I am more concerned of accidentally giving people Covid than getting the virus myself. Therefor I am extra cautious 24/7 which gives me a lot of unnecessary anxiety throughout my days.
What is the skillful, Buddhist view on tackling this fear? I can’t just accept the fact that sickness is part of life and let it go, because even if I could, the people around me might have a different view on this.
It’s a very noble intention, Richard. But you can only do so much. You do your best, and you can’t do more.
In one of Venerable Analayo’s books—I think it is Compassion and emptiness in early Buddhist meditation—he explains about the relation between the four Brahmaviharas. And in such a case where we can’t do as much as our compassion would perhaps wish to do we shouldn’t neglect the aspect of equanimity.
It’s a while since I read it, so I don’t remember the exact wording.
The intention is good. Acting on it is good, particularly if it’s reasonable stuff like washing your hands more often, not getting too close to people, not touching everything in the supermarket without buying it, etc.
What purpose does anxiety serve? There is an old Stoic saying, something like “If there’s nothing you can do about it anyway, why bother worrying? If you can do something about it, then just do it! Either way, no point in worrying”
Check updated guidelines from your local authorities or other trustworthy sources once a week, and change your behavior to maximize the benefit for everybody. If these intrusive thoughts pop up at any other time, remind yourself “I am doing all I can for now”, and be mindful of what else is more deserving of your attention in that moment.
Seeing that the thoughts, feelings, etc. that make up the sense of fear is not under your control - the various teachings on not-self.
For example (from SN 22:59):
Consciousness is not self. If consciousness were the self, this consciousness would not lend itself to dis-ease. It would be possible (to say) with regard to consciousness, ‘Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.’ But precisely because consciousness is not self, consciousness lends itself to dis-ease. And it is not possible (to say) with regard to consciousness, ‘Let my consciousness be thus. Let my consciousness not be thus.’
Seeing that consciousness keeps getting wrapped up and ensnared in these thoughts of fear. What may be more problematic is how you relate to the fear - as in ‘I don’t like this’ ‘I don’t want it’. Aversion to the fear. Fear is just something that comes up when we are placed in certain conditions. I am sure karma has allot to do with what causes fear but feeling fear in the middle of a pandemic doesn’t seem unreasonable. So maybe accepting the fear as perfectly reasonable given conditions and also seeing that you have no real control over when it shows up or not could help.
Looking at conditions and how you might be triggering this. There is lots of terrible news and lots of fear being generated because it sells so well. To a large extent we create our own reality as a result of where we place our attention. So noticing what kind of things you might be doing that trigger the fears and why you do them.
Mindfulness of Breathing MN 118
Could help in investigating the various elements that make up this experience of fear - how you are breathing, bodily sensations, what is going on in your mind. and so on.
If you look carefully at your statement, there is marked difference in your perception between self and other. This is a key point about ‘not-self’. When we wish for ‘All beings to be well and happy’ this includes others as well as ourselves… not just that other beings are happy and somehow ‘we’ are less deserving or in some other category…
Similarly, just as you are not afraid of getting the virus - why put others in a different category. We will all either get the virus or not - dependent on causes and conditions. While we can have some degree of control over certain conditions, (in this case social distancing, hygiene etc) we cannot control them all… This is vital to understand. This also speaks directly to intention. If you have the intention to minimise the chance of spread, and you follow the current health advice, then that is great and you should be content that you have done what you can - there is no more that you can do.
If, however, your mind keeps ruminating in ways that are not beneficial, this needs to be seen as something separate from the issue of the virus. This is the mind, engaging in unskillful proliferation and just leading to useless, pointless suffering. In this case it doesn’t really matter if it is the ‘virus’ that triggers the thoughts, or something else, it is the process of thinking in this way that is the problem.
Once you can disentangle the presenting issue (virus) from the mind process (rumination and anxiety), then you can start to target work/reflection in the appropriate manner. And there have been several nice suggestions so far
Remember the importance of kindness in this - to yourself as well as to others. As a targetted means of kindness, Metta meditation towards yourself as well as to all others is really useful - and pleasant!
SN47.19 tells us of two acrobats who learned that they had to look after themselves to look after each other. Covid is a powerful reminder of how we are all interconnected as we confront the fearful things of the world:
3.7 Thinking ‘I’ll look after myself,’ you should cultivate mindfulness meditation.
3.8 Thinking ‘I’ll look after others,’ you should cultivate mindfulness meditation.
3.9 Looking after yourself, you look after others; and looking after others, you look after yourself.”