In Times of Crisis: Thoughts on the Coronavirus Pandemic

This week I taught a class for the Workbook on grievances, our internal displeasure over people not behaving as we think they should. And I taught a class for the Text on the scarcity principle, our ego’s sense of lack that is behind all of our conventional drives and needs.

Today as I stand back and look at both of these topics, it’s not hard to see where they converge. Our constant aim in life is to make everything go right on the outside, to arrange the chess board exactly as we want it. When we succeed, we believe our ego’s empty stomach has temporarily been filled. When we don’t, we nurse grievances.

Yet surely life has taught us that this is a fool’s errand. The very circumstances we try so hard to tame are beyond our control. Today is a particular reminder of this for me, as I woke up to a different world, in which normal life looks as if it could be severely disrupted for quite some time. It’s as if a tsunami is washing through our communities, and while we hoped that we were far enough from the shore that it wouldn’t reach us, we can see the water now coming up our own streets.

In the face of it, our minds need to do what they always should do, even in times when we are hanging onto the illusion of control: They need to divide into two different parts. One part of us needs to attend to dealing with the tsunami, which means responding in whatever ways the experts and our personal guidance deem responsible, prudent, and helpful. And the other part of us needs to rest in a peace that can never be shaken, because it towers so high above this world that no waves could ever come close to it. The Course says, “There is an ancient peace you carry in your heart and have not lost” (W-164.4:2). We can settle into that place and take refuge there.

These two parts, however, need not be separate from each other. The famous Text section “I Need Do Nothing” (T-22.VII) paints a picture in which they are integrated. In this picture, our minds are constantly resting in the eye of the hurricane (to switch the metaphor), the quiet center in which all is at peace, in which we do nothing. This quiet center then becomes the very source of our actions out there in the storm. From this center, we will be sent on busy doings in which we “use the body sinlessly” (T-22.VII.10:7) to uplift those who are caught in the storm. And while we are doing that, this same quiet center will give us “rest in the midst of every busy doing on which [we] are sent” (T-22.VII.10:6). Thus, the quiet center will guide us and it will rest us, even while we don our raincoats and move about in the storm’s “raging activity” (T-22.VII.10:5).

We don’t have to be inwardly shaken by the tsunami. Things don’t have to go exactly as we want on the outside. We don’t have to be in control of everything. We can remain rooted in a peace beyond this world, and that peace can guide us and rest us, as we face the current storm.