Four Eastern Philosophies That Can Help You Gain Perspective During COVID-19

In my years as a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, I have witnessed time and time again that our minds, bodies and our world all seem to adhere to some of the philosophical concepts of eastern thought. During this difficult time, I wanted to share how I think a few of these concepts are relevant to us, and how understanding them can give us some peace of mind and reassurance that we’ll get through this. Sending you love, strength and support.

Yin and Yang: Striking a Balance

The concept of Yin and Yang are integral to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Yin includes qualities like darkness, quietude, coolness, and stillness. Yang is the opposite —  bright, hot, loud and active. Pure yin and pure yang are extreme states. Your new life during this pandemic may feel like it’s at one extreme right now — chaotic, busy, frightening, and unfamiliar. But nature shows us over and over that nothing exists in an extreme state forever. For example, a fire in the hottest, driest part of summer can eventually be extinguished by damp, cool rains of autumn. Homeostasis returns. Things balance out, and we adjust. Keep in mind that although the last few weeks have felt like forever, this is all still very new. And you will find new rhythms (in parenting, scheduling, and daily life). Trust that even while the social distancing and uncertainty remains, you and your family will strike a balance. It may not be perfect, but it will work for you.

Oneness: We’re All In This Together 

While it wasn’t always the case, it’s now become more or less accepted in our culture that your mind and body aren’t separate entities. They affect one another in very real, many times obvious ways. This has always been a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. For example, when you’re stressed and can’t stop thinking, the process of sleep is usually interrupted. Taking it to a macro level, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it abundantly clear that there’s also a close relationship between the health of the individual and that of the community as a whole. What one person does affects their neighbors and it ripples out from there.

So how can you take care of yourself and help your community? As far as self-care, the simplest methods are the most important. Drink water. Move your body, every day. Get to bed early and prioritize sleep. Eat nourishing foods (90% of the time!). As far as your community, just because you’re physically separated from others doesn’t mean social isolation needs to happen. You can simultaneously help and deepen your relationship with your community in many ways. Call or video chat with friends and family. Mail a handwritten letter. Support small businesses. Reach out (by phone or a note) to an elderly or immune-compromised neighbor. Smile as you pass someone on the street (if you’re wearing a mask, a friendly nod will do). But also, ask for help when you need it. If this isn’t something you’re accustomed to doing, now is a great time to practice. Remember that people, by and large, want to help others.

Making Sense of Springtime and Change

It’s so interesting to me that this is all happening during the springtime. In Chinese Medicine, spring is the season associated with the wood element. Wood means growth, change, and newness, just as new buds appear on the trees and tender shoots appear in the garden. It sounds really poetic, but growth, change, and newness have the potential to be really scary and challenging! Starting a new job, giving a talk or maybe living through our first ever pandemic?

Brene Brown discussed on her new podcast how to cope when facing something for the first time. She explains how facing your fear so that you can learn new ways of being is hard but totally worth it — this is where we grow! Did you ever learn a totally new skill or a new way of thinking without moving through loads of frustration and self-doubt, and even some failures along the way? I didn’t think so. When you push through, you grow, and you emerge stronger and more resilient. Just in time for summer

Wu Wei and Effortless Action

Wu Wei is such an apt concept for times we live in! Wu Wei is a Taoist idea that describes effortless action. We simply stop fighting and resisting what’s happening. In our situation, this means simply staying at home and learning to be ok with the total uncertainty of the situation. For parents, this may also mean lowering the bar, decreasing expectations, and slowing down. Much as a marathoner knows not to run at full speed or they’ll run out of steam before the race is over, you’ll have more stamina for this entire process if you can pace yourself through it. Every day will be different — some days you’ll have fun, creative activities for the family and eat homemade meals, other days will seem much more scattered and you’ll eat frozen pizza. Accept the inconsistencies, the (seeming) messiness and the unknown and you’ll be showing yourself a great deal of self-compassion

Further Resources:

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times. Pema Chodron

Brene Brown’s Podcast, Unlocking Us. Episode 1, Brene on FFTs

The Tao of Pooh. By Benjamin Hoff

About the Author

Susan-WallmeyerSusan Wallmeyer is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Board Certified Herbalist with a private practice in New York City. She has been serving New Yorkers since 2009 and primarily has a focus on treating women’s health concerns. Susan strives to stay up to date on research and treatment modalities through regularly researching and writing articles, attending seminars locally and abroad and participating in a mentorship group focused on perinatal care and research literacy. She enjoys providing care in a small, private practice setting with a high degree of attention and personalized care. Susan enjoys running, hiking, cooking, reading and riding CitiBikes through New York as much as possible.