FAITH in GOD
As a spiritual person, my faith in God has been a key feature in dealing with the pandemic. My spiritual beliefs are influenced by my Hindu background, attending Catholic school for many years and studying Buddhist practices, especially the application of Buddhist ideas in psychology. Therefore, both theistic traditions, Hinduism and Catholicism, and atheistic tradition, Buddhism have influenced my spiritual belief systems.
I learned about “The Bhagavad Gita” (Holy book of Hinduism) from my mother, Anuradha Ganguly. She described “The Bhagavad Gita” as very powerful and soothing in difficult circumstances. “The Bhagavad Gita” is a segment in the great epic Indian poem, “Mahabaratha.” “The Bhagavad Gita,” often translated as “Song of God” is essentially a conversation between a human soul (represented by Arjuna) and the Divine Lord of the Universe, manifested as Lord Krishna.
Additionally, having a background in catholic school, I have also studied portions of the Bible, Biblical figures, like David, Moses, Abraham and Sarah. Biblical figures, like David (my favorite), also grounded themselves in their faith in God. Although, I have valued spirituality in life, now I choose everyday to be anchored in God. The God I pray to is an Universal Consciousness, permeating through every atom and molecule, creating and binding all that exists. It is the unnamable, incomprehensible, mysterious, faithful, fiercely loving, fearless, Divine Consciousness, which is capable of accomplishing the impossible, which the human mind cannot conceive. Yet, the Divine Consciousness also exists in the daily details of our days. My God has many names and is beyond one religion or practice. For me, the most powerful attunement to this Divine Consciousness is prayer. Prayer means honest reflection and introspection. Sometimes this can be painful as I look at how I could have handled things better. Prayer can at times include brutal honesty. I figure no point in lying to God as God knows anyway. Prayer can calm the storms inside me, allowing some clarity. In the middle of chaos, I have also experienced moment of stillness and serene silence, resonating that “everything will be okay”.
THE BHAGAVAD GITA
The Gita begins as Arjuna (member of Pandava family) wrestles with painful feelings of uncertainty, doubt, fear and regret that he is being asked to fight the enemy, the Kauravas, who are his cousins, uncles and other close relatives. In the first setting of the Gita, Arjuna surveys the battleground, utterly distressed about the possibility of killing relatives that he grew up with and loved, in case of a battle. Arjuna prays for guidance to Lord Krishna, which transforms into a conversation with Lord Krishna.
The Gita is not just a religious book, but, a powerful metaphor for the human experience,( The Gita) . Gaur Gopal Das states that, like Arjuna, every human being faces situations marked by distress, seemingly insurmountable difficulties, confusion, anxiety and intense suffering. Like Arjuna, many of us in our current times are faced with much distress and confusion .The events of our times in 2020 are tumultuous:
Pandemic of COVID-19
The Center of Systems Science and Engineering – (John Hopkins )John Hopkins University -SSEC) reported over 41 million people having diagnosis of COVID-19 globally and 1,135,790 deaths related to COVID-19 globally.
CDC Tracking of COVID-19According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 8 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States since January 2020. There has been 221,438 deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States since January, 2020. The human factor associated with these statistics is tremendous. Each of these individuals, who died from COVID-19, was someone’s loved one. The experience of such devastating grief and loss is tremendous. The loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences in life because it is the loss of the great love we had for the person (psychologytoday.com) In the October 2020 Oprah magazine, Oprah uses the words of her friend, Richie Jackson, who discussed a nation in mourning. I will extend this and state the world is in mourning. One of my very wise clients said after losing his wife of many years to terminal illness, he faced the greatest question of his life: give up or live. He said that he made the decision to live and this decision was greatly motivated by the people in life who loved him.
Economic Recession, unemployment, homelessness
In June 2020, the World Bank (worldbank.org) forecast that this year has shown the deepest recession in world economy since World War II. In a study on homelessness related to the pandemic, Dr. Brandon O’Flaherty, an economic professor at Columbia University, predicted a possible increase of 40-45% homelessness in 2020 due to rising rates of unemployment. This projection included an estimated additional 250,000 people being homeless in 2020 than in 2019. The rate of unemployment rose to 14.7% in 1/ 2020, not seen since the Great Depression (Bureau of Labor Statistics Data). There is a huge hunger crisis in America, such that 14 million children regularly skip meals, three times more than the Great Recession and five times more than before the pandemic.
Escalation of conflict in
in race-related matters stemming from our history of institutionalized racism is a prominent issue.
resulting in widespread fires in the West coast and more severe hurricanes in other parts of the country.
Mental Health challenges
. On top of this global pandemic, people are facing their personal struggles, fears, the resurfacing of past traumas, physical and mental health problems. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Mental Health, Substance Use and Suicidal Ideation During COVID-19 Pandemic,-Unites States, June 24-30, 2020), published by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention , conducted survey research of 5,479 adults in United States during June 24-30, 2020. Respondents reported three times more anxiety disorders and four times more depressive disorders than 2019. The report stated that 25% of the respondents reported trauma and stress related disorders due to COVID-19. One out of ten people reported starting or increasing use of substances to deal with stress of COVID-19. Twice as many respondents reported serious consideration of suicidal ideation over last 30 days than in 2018.
Country with deep divisions
about what good leadership looks like and credibility of scientific research. The fervor of attacks against scientific data about corona virus and climate science reminds me of the early church’s persecution of Galileo after his mathematical work pointed to a heliocentric cosmology (earth revolves around sun). Galileo’s model of cosmology challenged the early church’s concentric view of cosmology where all celestial bodies circled earth. Despite the persecution of Galileo by the early church, Galileo was right is his mathematical conclusions. It is important to note that Galileo was placed under house arrest due to his work. Sadly, Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the leading infectious disease specialists in the country, reported receiving death threats after warning the country about rising rates of COVID-19.
Like Arjuna, we are faced with sharp divisions in our families and friends about future of the nation. Division of the country is further solidified my politicization of media outlets, where certain media outlets are promoting specific political viewpoints. I have friends with differing political opinions about what is best for the country. Despite the different opinions, I find that people on both camps are driven from a deep love for the United States. I connect with people based on their love of the country. As an immigrant teenager coming to the United States at age 15 with my family, the American dream embedded in my heart, America is my beloved country and I want the best for the USA. In my heart, I am a humanitarian and my hope is that humanity will overcome this.
Faced with mortality
As a psychologist, I see that most of my clients and people I know are confronted with mortality, a basic human condition. We have no control over mortality. No one knows when it is time to go. In a pre-COVID 19 world, many of us had developed a false sense of control: we can order online through iPhone and computers a range of items such as, food, clothes, pizza, entertainment. Companies, like Amazon, deliver packages at our doorstep.
Advances in medicine and biotechnology facilitate people living longer, such that, more Americans are living longer and healthier lives, known as the longevity revolution. The longevity revolution contributed to abundance of positive aging research articles, which discusses strategies of healthy aging. Then, comes this coronavirus, invisible, and potent and leads to the realization that we have no control over our mortality. Most people that I know talk about death of self or loved ones. As a psychologist, I have to be mindful of my own fears of loss and maintain boundaries, as my clients explore their fears (e.g. dying alone with COVID-19, losing loved ones, dying and leaving behind minor children). People report shock of young people dying from COVID-19, when the person had no idea they had contracted the virus. Death and dying is a common topic in conversations since the pandemic started.
Dr. Mendoza wrote in Psychology Today about the positive death movement, which attempts to bring the taboo subject of death and dying from out of the dark into the light for education, awareness and support. This has led to coffin clubs and death cafes where people can join for support and knowledge about death and dying.
Fears about death and dying are still prevalent. Yesterday, I had a flare-up of allergy symptoms and for a moment the possibility of COVID-19 impacting me crossed my mind. I resorted to using positive self talk to calm myself.
Our world and nation are in s state of mourning. Grief and loss are very painful human experiences that many people are experiencing from the collective trauma of the pandemic.
WALK BY FAITH, NOT SIGHT (BIBLE)
In times such as now, with predictions of a dark winter with surging rates of COVID-19, I reflect on my mother’s unshakeable faith in God in the middle of storms. I reflect on my previous choices to stand in faith and lean on a very steadfast and faithful God, who has led me out of many storms in my life. As stated in the Bible, walk by faith, not sight, especially when one cannot see (2 Corinthians 5:7, Bible). Bishop T. D. Jakes describes that one cannot see in the storms and that is where faith in God has to lead. Biblical figures, like David relied on his faith in God to fight Goliath. Moses relied on his faith in God to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt.
I also remind myself of Gaur Gopal Das words, that as spiritual beings, we are bigger than our problems. However, I have no idea about the uncharted road ahead of us. My guess is that neither Arjuna, David, Moses, Abraham, Apostle Paul or Sarah did not know the course of their battles. They had faith in God. We must have faith in the Greatness, Goodness, Grace and Mercy of God in leading us through these difficult times