The coronavirus (COVID-19) has unleashed a pandemic unseen in modern times. It’s spreading far and wide, with well over one million confirmed cases, and the numbers continue to grow.
With nearly half the world’s population in some form of lockdown, the virus is ushering in a new era and an uncertain future. And human beings don’t like uncertainty.
In this environment, it is hard to know what to do. As this is a “novel” virus, we’re learning as we go, and that means the information changes day-to-day.
“Don’t wear face masks – they are ineffective” shifts to “You must wear face masks – they are critical.”
“Go out to exercise, you need sun and vitamin D to stay healthy” conflicts with “Don’t go out to exercise, the virus sheds and could be in the air you breathe.”
It is hard to know how to respond to these times of uncertainty, even for the most grounded person. This is when it becomes crucial to view reality through a neutral perspective. Enter the middle path . . .
The Middle Path: Finding a Neutral Perspective Through Which to View the World
In yoga teacher training, we were introduced to the concept of the three minds: positive mind, negative mind and neutral mind.
Ideally, we activate and use all three minds, but the best decisions come from a place of neutrality. This neutrality helps maintain balance and establishes a framework for decision-making.
Let’s take a look at how the three minds might interpret the situation.
The Negative Mind Seeks to Protect
The Negative (or Protective) Mind is mainly for survival. It is reactive, protective and searches for potential danger. It is sensitive to pain, and it seeks to shield you from the forces that may disrupt or destroy.
The negative mind’s perspective of the coronavirus would say:
- I’m not feeling 100% well so I’ll go to the emergency room and demand that I get a COVID-19 test. I know there is a hotline I can call for symptoms, but the chance I’ll be misdiagnosed is just too high. I need to see a doctor immediately even though my fever is low, and my breathing is fine.
- I stocked up on N95 face masks when they first started talking about the virus. I know the doctors and nurses at my local hospitals are asking for more protective personal equipment, but I’m going to keep the 200 N95 masks I have. You just never know if you’ll need them
- I read that cats can get the virus so I’m starting to wonder what I should do about our family cat. I’m considering turning my cat over to the local shelter. It’s just not worth the risk to my wife and kids.
It is easy to see how our negative mind can spin out of control. The worldwide spread of the coronavirus is extremely serious.
Panic and over-reactivity are not just counterproductive; they are potentially dangerous. Hoarding resources when others are in dire need may cost lives. Getting incomplete or scientifically inaccurate information can be dangerous. Poor judgment can cost lives.
The Positive Mind Searches for Pleasure
The Positive (or Expansive) Mind searches for pleasure, fulfillment and possibility in how you can utilize things in your experience. It is constructive, risk-taking and active.
The positive mind’s perspective of the coronavirus would say:
- I’m so happy my state hasn’t implemented a formal social distancing mandate yet! I’m still free to meet my friends for dinner and work out at my gym. Plus there are fewer people at the gym lately so I’m going more often than usual so I’ll be ready for summer.
- I feel really bad for old people and people with underlying health conditions.They must be scared right now. But luckily for me, I’m young and fit. This virus isn’t going to affect me and even if I get it, I’ll probably get over it really fast. I’m not scared and I don’t feel like I need to follow the guidelines as closely as someone who is in the vulnerable category.
- I understand this is a big worldwide problem, but when I look at the actual number of people who’ve died, it still seems pretty small. I don’t really get why we’re closing everything down.
In the environment of the coronavirus, the Positive Mind can be dangerous. It is important to understand the big picture and how an overly positive mind might actually endanger other people during this period.
We are in the middle of a serious worldwide crisis battling an infectious disease with exponential growth. It is everyone’s job to get educated, accept the reality of the situation and exercise personal responsibility. Lives are at stake.
The Neutral Mind Judges and Assesses Without Attachment
The Neutral (or Meditative) Mind is the mind that judges and assesses without attachment in relation to your own purpose and reality. The Neutral Mind observes the actions of both the Negative and Positive Mind and judges both in relation to your higher self.
In order to maintain balance, this is the mind we need to use when making decisions.
The neutral mind’s perspective on the coronavirus might suggest:
- I’m self-isolating and keeping my exposure to others to a minimum until they’ve proven the curve has been flattened in my area. Even if my government isn’t requiring me to stay at home, I’m eliminating all non mission-critical tasks. I understand the virus spreads easily and has a long incubation period. Even if I don’t know anyone personally, I am assuming it is already in my community.
- I’m following the news but only checking it a couple of times a day. I already know my personal strategy is to stay home as much as possible, so getting caught up in the sensationalist stories isn’t a good use of my time. Instead, I’m practicing extreme self-care by exercising, eating well, and doing things I enjoy.
- When I get invited to do something by someone else, I remind them that I am staying in because I understand the gravity of the situation. I remind them of the fact they are “feeling fine” is irrelevant. I explain that some of the science supports the belief that 50% of the people who have been infected have no symptoms. Yet they are still spreading the virus.
- I’m using this time for education more than for entertainment. I’ve signed up for online language courses, and I’m reading a few books I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I’m balancing self-care with things that I think will move me forward in my life.
This neutral mindset allows us to establish a balanced perspective that’s objective and grounded in reality. When we view life through this lens of non-attachment, we are able to see things for what they are, and then respond (instead of react) accordingly.
Maintaining a Middle Path Is Key for Staying Grounded, Calm and Safe During the Coronavirus
This is a confusing time. Even the scientists are overwhelmed trying to understand what to do, and they are data-driven. And in the general public, the virus has triggered a lot of chaotic thinking.
The coronavirus also gives us an opportunity to exercise a more balanced, grounded approach.
By constantly considering both the positive and negative mind, it’s easier to land in the middle.
The neutral mind leads to the middle path, and the middle path is usually the right one.
Thank you for reading this. Stay safe.