Interesting learnings about myself
I thought I knew myself quite well but this virus has made me realise that I don’t.
Events before the lockdown, such as people panic buying, being repeatedly exposed to a particular line of thinking and developing mild symptoms of the virus, resulted in some surprising (and some not so surprising) revelations.
My ego plays up on so many levels
I understand that people have different fears. That which may be a trigger for anxiety in one person, may not affect another. For these reasons, I could easily accept that some people may be more prone to panic buying than others.
I heard and read that a lot of people were judging the people who were buying a lot. They viewed them as selfish as they weren’t leaving enough food for others. There was also some talk about shopkeepers who were increasing prices. They were being labelled as greedy by some.
None of the above caused that much of a stir. However, I was surprised when I learned that some people whom I knew to be logical, practical, spiritual and fair, were panic buying. It was more of a ‘that doesn’t fit in with my perception of them’ rather than anything else.
I knew that I didn’t want to panic buy, but I didn’t want to be foolish or hasty, so I talked it through with hubby and we were both on the same page. We decided to buy as we usually do and if we fell short of something, we’d make do with what we have. We felt it would be a temporary thing and we could manage.
However, I later realised that I had a sense of pride in not panic buying! That is not something that I wanted to feel and it just seemed ridiculous to feel proud of that!
This realisation was a great reminder about how the ego can play up in subtle ways, changing the way it arises, making it hard to recognise, and slippery to catch.
I like to think that I don’t blindly forward things. This is probably another example of where I feel pride, as well as, frustration. The frustration is with those who forward things without verifying the content, often causing panic, fear and even hatred in others. I’m working on not feeling irritated and understanding that we’re all different and none of us are perfect.
One of my biggest concerns and reasons for feeling negative about these ‘blind forwards’ is the stress, anxiety and fear that it causes. I think there are enough things to bring about these negative, draining and confusing emotions, without us adding further reasons to feel this way.
When the coronavirus got onto my radar, I remember feeling sad and disappointed by the amount of social media that was pointing the finger of blame at the Chinese.
I was reading things like:
- The Chinese caused the virus
- The Chinese eat wild animals and that caused this pandemic
- Vegans won’t catch it
- Those who eat meat are being punished
People were holding onto this, it was causing a divide and some people were physically harming anyone they came across whom they thought were Chinese. That’s not on!
The judgement about the people who eat all sorts of animals vs those who only eat specific ones, baffles me. An animal is an animal whether it’s cute and fluffy like a rabbit, or large and elegant like a horse, or something that’s seen as a pet, such as, a dog. Are meat-eaters who only eat domesticated animals better than those who eat anything and everything?
I’ll come back to vegans not catching it later on.
Then there was the talk about meat-eaters being punished. This was about India. A number of people felt that those who ate meat in India were being punished by God and only they would get the virus. However, according to Wikipedia only 31% of Indians are vegetarian and according to research done by Balmurli Natrajan and Suraj Jacob, people under-report eating meat and over-report eating vegetarian food. If we go by Wiki’s figure, it means nearly 70% of Indians are going to die because they’re being punished for their choices.
There was also a lot of coverage that more people die from the flu each year and all the hype about the coronavirus is unnecessary.
For these reasons, I messaged friends and family with a couple of articles trying to bust some of the myths and play down the hype.
These articles were:
Is our diet to blame?
PETA says that for years, scientists have warned that filthy farms, crammed full of sick animals, are breeding grounds for new, antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” This doesn’t refer exclusively to wet farms or to those selling wild animals. It also refers to ‘regular’ farms that breed, hold captive and slaughter pigs, geese, cows and so on.
The United Nations found that 70% of new human diseases originated in animals and that many of those were directly linked to animals used for food.
Back to being accountable
Following that, I was so concerned by the amount of fear and panic being caused by various articles, that I shared an article by the Guardian that had a pacifying effect, saying that we didn’t need to be so worried.
However, I later realised that I simply didn’t know enough, that I shouldn’t have shared the previous articles and that it’s much more serious than I realised. Thus I shared an article that painted a very different picture of the status quo and what was to come.
I came to the realisation that I was sharing ‘blindly.’ I wasn’t properly informed, I didn’t know which ‘paper’ was more or less accurate and I may be wrongly influencing others.
I was talking to a friend who helped me realise that I was contradicting myself. On the one hand, I was saying that people weren’t taking it seriously and were going out as normal. Yet, on the other hand, I knew many people who weren’t. Were people not listening to the advice and not taking it seriously? But what about those who were panic buying? They were listening, worried, and reacting through fear. So clearly, there was a mix of people reacting in different ways.
All I was doing was adding to the divide! These sweeping judgements, allegations and assumptions were helping to create divisions and anger between those who felt they were responsible and selfless and those whom they judged to be selfish and reckless. That was not my intention.
I then decided that if it was going to add to the hype and panic, I wouldn’t contribute.
The last thing I shared was this ‘Government launches Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp‘ I shared this in the hope that it would prevent fake news from being shared, that people would have a legitimate source of information whenever they needed it and that it would help us all understand the situation better.
I am a bit of a minimalist and I thought that I wasn’t a brand person. However, the virus has made me realise that there are certain brands which I am attached to. I realised this because I couldn’t buy them and I found myself turning my nose up to having to use a different make.
In terms of food, I’m vegan, I try not to use oil, and I like simple wholesome meals. That’s quite minimalist and doesn’t sound like I’d have any issues with cooking. However, before the lockdown began, when people were queueing for hours and panic buying, I found myself wondering how I’d make many of the dishes, that I make on a regular basis. Why? Well, I would ‘need’ fresh tomatoes and fresh coriander for them! This made me realise that I need to get over my attachment to cooking in a certain way, I could easily make do with tinned tomatoes and frozen or no coriander and that I need to be less fussy and rigid in terms of how I cook and how I want my food to turn out!
Compassion and judgement
Recent events have also served as a reminder that I need to be compassionate and then strive to increase that further.
Many people are scared, worried, anxious, unsettled and are reacting out of that. Thus they deserve to be showered with compassion.
How we feel and react will be different and as a result, what we do will vary.
Do I know the motivations of those who are panic buying? No. They may be shopping for multiple people and therefore not panic buying at all. They may be logically assessing their needs and buying what they think they need to survive. This is stockpiling, rather than, panic buying but who am I to judge? Do I need to take on the role of judge, jury or prosecutor? No!
I have realised that there are judgements that I’m aware of, and then there are those which are more subtle. In order to spot the latter, I need to be more alert. After that, I can reflect on them and try and reduce these negative traits.
Losing the sense of taste and smell
Earlier, I said I’d come back to vegans not catching the virus. I’m vegan and we suspect that I endured mild symptoms of the virus. We can’t be sure because I haven’t been tested, but it’s what a few GPs think. So vegans can catch it! We are not immune!
I’ve often heard spiritual teachers talk about how most people eat and drink for taste, rather than, to sustain the body. I got it and agreed with it, or so I thought!
When I lost the sense of taste and smell, I found myself thinking, there’s no point in eating that because I can’t taste it. It was almost as if it would be a waste to eat that now, especially because I may not get those items again, due to being self-isolated, social distancing and because supermarkets were running low on a lot of things.
I got over it and told myself that I needed to sustain the body, whether I could taste the food or not! I saw it as a lesson in becoming less attached to taste and reducing the desire to ‘enjoy’ food exclusively through taste.
I became even more aware of how much I ate for taste when I started eating things that I’d bypassed for something tastier before. Another bonus was that we began using these things up.
Cutting out the noise
Having, what we think, were mild symptoms of the virus and self-isolating for 14 days reminded me of how much noise there is! This experience cut out a lot of noise because it limited our movement, reduced who we met and hugely impacted how productive we were.
I suddenly had lots of time and less distractions. I embraced it. I let the body heal, slept however long the body needed, slowed my general pace and took part in an online spiritual retreat whenever I was able to focus.
I can ‘quarantine’ my thoughts
I found myself wondering if I could retrace my steps and work out where I got exposed to the virus. I soon realised that it was a fruitless activity and what would I do if I could work it out? Does it matter? Would it change anything? Would it prevent others from getting it?
The ability to ‘quarantine’ these thoughts was huge. It was positive and would protect me from letting this snowball into more unnecessary thinking. I need to develop this in order to restrict and calm the mind further, so it doesn’t take me on journeys that are no good for me and those around me.
We can remove barriers and see everyone as equal
The final lesson I want to share is the realisation that although most of us have a prejudice or bias of some kind towards groups of people, we are able to pacify this and come together.
I was so moved by the success of many initiatives asking people to support strangers in need, to connect with neighbours whom they may never have spoken with, to be free of any barriers that may have prevented them reaching out before. I’ve not witnessed a time when people have come together like this. Across communities, regardless of race, religion, caste, gender, age, sexuality, lifestyle choices and so on.