To Sit Quietly In A Room

Spiritual reflections on COVID-19

Mar 14, 2020

Spirituality Life Lessons Reflections Self-Awareness
image of cup with tea and a pen on top of an open journal

The coronavirus is reminding all of us to savor what we have, to go deep at a moment when we’re not as free to go wide. And that’s a lesson in this sorrow.

— Marianne Williamson

Even without stepping outside, I can feel the eerie quiet of the city. The dust is not even close to settling, but there is a feeling of culmination in the air. Of something ending, making way for a new type of living. If ever we were asked to take stock of our lives and all the precious things and people in them, it is now. What else can we do but try to find the silver lining? What else will be left to extract but a lesson?

French philosopher Blaise Pascal says, “Every problem in the world stems from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Is this Mother Nature’s way to force us to sit quietly in a room? Have we so lost this ability that it has now become fundamental to our survival as a species? How far we have strayed from our rootedness, our soul’s calling. This is not nature’s vengeful retaliation, this might be her wake-up call to a world spiritually asleep, a world that has lost touch with the only things that will survive after we pass — the people we positively impacted, the kindness we showed others, the projects we poured our heart into, the love we gave. The love we gave.

Can you imagine a world in which love, kindness, compassion, empathy, spread as fast as this virus? I’m idealistic, I know. But these are choices we make at the end of the day, are they not? To be kind, to be loving, to empathize. What if we chose these things just a little more from now on? What if tomorrow we decided to say one kind thing on top of all the scorn and malice that often spews out of our mouth?

Maybe it’s too soon to begin extracting lessons, seeing the “bright” side. Somehow that feels insensitive to the one’s most impacted. My heart goes out to each and every one of them. May you find the healing, support, and resources you need in these trying times. And yet, globally, for us as a human race — maybe it’s not soon enough. The external world is so much a reflection of what is going on in us, internally. What ailments have we been carrying for far too long? What is so impaired inside us, it needed to come out screaming to get our attention?

I ponder all this while knowing there are practical matters to attend to — buying toiletries, stocking up on some food, making sure we have enough medication and dog food. For such is the life we live… at once metaphysical and ethereal on the one hand and completely physical and pragmatic on the other, at the exact same time. I can’t help but think we are where we are today because we have given precedence to one over the other. We have stripped life of its mysterious depth and sacredness and replaced these with selfies and hashtags. We have forgotten how to “sit quietly in a room alone” and thereby lost ourselves. The irony — all this self-centeredness and no sense of our true self.

I will be the first to own up to that. I used to be better at the whole “sitting quietly” thing. But with the ease of getting lost in social media, in instant gratification, in busyness, I found myself just another rat in the race. If I have anything of value to say here, it is because I need to hear it. And apply it.

There is so much courage in facing what we’ve been running from. The reason we don’t want to sit quietly in a room is because we are terrified of the silence, for only then do our wounds and broken pieces have the space to show up and ask for our undivided attention. Something we work very hard not to give them.

In this forced, global “sitting quietly” experiment, let us take up the invitation and face that silence, if we can. Let us not “squander the hour of [our] pain,” as poet Rilke says. And may we come to figure out what the wisest sages have always known — when I heal my wounds, I begin to heal the wounds of the world. And this is an act I hope spreads faster than this pandemic.