I feel sad for so much of the world. Lately, I have felt sad for the health of the earth, sad for people affected by bushfires, sad for the animals compromised by human decisions. But now, I feel sad for the masses of people affected by the Covid-19 virus. It has overwhelmed us. There is so much suffering, caused directly through ill health or indirectly through the consequences of trying to keep it under control. The situation is dire.
We all know this. We keep watch on it every day. We are all sad. Some of us are so sad, we are depressed. Some of us accept the sadness and put it aside, enabling us to help others, or learn new skills or join virtual social groups. Some of us have become highly creative.
And some of us are still able to feel joy. Joy in the time of a pandemic feels inappropriate. It feels forbidden.
But due to my personal circumstances, I am feeling joy. It is restrained. It is restricted. But it is still, joy.
Just a few weeks ago, I experienced huge changes in my life. I moved out of the family home, something I had wanted to do for a long while, my marriage having broken down years before. I floated in limbo, haunted by the threat of lockdown, isolation, and a precarious house settlement. I feared the failing of the plan to start my new life. I feared I would not be able to move into my new home.
And then the pieces fell into place. Each step completed and enabled the baton to be passed. At last, I felt relief. I was so happy to be free. So happy to be at the beginning of a new adventure. I felt joy. And it had been a long time coming.
I wondered if it was all right to feel joy in the circumstances.
To a certain extent, I shared my joy with family and friends. When I moved into my new house, my mother, my sons, and a couple of friends came to help – on different occasions. Separately. No hugs. No gathering. Lots of hand washing.
I felt guilty that my mother came out of self-chosen isolation to help me, but I could not have kept her away. My father and stepmother also veered from safety to see my new home. We all understood the risk and the need to do so. Joy should be shared.
The news continued to get worse. The restrictions tightened. Many people died, lost livelihoods, became homeless. The UK, America, Europe, Asia, and my beloved India, all suffered immense losses and other complications.
And I kept to myself: unpacking boxes, placing ornaments, shopping at Bunnings, decorating. Each box I flattened, shelf I cleared, drawer I organised and room I finished, gave me joy.
Sometimes my joy felt so great, I chastised myself for bad form. I was careful who I talked to about it in case it was judged as such. My good fortune almost became a source of shame.
And then I remembered the teaching I had read in the Vedanta Treatise (A. Parthasarathy) – it is our duty to be self-poised, self-pleased, be peaceful and cheerful, that to be miserable is a social and moral crime, that spreading melancholy to our fellow beings is like spreading disease, and that we should rejuvenate others with happiness and joy. Essentially, that means it is our duty to enjoy our lives, make the most of what we have, and share good feelings with others.
With self-possession, we can give more of ourselves, be more compassionate, be of greater use. Feeling good enables us to share good with others.
The creative people that have made the world laugh, sing, meditate, learn, and play during this pandemic, are doing wonderful things for the mental state, even the spiritual state, of the world. Keeping positive and happy within ourselves means we can keep going, keep supporting and keep helping others do the same. The medical and science people are giving so much. So are the cooks, the cleaners, the decision makers. We can support them by keeping a good attitude, being grateful and doing what we can for others, even if that is just a smile, a nice word, some small assistance.
I appreciate my good fortune and it makes me joyful. Joy like this is not easy to attain and it is fragile. It should be relished and stored in my heart where it will make me strong, peaceful, and cheerful. Feeling sad will not help me help others but feeling glad just might.