COVID-19 Thriving: Lasting Values Amidst Changing Beliefs

The tree of life joins our values and beliefs

If we describe ourselves as trees, values are the root system we nurture and water. While children we gather roots from family, neighbors, friends and various belongings.

As we mature, the values we nurture deepen and define our well-being and world view. Abstract and powerful values represent formative and fundamental postures which we apply to ourselves and others.

Values set up the foundation (trunk, branches and leaves) so the rest of our parts (body, mind, emotions and spirits) have room to grow and thrive. Values cling to us over a span of decades, perhaps lifetimes. They shape our character, personality, behavior, attitudes and shift based on changing priorities.

“We all have a responsibility to exercise compassion and help.” – Dali Lama

Values influence who we spend time with and who we avoid. If we value authenticity and our friends act in superficial ways, our internal radar likely experiences struggle and confusion.

If we lose focus on our value or root called authenticity, our tree will develop weeds. These weeds have the potential to grow and choke the whole system, i.e., a personal crisis may shake the tree loose or initiate a major transformation.

Values express themselves in us as individuals, as well as on collective and cultural levels. Societies develop unique root systems over millennia. Some groups embrace the concept of shifting their deeply embedded values in order to survive. Other societies collapse in an attempt to preserve their values at all costs.

Emerging religious, political and popular culture trends reveal whether or not incoming ideas are deemed relevant based on how deeply rooted are the existing social values.

For example, advanced countries swiftly adapt to new technologies while less modern societies may even ban wide distribution of something they deem undesirable.

“Budding beliefs are a ‘state/habit of mind considered to be true, or held as an opinion.’

— Webster

Values are the roots holding up the tree. Beliefs arise from buds which form and sprout.

We hold strong beliefs as important aspects of Self, regardless if they are supported by facts or science. As a frame of reference through which we interpret our world, beliefs lie in prior experiences and convictions.

Changes in beliefs occurs slowly over time or sprout quickly when supported with strong evidence. Thus, healthy sprouts remain on the tree for months and fall off to renew themselves to start a new growth cycle.CLEARING NEGATIVITY

Helena’s beliefs require a facelift

Helena is a wife and mother of three kids under the age of ten. She is also a full-time health industry professional primarily involved in person-to-person meetings. She values family, hard work and advanced education. Helena’s kids are usually occupied with school, friends and sports activities thus making her life manageable.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 Helena had to quickly shift her job responsibilities from live appointments to virtual ones. No longer able to work at the office, she set up a home office in the laundry room which had a door. Her husband is an essential worker and works outside the home.

In the first few weeks of the outbreak Helena was grateful to stay home and not commute back and forth to work. As time went on, her normal energy-levels dipped dangerously. Without a concrete start or end time, Helena went from routine and structure to disruption and disarray. Her current schedule looks like this:

4:00 a.m. wake up and work

7:30 a.m. wake up and feed the kids breakfast

8:00 a.m. start online classes with the kids

11:30 a.m. feed the kids lunch

12:30 p.m. put the kids in front of the tv or a device

4:30 p.m. check on the kids

5:30 p.m. eat dinner, sit down for family time

9:00 p.m. get kids ready for bed

9:30 p.m. work until 1:00 a.m.

When devotion turns destructive

Observing Helena’s schedule, here’s what we learn: Under normal circumstances the values of family, hard work and education appear to be in balance. With COVID-19, Helena’s interpretation of these values took a challenging turn. Here are the current beliefs under which she operates:

  1. meeting her kids’ needs matters most.
  2. getting through the day means being pulled in different directions, constantly switching roles and prioritizing the needs of others
  3. sacrificing rest, self-care, focus and sanity for caregiving, doubt and stress
  4. prioritizing work and kids over marriage and self

Helena’s current beliefs (via her schedule) are not sustainable. They are forming into weeds with a high potential of burnout, health problems and crisis. The road back to well-being has to start with a reevaluation of her upended values and beliefs struck down by COVID -19.

With a wellness coach’s help, Helena adds another value to her list: self-respect. By watering the root of self- respect, Helena takes a renewed look at her schedule. She makes adjustments to allow for short breaks involving movement (walking around the house) and 5-minute meditations. For two days a week she agrees to go to bed by 11:00 p.m.

Helena’s spouse takes the lead role in child care on weekends while she takes an online yoga class or walks outside. The family has dinner delivered from a local restaurant so everyone eats together.

Helena’s respect of her long-held beliefs reflect a person who chooses to stay sensible, focused and energized even in disruptive circumstances. With designated self-care breaks Helena is able to:

  1. close her eyes and imagine peace
  2. offer love in new ways to herself and family
  3. discover moments of joy


World beliefs need a facelift too

The Dali Lama writes an inspiring message to remind our world of the values of compassion and impermanence:

“In this time of great fear, it is important to think of the long-term challenges—and possibilities—of the entire globe. Photographs of our world from space clearly show there are no real boundaries on our blue planet.

This pandemic serves as a warning that only by coming together with a coordinated, global response will we meet the unprecedented magnitude of the challenges we face.

We must remember that nobody is free of suffering, and extend our hands to others who lack homes, resources or family to protect them. This crisis shows us we are not separate from one another—even when we are living apart. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to exercise compassion and help.

Eventually, this virus will pass, as I have seen wars and other terrible threats pass in my lifetime, and we will have the opportunity to rebuild our global community as we have done many times before. At this time of uncertainty, it is important that we do not lose hope and confidence in the constructive efforts so many are making.

— His Holiness The Dali Lama

Through the values of compassion and impermanence, the Dali Lama encourages us to collectively practice believing:

  1. solutions to COVID-19 are imminent through cooperative ingenuity vs. worry
  2. acts such as social distancing help others
  3. our lives are woven together and we can offer comfort, caring and service instead of separation, fear and uncertainty

As we create an awakened world based on Peace, Love and Joy, each tree has the potential to clear out its weeds and flourish. Let us join our collective imagination and hearts to task for this purpose. Let us regain freedom through our joined values and beliefs, and not isolate individually or in small groups from our joined global world.

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