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Healing and Transformation During the 2020 Pandemic

By Dave Derezotes

PROFESSOR OF SOCIAL WORK
DIRECTOR OF PEACE & CONFLICT STUDIES

As our Religious Studies students know, the wisdom traditions of the world all remind us that the future is unpredictable. On March 18, I found myself suddenly in the hospital, being wheeled into the recovery room after having an emergency surgery. As I looked out the window at the early morning city lights, I was thinking about how much had changed since the onset of the pandemic and found myself  wishing that everything would go back to normal again, when the whole building suddenly started shaking from the 5.7 magnitude Magna earthquake.

     Most of us are now experiencing a high magnitude of stress in our lives. Our current pandemic crisis is challenging humanity to not only deal with the immediate health, economic, and psychological difficulties of quarantine, but also with the local and global contexts we all find ourselves in. In this article, we will briefly examine some of these individual and collective challenges and provide some suggestions for individual and collective healing and transformation. In our study of human cultures and of how people make sense of the world, the humanities helpprovide us with the right questions and answers to help guide us through this crisis.

     Let’s start with some basic self-care. When I ask students, staff, and faculty what self-care approaches have been most helpful, the most popular response is “walking outside,” followed by other forms of aerobic exercise. Other popular responses are “developing a new routine,” “getting enough sleep,” and “practicing self-compassion.” We are all different; what seems to work for you?

     What is healing? Out Latin scholars know that the root of the word refers to the idea of “making whole.” To heal in the current crisis can mean that we notice and “own” the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that we are experiencing in reaction to the pandemic. During this quarantine, many of us have more self-reflection time to do this work. When I am critical of the things I notice in myself, as most of us are, this does not contribute to healing. Instead, I want to “look with friendly eyes” at what I see. This combination of awareness and acceptance is arguably the central goal of mindfulness, which we could call consciousness. As J. Krishnamurti explained it, the goal of all meditation is to see the world the way it is and to be OK with that world.

     The pandemic calls for us to heal the losses that most of us have experienced, which might include loss of freedom of movement, loss of a job and income, and even loss of loved 

ones who became sick from the virus. The work of loss is to grieve, which usually means to let myself feel sad, as well as

 

 

 

 

 

to feel the many other feelings that might be associated with loss, including anger and fear.

     What is transformation? Transformation is a process of radical change that involves more than healing, although healing may be a necessary part. Transformation also usually includes creating greater empowerment and reconnection. Empowerment can be thought of as knowing and expressing effectively what I think and feel, whereas reconnection can be thought of as the realization of my relationship with everything in the universe.

     Our crisis is an opportunity for individual transformation. Working in a university in the Beehive State, and in a nation that prides itself on efficiency and productivity, most of us have learned the habit of busyness and have suffered from a sense of time poverty.  Suddenly, many of us now have more time to take care of ourselves, self-reflect, and interact with people we live with and love. We may notice however, that the old habitual patterns of busy minds and busy behaviors persist, even when we do not need to be as occupied and driven.

     The transformation of these patterns of busyness begins with consciousness of them. We can also practice new behaviors, being patient with ourselves as we learn that it takes effort and focus to think and act differently. Since meditation is about being conscious, I could, for example, set aside even just 15 or 30 minutes a day to “do nothing” in my favorite place to sit, and just notice what comes up for me. Instead of sitting still, some of us might prefer combining an activity with meditation; for example, I find outdoor activities like gardening, hiking, or running very helpful.

Suddenly, many of us now have more time to take care of ourselves, self-reflect, and interact with people we live with and love.

     Our crisis is an opportunity for collective transformation. As the Peace and Conflict Studies students know, deep collective transformation usually begins with my own self-work. For example, prior to the pandemic, we all shared a looming future that most of us did not want; a future of overpopulation, global warming, persistent conflict, and preparations for war. Now that the virus has pressed a reset button for humanity, we have the opportunity to look at our values and consider reordering them in a different hierarchy of importance. Perhaps for example, the focus on competition to have the best “economic indicators” might become lower on the scale of importance and a focus on cooperation for the highest good might be put at the top of the list. Crises have a way of waking us up to what is most important.

     Finally, as humanities scholar-practitioners who value social justice and equality, we recognize that the pandemic adversely impacts many less-privileged populations disproportionately, and we work to eliminate those disparities. Ultimately, perhaps the best way to transform myself is to focus upon helping other people in my community who are suffering more than me.

Healing and Transformation During the 2020 Pandemic

By Dave Derezotes

PROFESSOR OF SOCIAL WORK
DIRECTOR OF PEACE & CONFLICT STUDIES

As our Religious Studies students know, the wisdom traditions of the world all remind us that the future is unpredictable. On March 18, I found myself suddenly in the hospital, being wheeled into the recovery room after having an emergency surgery. As I looked out the window at the early morning city lights, I was thinking about how much had changed since the onset of the pandemic and found myself  wishing that everything would go back to normal again, when the whole building suddenly started shaking from the 5.7 magnitude Magna earthquake.
     Most of us are now experiencing a high magnitude of stress in our lives. Our current pandemic crisis is challenging humanity to not only deal with the immediate health, economic, and psychological difficulties of quarantine, but also with the local and global contexts we all find ourselves in. In this article, we will briefly examine some of these individual and collective challenges and provide some suggestions for individual and collective healing and transformation. In our study of human cultures and of how people make sense of the world, the humanities helpprovide us with the right questions and answers to help guide us through this crisis.
     Let’s start with some basic self-care. When I ask students, staff, and faculty what self-care approaches have been most helpful, the most popular response is “walking outside,” followed by other forms of aerobic exercise. Other popular responses are “developing a new routine,” “getting enough sleep,” and “practicing self-compassion.” We are all different; what seems to work for you?
     What is healing? Out Latin scholars know that the root of the word refers to the idea of “making whole.” To heal in the current crisis can mean that we notice and “own” the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that we are experiencing in reaction to the pandemic. During this quarantine, many of us have more self-reflection time to do this work. When I am critical of the things I notice in myself, as most of us are, this does not contribute to healing. Instead, I want to “look with friendly eyes” at what I see. This combination of awareness and acceptance is arguably the central goal of mindfulness, which we could call consciousness. As J. Krishnamurti explained it, the goal of all meditation is to see the world the way it is and to be OK with that world.
     The pandemic calls for us to heal the losses that most of us have experienced, which might include loss of freedom of movement, loss of a job and income, and even loss of loved ones who became sick from the virus. The work of loss is to grieve, which usually means to let myself feel sad, as well as to feel the many other feelings that might be associated with loss, including anger and fear.
     What is transformation? Transformation is a process of radical change that involves more than healing, although healing may be a necessary part. Transformation also usually includes creating greater empowerment and reconnection. Empowerment can be thought of as knowing and expressing effectively what I think and feel, whereas reconnection can be thought of as the realization of my relationship with everything in the universe.
     Our crisis is an opportunity for individual transformation. Working in a university in the Beehive State, and in a nation that prides itself on efficiency and productivity, most of us have learned the habit of busyness and have suffered from a sense of time poverty.  Suddenly, many of us now have more time to take care of ourselves, self-reflect, and interact with people we live with and love. We may notice however, that the old habitual patterns of busy minds and busy behaviors persist, even when we do not need to be as occupied and driven.
     The transformation of these patterns of busyness begins with consciousness of them. We can also practice new behaviors, being patient with ourselves as we learn that it takes effort and focus to think and act differently. Since meditation is about being conscious, I could, for example, set aside even just 15 or 30 minutes a day to “do nothing” in my favorite place to sit, and just notice what comes up for me. Instead of sitting still, some of us might prefer combining an activity with meditation; for example, I find outdoor activities like gardening, hiking, or running very helpful.

Suddenly, many of us now have more time to take care of ourselves, self-reflect, and interact with people we live with and love.

     Our crisis is an opportunity for collective transformation. As the Peace and Conflict Studies students know, deep collective transformation usually begins with my own self-work. For example, prior to the pandemic, we all shared a looming future that most of us did not want; a future of overpopulation, global warming, persistent conflict, and preparations for war. Now that the virus has pressed a reset button for humanity, we have the opportunity to look at our values and consider reordering them in a different hierarchy of importance. Perhaps for example, the focus on competition to have the best “economic indicators” might become lower on the scale of importance and a focus on cooperation for the highest good might be put at the top of the list. Crises have a way of waking us up to what is most important.
     Finally, as humanities scholar-practitioners who value social justice and equality, we recognize that the pandemic adversely impacts many less-privileged populations disproportionately, and we work to eliminate those disparities. Ultimately, perhaps the best way to transform myself is to focus upon helping other people in my community who are suffering more than me.

Last Updated: 10/21/20