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The Coronavirus pandemic does cause a shutdown situation in many parts of the world. A meditator, Sister Jenna, is calling for a “global pause.”

Our lives have moments of up and down. Our society too has such moments. Many Americans are worried about the effects of this global shutdown on the economy. But it is one thing to be concerned about something we can do something about, it is quite another to be consumed by anxiety about something we cannot do anything about. As mindful people, we should ask ourselves this — can we utilize our down time creatively? Instead of feeling depressed, we should consider other alternatives. Can we use this down time to rest, to recuperate, to do things that we have so often put aside due to the busyness of our daily life?

Chinese thoughts is largely divided into two major camps — Confucianism and Taoism. The Confucians and the Taoists are like the yin and the yang in society, representing the passive side and the active side of life.

For the well-educated person or the scholar in old China, there are two ways of being. When one’s service is in high demand by society, one actively participates in government, in society, in serving the country. On the other hand, if one’s service is not in demand, perhaps due to losing the favor of the emperor, then one becomes a hermit. One uses one’s down time to pursue one’s personal interests — to cultivate oneself, to practice spirituality, to paint, to write poems, to enjoy nature. Many members of the Chinese literati are known to be recluses. It is a different kind of life. Yet, one can make it productive and enjoyable.

It is possible to switch back and forth between the busy life and the reclusive life. One can bounce between the two extremes. Yang is a position of activism, of engagement in worldly affairs. Yin is a position of silence, reclusiveness and rest. I’d like to think of the reclusive position as a kind of wu-wei (literally “doing nothing”). Yet, in Taoist wisdom, much can be accomplished by resting and letting things take their natural course.

So, it is not time to be miserable. There is an upside to being down. I recommend using the down time for soul-making.

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Published author, Zen teacher, professor, scientist, philosopher, social commentator, socially-engaged human

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