Coronavirus has arrived and is causing quite a stir internationally in economic markets, travel, health care, public gatherings, and even religious services. Attending the International Mass at la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona in early February, the Celebrant explained that due to the virus we would receive only the Bread and not the Wine of Holy Communion and that at the “Kiss of Peace” we should acknowledge one another with a bow without making physical contact. As individuals, families and communities try to navigate the outbreak with scarce information about transmission, we have plentiful opportunity to reflect on our relationships and connectedness within the world wide web of humanity.
As we become aware of the ways in which the virus can be transmitted, we realize how connected and inter-dependent we really are. We become aware of our natural impulse to greet, to touch one another, and we must decide on an appropriate and mindful alternative, an elbow touch or a Namaste bow. And we learn that our own unconscious habit of touching our face is the doorway for this virus. One expert suggests wearing a mask not for prevention but for mindfulness of how often we touch our own face (90 times per day!). We might adopt a practice of mindfulness of touch, a glove, a bangle or a scarf that simply brings awareness to how we use our hands. we also begin to recognize our connection to other people through touch of objects. How many others have touched the key pad today? The grocery cart? The door handle? Use your handkerchief or sani-wipe as a blessing for all those who have gone before and will come after.
If we respond out of fear, viewing other people as potential threats, we might try to isolate ourselves. But it is almost impossible to extricate ourselves from the expansive web of human connection. In fact, we are all in this together, and we could find ourselves on either end of the transmission at any time. What we need to do is enter more deeply into community to take collective action to minimize the spread of the virus, for the benefit of all. Communicate good information. Share good hygiene. Take precautions for ourselves and others. Act with compassion to make connections with eye contact, hand to the heart, and other non-contact ways that convey our respect and responsibility. Namaste.