The Gift of Quarantine

I’ve been watching the news about the spread of Coronavirus with great interest since it began to ripple across the globe. I didn’t panic, and I’m still not panicking. I’m not insensitive or being smug about it as it’s a very serious crisis. The reason is that in 2003, I had written about a prediction of it in the 2nd edition of my book, Masters Among Us, which was published in 2004. 

My reaction to news of the virus was “Oh, so here it is.” In 2003, I had interviewed several enlightened Indian monks then living in the Golden Age Foundation Ashram overseen by the yoga master Sri Bhagavan. In the aftermath of 9-11, that master had then been voicing the urgency of humanity’s need to become enlightened to gain control of a world that was raveling out of control. I had also written about messages issuing from appearances of The Blessed Mother in Medjugorje with a similarly voiced tone of urgency. In the revised edition of the book, just released in February, I added new chapters containing an update to both of those messages.

With these teachings in mind, I have had to wonder if there is not some greater message now being imparted to humanity from the type of unseen, benevolent overseers referenced in my book. Here in one excerpt, found on page 277 in Chapter 11, are the words of that enlightened monk, preceded by my introductory paragraph:  

‘While the ambition of Sri Mukteshwar [the name by which Sri Bhagavan was then known, in 2004] seems like a lofty ideal that would certainly provide a nice alternative to the routine we know as modern living, his monks and he relay a more urgent message. Like the Madonna’s pleas at Fatima in 1917, a similar, ominous message of warning is issued now. One monk explained:

“If mankind does not make it, it’s going to be terrible. We are not here prophesying the doomsday but what is in store for man is evident. The way man’s thoughts & emotions are structured today; we must know man and nature are one organism and not two separate entities. The ruthlessness, selfishness & brutality we have within us, the amount of violence that is there in our everyday life, all this is affected in the nature around us and very soon if man would go the way he is going, the tension he is building up because of the speed, competition and the struggle for survival, we seem to be moving towards inner death if we are not yet already. And if this is what is going to happen then we are going to have severe natural calamities. 

‘Mankind is going to have lot of diseases…because if the disease is inside, that is going to manifest outside. Each one of us should only think, pause and look: “How am I living?” and we will know how we are going to be a few years from now, a few months from now. The speed at which the world is moving – what is going to happen to man? And lots of people are going to go insane. We can already see it happening. Many are struggling to keep up their sanity. The world is moving towards disaster. If the pollution is going to increase because the kind of civilization we are in is the product of our mind and greed, then thousands are going to die out of lung diseases. 

A large section of human population is going to be wiped out. That is what is in store for man. It is not that the earth is going to become a dead planet and the human race is going to be wiped out. No, but then lots and lots of people are going to die and those who are going to be left behind are going to be living in a huge graveyard and it is not a pleasant experience. 

It’s time that one becomes serious about life, serious about ourselves, serious about our fellow human beings, serious about suffering around us. We got the gift of thinking, feeling. We can’t be dreaming and selfish any more. We have to buckle up. 

…If this is not going to happen… then we are in for a crisis. Mother earth is going to revolt. She is not going to take it on any more. The house is burning already. We can’t wait any more…Earth is aching and seeking for enlightened people. That’s what has to happen now.”

So, in 2020, Governments local and national across the globe are quarantining and isolating entire populations. Humanity is being forced to stay home, retail venues have been told to shut their doors, while conventions and public events are being cancelled. On top of things, the stock market has been plummeting, another predicted event I had also written about in that book. News programs are relaying information and advice in response to worldwide fear and panic.

I’m writing this because I’m compelled to share the advice I had given my daughter just last week. My daughter is currently living in Vietnam, a bit closer to the Coronavirus epicenter in China than our home in suburban Philadelphia. She teaches English there. The school where she works has been closed since Chinese New Year, and was told just the other day that it will remain closed indefinitely. As of last week, the first case of the virus hit the small village where she lives, and public venues like popular restaurants and bars have closed. She and her fellow teachers are now staying sequestered in their homes. My daughter shared her concern and restlessness. She has no television, with her only lifelines to the outside world being her laptop and iphone. And now she has no income. 

I told her that her predicament is similar to the time I lived in a yoga ashram when I was her age (not the same ashram referenced above, but similar). The ashram was a retreat site where one could voluntarily stay for extended periods of time to retreat, refresh, and take a break from the hustle bustle of the world for pause in a reflective lifestyle. The objective of such a stay is take that reflective ability back into one’s everyday life. In the ashram, we had no television, and in those days, there was no internet, no cell phones. We were in a rural location in the Catskill Mountains. My lifeline was a bank of pay phone booths when I periodically called to check in with my parents. I didn’t drive or own a car then, either. 

After a while, an opportunity for an extended stay was offered in exchange for free room and board and a monthly stipend of $50.00. All I had were the clothes I owned, a few books, a blank journal, and a Sony Walkman with a few cassettes of U2 music among others. Each day I participated in yoga and meditation programs, and enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow yoga students when dining or taking a break in an on-site cafe. It was, essentially, an elective monastic lifestyle. I learned that I didn’t need much. And it was great, as I’ve learned to not need much in the years since. It remains one of the most fulfilling and influential times of my life. To this day, 40 years later, I still practice much of what I learned there, like meditation, contemplation, sharing, and working with an attitude of service.

 This is what I wrote to my daughter: 

“Your present predicament is not unlike the time I lived in ashrams. The ashram was situated in a remote village, with the only general store a mile down the road closed by 7:00 pm. At first, it got boring and I and we got restless. But we soon saw this offered one of the most valuable lessons of an ashram, or any monastery. It provides the opportunity to witness how the mind creates stories and distracts. It’s the first lesson of yoga. So, my suggestion is to use this time and opportunity of limited travel for internal, spiritual growth. Before, between, and after your required duties, actively practice meditation. Recharge your inner batteries. Refresh your being and reinvigorate a sound foundation within yourself to strengthen and prepare you for whatever lies around the next corner. Use the time for growth of spirit. View your quarantine as a great gift in this way. It is providing an opportunity for you to give yourself the best thing. As you get older and busier with responsibilities, such opportunities become rare, and this why people need to “retreat” to recharge. So, imagine you are living in a ashram or monastery now, and discover new insights. The lesson of living in an ashram is to take the dharma of daily living back into your everyday life when you leave. So, borrow from my ashram tenure account, and make your present living situation into an ashram. Love you!”

And this is the best advice I can offer to all of you at this time: use the time for internal, spiritual growth. Turn off your TV for a short while. Put away your phone. Give yourself a break. Write a book, paint a painting, cook something you’ve never cooked before. Send a card to someone you love. Do that home improvement project you’ve put off. Humanity is being given a rare opportunity to pause, reflect, recharge and begin anew, potentially with a perspective of service and sharing. We are all in this together. Let’s seize the moment and make the world a better place for all of us. And love to you too! 

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