May 20, 2020
A world crisis is unfolding in front of our eyes!
In the face of COVID-19, what can we do? The world feels like it is at war against a somewhat invisible enemy, and the virus is not even alive! It is a virus, not bacteria!
In aircraft, life vest jackets are used in the event of an emergency landing on water. In ships, lifeboats are deployed when ships capsize. On a lighter note, a lifeline is offered to contestants needing trivia help on the TV game show ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’.
But this is not a game show, this is real life and the escape route is still a little dark.
Perhaps we have become too comfortable living in our modern world with the benefits of Penicillin and antibiotics for so long, we are not used to being in this kind of situation where there is no pill we can simply take to get healthy.
There is no cure for COVID-19, and just as is the case with influenza, there likely never will be. This is not a situation in which the world can pop a Panadol and just get over it.
Currently, we see multiple nations around the world sign stimulus packages into effect to recover from the economic fallout from COVID-19. But this is only a solution for the economy. What about health? What about the fabric of society? What about the fabric of our very own lives?
Hundreds of thousands have already been infected with coronavirus and thousands are dying every day! And the most stressful thing about it is that there are still so many unknowns. The future is unclear.
But while we cannot cure COVID-19 and while we cannot all be certain to avoid contracting it no matter how many hygienic measures we take, what we can do is each improve our physical and mental health.
One thing we can do is something that has been practiced since time immemorial in every part of the world and every religion: Fasting.
The town of Geneva in Switzerland holds an annual fast called ‘Jeunegenevois’ or ‘Fast of Geneva’,’ observed on the Thursday following the first Sunday of September which is a public holiday. It originated in the sixteenth century as penitence after calamities such as wars, epidemics, or the plague.
Christians fast during Lent and Muslims during Ramadan while many other religious people such as Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Jains fast throughout the year. All fasting has goals of sacrifice and cleansing our inner being.
Fasting gives us a kind of lifeline for physical, mental, and spiritual health. Fasting has been shown to help improve many health issues such as diabetes and beyond this, it helps us improve our mental conditions to augment the moods limiting our cravings.
For religious people, fasting can go hand in hand with prayer, and can spark a feeling of deep connection with the divine and with one’s God, something beyond ourselves, and might help us reconnect with an inner voice of purpose inside ourselves. But even if you are not religious, fasting can offer us spiritual benefits. The practice of abstaining from anything for a short period can help anyone to exercise gratitude.
Indeed, if we remember that the word ‘spirit’ originates from the Latin ‘espiritus’ meaning ‘breathe’ we can understand that spirituality does not have to be anything religious nor even esoteric. Of course, it depends on how you define the word, but even atheists can benefit from mindfulness in the form of bringing attention back to the breath. Spirituality in this sense can be a practice of reconnecting with the present moment and nature.
Ultimately fasting brings us satisfaction and strength to face any challenge in our day to day life!
Let us use fasting and prayer (or simply mindfulness) to build individual physical, mental, and spiritual health and also the health of our communities in this time of crisis! By the act of fasting and prayers (meditation), we can build our immunity to any adverse situations in our life by combining gratitude and compassion.
Let us come together to improve the health of the world!