by Hillary Goldthwait-Fowles
“There is only one cause of
unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head.” ~ Anthony De Mello
That name alone sends shivers down the spine. Stories of suffering, death,
tragedy. A global pandemic the likes we have never seen before, at least in our
lifetimes. Bungled government responses. Politicalization of mask wearing. The
noise is maddening.
Living in Maine during this time has been a gift. We thought we
were immune to the devastating impact of COVID-19. But like the emerging
winter, it showed itself in all of its viral might. Yet we kept on living like
we’d be okay. Yet, here we are. Right in the thick of it. With no sign of
It seemed innocent enough. A night with friends. Laughter.
Support. Joy. “It’s safe here”, you tell yourself. Everyone’s doing their part.
You tell yourself it won’t happen to you.
Fast forward to three days later. Fatigue. Cough. Something’s not
right. Maybe it’s just a cold. Maybe it’s not. “Stay home” you hear. So you
stay home and make an appointment to get tested just to be sure. There’s
too much at stake.
Then the results come in like something out of The Scarlett
Letter. Positive for COVID-19. The flood of emotions – anger, sadness, grief, despair,
uncertainty, guilt, shame, fear. You have no idea how this will turn out. You
wonder who else will be impacted. The fear of the unknown, the fear of the
ripple effect stares you in the face.
What to do? Well, you can’t change what’s happened to you, but you
can change how you respond. That’s a choice you can make everyday.
As an anxious person, employing a mindfulness practice has been a
big part of my life. It’s a practice that is sacred, is ever evolving and
is personal. It’s this mindfulness practice that is getting me through COVID.
Every morning I meditate. I’ll find a place to quietly set an intention. I’ll
listen to either a guided meditation or to solfeggio tones. The goal of this is
to listen to the breath, get silent, and remind myself of the many things to be
Through this practice I’ve discovered some truths. When you’re
sick there’s a lot of time to think. Perhaps too much time. Too much in your
head and not enough in your heart. In mindfulness practices during a COVID diagnosis
and recovery, these themes emerged:
Fear of the unknown – general fear.
Lack of trust due to unresolved trauma.
Despair over my own sense of entitlement and how my own actions
have their own ripple effect that may not be in anyone’s best interest.
How interconnected we all are.
One moment in particular stands out. I was on the couch with my
husband. When we are snuggled, it’s a form of mindfulness practice. Over time
our breathing rhythms sync. Everything gets quiet. In this moment, I feel truly
safe. It’s in this moment that I notice a pain in my heart. What is this?
I invite this pain to sit and tell me about itself. It’s in my heart centre.
It’s not despair. It’s not sadness. Breathe into it. Allow. Listen.
It’s heartache. Heartache over COVID. Heartache for the millions
who are suffering from COVID, displacement, unemployment, tragedy,
disenfranchisement, systemic racism, ableism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia.
Heartbreak over the divisiveness of our country. Heartbreak over hatred. Heartbreak
over my own internalized isms.
In that moment of acknowledgement, I notice that the pain in my
heart has subsided. I take another breath. The pain continues to subside
and floats away.
There are other realizations that have occurred during this COVID
diagnosis and its immediate aftermath. All of which came through when I paused,
got still, listened, leaned in, and practiced loving kindness and compassion
towards myself. Some of these realizations were around fear. Some were around
my own internalized ableism (a mark of success is to work from home while being
The largest realization was my own privileged, entitled white
woman attitude. How cavalier to think that something like COVID won’t happen to
you, or to someone you love. That you’re above reproach. I’m leaning into
this through mindfulness, leaving guilt, shame, and blame behind. Genuinely
acknowledging these elements of myself, and making the choice to let them go.
The choices that you make today have far reaching consequences for days, weeks,
months, and years to come. We are all interconnected. Our actions have ripple
effects that go beyond ourselves, our egos. Being mindful of this, my life
will never be the same.
For which I am grateful.
Check out Hillary’s website: www.hillaryhelpsulearn.com