraction can lead the unfinished business of the heart to come up and be known and expressed. The best thing to do is become curious about what arises, and how you are relating to it.

Curiosity comes from a mind that doesn’t know, the not-knowing mind. It doesn’t solidify your moods or emotions, but rather allows them to be there with a sense of acceptance and investigation. You may think you know your anxiety, or what is causing you to be so impatient with your partner, but do you really? Have you ever looked? Have you ever allowed yourself to fully feel what you’re feeling when things get uncomfortable? What is really going on?

As you become more curious, you become more willing to stay, rather than immediately running off. You may find your inner and outer life turning into more of an adventure than a task. When you get triggered, rather than just habitually reacting, you may find yourself asking, “Oh, what is this? Why am I getting so upset? Is this true?” Curiosity allows for just enough space to become free or deeply ingrained habits and reactions. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but for you, it can be liberating!

Compassionate Action

My last tip for surviving the Coronapocalypse is to remember that there are others going through the same thing (or worse!). We are all in this together. Our practice is always incomplete if it focuses solely on ourselves. Ask yourself: “How can I use this day to be of benefit to others?”

For me, it’s been calling those who I know are alone, or offering to pick things up from the store for those who are high risk. Other days it may be joking around with someone at work to brighten their day. For others I may need to offer compassionate listening to their heartache, frustration or pain.

Caring for others is not only an essential part of the practice, but it is also an unlimited source of joy. The more you help others the more joy you feel, and during these times, who doesn’t want more joy? Use everything as your path to awakening and as a way to help others.

Keep in mind that how you relate to the painful scary parts of yourself is how you’ll relate to painful scary things when you see them out in the world. That means that even if you’re alone without anyone around, how you live your life, and how you relate to your own thoughts and emotions, is either helping the world, or making it crazier.

Summary

So for today pay close attention to your thoughts and emotions, and accept whatever it is that is presenting itself in your life. Remember that no matter what you’re experiencing, good or bad, it will pass. With curiosity you can become more willing to look honestly and openly at your difficulties, and perhaps, find the possibility of freedom, even amongst the most difficult of circumstances. Most importantly, find out what you can do to help others. It may be as simple as smiling at a stranger, or calling a friend. 

The world needs your practice. Any tiny amount of peace, kindness, compassion, tolerance or joy you can add to it is beautiful and well appreciated.

May you be safe and healthy during these difficult times; may your heart grow in wisdom and compassion; my you be free from all pain and sorrow.

Mark Van Buren
Mark Van Buren is a yoga instructor, mindful living trainer and owner of Live Free Yoga Studio in Northern NJ. He has his bachelor's degree in Religious Studies from Montclair State University and has been practicing and teaching meditation for nearly a decade. Mark has done dozens of silent meditation retreats, ranging from 1-10 days, and even lived with monks and nuns for one whole month at a Chan Buddhist Center in NY. More recently he has become a best-selling author, publishing two books on meditation and mindful living - A Fool's Guide To Actual Happiness and Your Life IS Meditation: Buddhist-Inspired Stories and Reflections.