Inside Yoga 297 (21/3/2020)
Last week we witnessed the selfishness of so many people who emptied the shelves of any type of toilet paper. Things have progressed since to everything being stockpiled including paper for home schooling, but back to the bog roll, why the run on it?
There was a good joke doing the rounds: when one person coughs, ten people shit themselves. Does this explain the stock piling? In some ways it does, but I do think what we are seeing is being people being driven by their primitive brain, the part of the brain which drives our basic animal instincts.
What we are seeing on both an individual and collective level is the fight or flight function of our brain taking over. When an animal is faced with danger and must either fight or flight (run for their life) many animals will poo or pee themselves, or both, before running… this is nature’s way of making us lighter and therefore able to run faster. We as humans do the same when faced with immense feelings of panic.
We are not seeing people peeing or pooing in the shopping aisles, but what we are seeing is the sub-conscious driving people into instinctive survival modes, which are basically, selfish, as survival can be brutal.
This is very hard to stop, because just try telling a crowd of people driven by instinct to pause and reflect, or even meditate mindfully on their actions, and as a result learn to behave more mindfully, and also with also more awareness of other people, namely, those people behind them in the queue unable to buy what they need due to selfish greed of others.
We do, however, need to try to change our behaviour and improve how we are behaving. The Buddha emphasised that we train ourselves, our mind in particular, to respond to every arising situation appropriately, instead of reacting mindlessly, without thought and reflection. It takes a split second for a trained mind to notice what we are thinking and find an appropriate response. “Pause, think before you act” is a message governments have used down the years to get a particular message across, and we have a situation right now which demands such an approach.
We are not rocks, stuck and immobile, we are humans who can adapt, to survive in this case the coronavirus pandemic, and we can learn to survive in a mindful and compassionate way. It just takes patience, practice and perseverance to be mindful and compassionate at the same time…. And right now we need all these qualities.
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