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Physical Distancing: The Spiritual Impact of Socializing

by Shirley R. Bloethe

In a time of national emergency, how do we filter through the many concerns around safe contact; how do we protect ourselves, our children and our family? There is panic pervading many places. Are our fears realistic? Are we looking at survival of the fittest? This virus is brand new; do we even really know how it is spread or transmitted? And what is the spiritual lesson here, if any? 

The official term “social distancing” —what we’ve all been asked to do—is an infection control action intended to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease. The objective of social distancing is to reduce the probability of contact between persons carrying an infection, and others who are not infected, so as to minimize disease transmission, morbidity and ultimately, mortality. One of the earliest references to social distancing dates to the Bible’s mentions of leper colonies, which were established as a means of preventing the spread of leprosy and other contagions.

However effective it may be, there are serious drawbacks to extended social distancing such as loneliness, reduced productivity, and the loss of other benefits associated with human interaction. The actual phrase “social distancing” itself is something of a misnomer that can cause some psychological and spiritual harm. 

What we are really being asked to do right now is keep our PHYSICAL distance from others in social settings, but the intention gets lost in the words. While it may be the correct epidemiological phrase, a more accurate phrase is physical distancing. 

This is a time to come together and support each other (i.e.. socialize) even if we shouldn’t touch each other and must keep a physical divide between us. We should not separate from our humanity and the people around us right now. This is not just the people in the U.S., but in the entire world. This pandemic is affecting everyone everywhere! We need to strike a balance between taking care of ourselves and caring for others. Never has the phrase “We are all one” been more important. In a spiritual sense, we are all connected. We are all one in this pandemic;
there is no division of race, color, creed. This has affected all people throughout the world - OUR world. So, while being physically distant may be necessary at this time, it has never been more critical for people to come together spiritually, psychologically, and support each other. Images and videos of Italians singing together from their individual home balconies is a beautiful example of this phenomenon. While appropriately physically distant, the people were socializing and supporting one another in a beautiful and uplifting way. 

The way we live our lives daily does affect others, even others we may never see, talk to, or know personally. What religions have tried to do over the ages is bring people together in understanding, love and compassion. Being kind to one another even when we don’t understand much about them is a fairly universal theme, as stated by “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” What does that phrase really mean? In spiritual terms, we must first begin by loving ourselves. Many people feel shame and guilt, or do not accept themselves as they are. Hopefully we are always striving to be better, but we do fall short. That doesn’t make us bad, but rather exemplifies our humanity. The difficult process to maturity is learning to love oneself. Only then can we start on the wonderful journey of loving another, fully, with kindness, compassion, and truly giving of ourselves because we know who the Source of our love is. It is unending and abundant!

Creator, God as we understand Him/Her, Universal Love, A Higher Power, Nature, many names in many religions and belief systems, but ultimately a single source of our being and creation on this planet. The One who will always guide us and never give us more than we can handle. When times are tough, as they are for many people right now, may you realize that despite everything you have been through, you have survived, and you are still here!

Yes, there are dark times, and we question why something happened (like this virus pandemic and others before now). Our understanding may be limited, but, at the end of the day, we are uniquely suited to handle the tough times. In our faith, we are taken care of. Now in these times, we know we will be taken care of, too.

Resilience is a term we hear quite frequently with regard to raising children and helping people cope that have suffered difficult life situations. In teaching them to be resilient, what does it really mean? It means helping them tap into their inner strength so they feel they can prevail over life’s challenges. Developing a core inner strength and faith in their intuition, that gut feeling to do the right thing at the right time, allows their inner strength to come through during difficult situations.

Universal love is our birthright. How easy it can be to forget that, when we get caught up in the mundane, work, chores, or trying to escape through the use of physical pursuits or alcohol or chemicals. We know we can make better choices to thrive. We can choose another path with the help of our community and friends.

We all need time for rest, relaxation, dreams, social lives and self-care. It allows our bodies to regenerate, build their immune system, keep us healthy, and give us vitality for life. While we all need some time for quiet contemplation, we are still made to be social beings, needing each other, communing with one another, sharing good times and bad so that we can overcome together, to lift each other up.

May we all use this moment in time as a powerful opportunity to wake up to our common humanity. May we join together as a human family worldwide to cultivate true compassion for all who suffer in any way because of these events brought on by this virus. May we take stock of what is truly important and make good decisions.

Please adhere to physical distancing guidelines, but do not distance yourselves from your social lives, your community that supports you, and family. Be creative and find safe ways to keep supporting and loving your family, friends and neighbors throughout this world.

Rev. Shirley R Bloethe is Assistant Pastor at Spiritualist Church of Love and Light and Executive Director, Holistic Community Professionals. Connect with her at 860-989-0033, ShirleyBloethe.com or HolisticCommunityProfessionals.org

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