Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

I don’t know about you, but for me it feels like a million years since Mayor Benjamin Magalong decided to suspend classes on all levels in Baguio City last Thursday, March 12.  I remember the very moment—Kidlat and I had just come out of two one-hour meetings with the teachers of our children, who were giving us their reports on their progress in mixed kindergarten at Balay Sofia (the only Waldorf school in Baguio). As we were about to leave the school, Teacher Pam ran after us to tell us the directive from City Hall. We were not to bring our children to school the next day, not for a whole week. A few days later, community quarantine of Baguio was declared, and then “enhanced community quarantine” of the entire island of Luzon until April 15, 2020. All because of a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2.

No one can go to work except those who provide essential goods and services. Those who can, work from home. All schools are closed. The malls—bastions of consumerism—are closed save for their groceries and pharmacies. Walking on the street or driving around your private vehicle is prohibited unless you have a permit secured from your barangay hall. For those of us who are lucky enough to have a place to call home with creature comforts such as tv, internet, smartphones and other gadgets, it feels just like a long weekend at home. But for many citizens living under the poverty level, the question of survival has become even more urgent than ever. Covid 19, the name of the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, has suddenly brought to light the glaring inequalities to which we’ve become desensitized.

What makes this situation a truly unique phenomenon, however, is the worldwide impact of this teeny tiny virus. From Cubao to Copenhagen, from Pampanga to Paris, our lives as we know it have changed. Mother Earth said, “You still haven’t learned how to live as one? Here you go!”

What do you do when the capitalist structure on which your social reality is based on is suddenly rendered useless or obsolete?

At first, the internet and social media were awash with news articles and memes poking fun at the situation. Those who could afford to responded by panic buying.

But soon, the giving began.

Some creative souls responded by giving freely of their services online. My children and I “attended” a fun and entertaining Facebook live drawing class given by Robert Alejandro, whose family started the beloved store Papemelroti. Local Baguio yoga studios Pranalaya Yoga and Wellness and Ashtanga Yoga now offer a regualr schedule of Facebook live classes. Museums around the world have offered free virtual tours. Local and foreign publishing houses are giving away their titles for free for at least 30 days. A friend of mine sent me his ebook collection for free.

This morning, I attended a video call with NLP master trainer Carelle Mangaliag-Herrera, where she taught fellow NLP coaches how to coach those suffering from anxiety and depression via video call (normally, we can only conduct NLP coaching face to face). All the coaches present at the video call will be giving this kind of help to anyone who needs it during this season of covid 19—free of charge.

Yet man does not live by Facebook live classes alone. NGOs and members of civic society are providing rides and lodging to medical frontliners, as well as food baskets for low income people. Conglomerates as well as small businesses are giving their employees at least a month’s salary, or advancing their 13th month pay. Other companies are coordinating with government to provide food to those who need it. I suppose even the most hard core capitalists realize that the bottom line doesn’t matter if the whole world goes to hell in a handbasket.

On March 19, exactly a week after Mayor Magalong’s announcement of class suspension, I conducted my first video call meeting of a group of co parents. Nine of us have been taking up The Artist’s Way, a book written by Julia Cameron to help anyone—artist or otherwise—recover their creative selves. We discussed Week 6 (the halfway point in the book), which is serendipitously titled “Recovering A Sense of Abundance.” The key point of the chapter stated that although we believe in a God of limitlessness, a God of abundance, many don’t believe He/She/It was involved in money matters. Our relationship with God is reflected in our relationship with ourselves—many of us behave “anorectically” toward ourselves, depriving ourselves of creative luxury that comforts us and feeds the well that is Soul. We could be rich in cash but deprive ourselves of downtime to rest or play.

Creative luxury needn’t cost much. One parent shared that her creative luxury was a 5 peso embroidered sewing kit she scored at the ukay-ukay. Another one who was an avowed extrovert said the luxury she deprived herself of was time alone; being in community quarantine made her realize that the reason she distracted herself with so many things is because she was afraid to face herself and the questions in her heart.

As we took turns sharing our insights from the past week, we all agreed that we were so grateful we had begun our Artist’s Way group. In a funny way, it prepared us for the present challenge of home quarantine by giving us tools for introspection, healing and growth. We would not be spending the entire quarantine period numbing ourselves in hours of Netflix series or YouTube videos (well, at least not every day!). Somehow, we will not just survive this covid 19 crisis, we will thrive.

At the coaching video call, someone shared “The Healthy Mind Platter” created by Harvard-trained psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. David Rock of the NeuroLeadership Institute. They posit that a healthy mind comes from a process of “integration”, which helps the mind create or hone connections that enhance mental wellness. They identified seven essential activities for optimal function. I’m sharing these here to help all of us harvest the abundance of what life has to offer, in good times as well as in bad:

Focus Time: Focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way. Activities like crocheting, baking, or finishing a crossword puzzle are challenges that make deep connections in the brain.

Play Time:  Activities that allow us to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, help make new connections in the brain.

Connecting Time: When we connect with other people, ideally in person—but video calls work too!—and when we take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, we activate and reinforce the brain’s relational circuitry.

Physical Time: When we move our bodies, aerobically if medically possible, we strengthen the brain in many ways.

Time In: When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, we help to better integrate the brain.

Down Time: When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, we help the brain recharge. Yes, daydreaming is a useful activity after all!

Sleep Time: When we give the brain the rest it needs, we consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.

Each person is different, so map out your day using these seven “platters” and observe which combination is optimal for your well-being. By caring for these internal connections, we improve our external relations with the world too. (Read more on The Healthy Mind platter here: https://www.drdansiegel.com/resources/healthy_mind_platter/)