Laurie Goodstein’s (2009) article on the Serenity Prayer discussed that researchers credit Reinhold Niebuhr as the author of the serenity prayer. The serenity prayer, embraced by many, is asking God to give us the strength to change the things we can change, the serenity to accept the things we cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference. This idea is very similarly articulated by the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) framework developed by Steven Hayes in the 1980s. In ACT, people are asked to identify all the factors in a situation they can change, identify factors that are out of their control. The ACT model teaches people to practice radical acceptance of what is beyond our control. One of the goals of ACT is to increase people’s psychological flexibility, as impermanence and change are key features of the human condition.
As a human being, we have to acknowledge there are things in our lives, we cannot control. One of things we cannot control is exact length of our lifelines. We can certainly engage in health and wellbeing practices, such as, eating healthy meals, participating in exercise routines. However, when the exact time for us to exit from the world in unknown. The emerging pandemic of COVID-19 raises the ugly reality that mortality is beyond human control. It is like thunder and lightning disturbing the the human delusion (called Maya in the Gita) that we have forever. The COVID-19 pierces to the truth that no one, despite his/her wealth, educational achievements, political power or business empires, is immune to mortality. The reality is that the human condition includes mortality. It is terrifying to a control freak like myself, but, I remind myself that “it is what it is” and I surrender to the Divine. I remind myself of the mantra of surrendering the uncontrollable to the Divine. The mantra is “Let Go and Let God”. I have learned this mantra from my clients in recovery.
However, this realization of mortality also revitalizes me to live each day fully and gloriously. The truth is some days are glorious and some are frankly not. But, I realize that I must make most of the time I have, especially getting through COVID-19. I remember reading somewhere a writer commenting that “I can make it through anything difficult and horrible, just tell me how long it will last”. I wholeheartedly agree. The tricky part of COVID-19 is that no one knows when the end is. When the lockdown started in March 2020, I was optimistic that the pandemic would be under control by summer of 2020. We are nowhere near the end. Devastatingly high losses of human life continue. I read mixed speculation that COVID-19 will not be under control by Fall 221. Some write Fall 2022. Some even speculate that the end will possibly be in Fall 2024. I usually briskly walk away from conversations where someone mentions end of COVID 19 is in 2024.
As the turbulence and devastating times continue, my mantra is “one day at a time” , something I have also learned from clients in recovery who participate in Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) groups). “One day at a time” means keeping my focus on what I need to complete in the day, practice mindfulness and actively remind myself of my faith (God is with me in this), practice gratitude for the blessings in my life, love my loved ones and practice the best I can in do in teaching and psychotherapy. It means practicing safety measures and continue through the day.
The realization that I, like others, are mortal beings means finding my voice. . It means speaking my mind even if this means I am not backed by anyone else in the room . It means verbalizing ugly truths in friendships where I am not honored for who I am. I am not patient any more in dishonest friendships. I refuse to falsely agree with someone else to maintain a discussion. I am quick to disagree if I have different beliefs. It means that seeking peace and honoring myself even if it means solitude at times. It means being mindful of fatigue, hunger, and emotional exhaustion which can lead to poor judgment and actions with negative consequences. It also means practicing rest for mind, body and spirit. Another realization for me is to practice compassion and kindness for others, appreciation of people who have supported me throughout my life. It also means extending kindness not just to others, but also to myself. It also means finally starting this blog, something I have pondered for a long time.
I believe in spiritual sustenance. This means actively reminding myself that I, like other people, are spiritual beings made by God, as discussed in the Bible, Gita and other holy books. One thing I know for sure is that God and fear cannot co-exist. As spiritual beings in human bodies, anchored in the Divine Lord of the Universe, we cannot succumb to fear in any battle, whether it be COVID-19 or economic recession or racial injustice. We have to continue living one day at a time and facing the challenges as they arise. It is as Winston Churchill stated on the eve of World War II, “never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense” (www.prezi.com>churchhill-never-give-in). We have control over our choice to continue.