Welcome to Daily SPARC – each weekday our chaplains, friends from the Penn Religious Communities Council and other voices from campus will be posting messages of support and encouragement. 

Today’s message is by Elizabeth Mackenzie, Adjunct Associate Professor at Penn and Program Manager of Counseling and Human Development Programs for the Human Development & Quantitative Division at the Graduate School of Education:

As someone who has long used mind-body practices such as meditation and yoga to cope with the stress of life, I’ve found that both have been crucial for me to keep an even keel during the pandemic.  As an introvert, I don’t really mind the social distancing part, but the uncertainty that now infuses pretty much every aspect of life is deeply unsettling.  So much is unknown about the virus.  No one can say with certainty why some people are asymptomatic and others become deathly ill, or even exactly how to prevent contagion, or who can get tested, or when you should go to the hospital.  So much is unknown about the future.  Planning for the fall the semester is a guessing game; summer vacations are not in the cards.  What will 2021 look like? Who can say?

All these anxiety-producing questions have persuaded me to slow down and focus ever more diligently on the present, which is the whole point of mindfulness: attending to the present moment.  Pacing myself for the long haul, I came up with this acronym: FLOW PACEFLexibility, Optimism, Wonder.  Patience, Acceptance, Compassion, Ease.  These are the qualities I intend to cultivate during this time, both to help me get through the pandemic and to embrace whatever comes after.  These are qualities that can help deepen an appreciation for the present moment, which is all that really matters.  The 14th century Persian poet Hafiz wrote in one of his love poems to God,

⠀⠀⠀Until now I had not known, but henceforth will never forget,

          The Beloved and each moment are one.

          The Beloved and each moment are one.

Here are some mindfulness-based tools to help connect with the present moment from Mindful.org.

It is a collection of guided meditations, short articles, and access to a free 30-day course.  May you find some ease and peace during this time.