New paradigm science has changed many of our old assumptions about human emotion, thought, feelings, and behavior. One of the most important to understand during COVID-19 is the differences in our minds based on what is happening in a deep part of our brains called the amygdala. Although educators and psychologists have been talking about the differences in our minds for decades, many of our educational, social, and mental health services remain standing like temple ruins to remind us of the one-size-fits-all assumptions that were embedded into everything old paradigm science touched.
People are constantly making unconscious decisions to help us regulate our own emotions. Some people have a tendency to depend on other people to help regulate emotions. Others are fiercely independent and do not let other people’s emotions influence their day. Simple Rule #1 helps us to remember that a sense of oneness will never develop between people or groups who proudly stand on either end of that wide continuum.
Mindfulness and centering prayer are two daily spiritual practices that people have begun to use to help regulate emotional energy. This means as a population, we have begun searching for the center of that wide continuum between unhealthy dependence on others and fierce independence. Both mindfulness and centering prayer are ancient practices and, both are effective for some of the same reasons as well as different reasons. This is a complex topic so anticipate that everything I say will be an oversimplification.
Mindfulness can be thought of as a way to support emotional self-regulation when a person has a desire to become more autonomous and independent. In our COVID-19 world, there are many benefits to becoming that emotionally self-regulated because, people and events are often promoting emotional dysregulation. The more we are worried about the spread of COVID-19 personally influencing us, the more emotionally dysregulating direct human contact can feel. In this scenario, learning to focus exclusively in the moment, on our breath, and our private sensory experience is beneficial.
Centering prayer follows many of the same process patterns as mindfulness but, there is one very significant difference. Centering prayer uses thought to connect with a person’s perception of their higher power. For those of us who believe or find comfort in the idea of our higher power, this can have the emotionally self-regulating benefits of any other loving relationship. This may be the very thing a person needs who feels lonely due to forced isolation during COVID-19.
It would be a mistake to believe that mindfulness is the only spiritual practice supported by new paradigm science. It is true there has been vastly more mindfulness research carried out during recent years. That is a cultural reality but, centering prayer practitioners are active in writing about their experiences based on the same new paradigm science as mindfulness. Cynthia Bourgeault has written books on her experience and, like me, reports an increased capacity for seeing beyond the split reality caused by dualistic perceptions of good vs. evil. Simple Rule #1 is to regulate emotional energy because developing a sense of individual oneness is required for us to promote that feeling in our COVID-19 world.