Spiritual practices for trying times

Reading time: 6 minutes

As the threat of COVID-19 continues to rise, so does the potential for intense stress and anxiety for countless people worldwide. I recently reached out to friends from across the years to ask, “what spiritual practices do you feel are helpful in these trying times?”

The response was an inspiring breath of fresh (and sanitized) air, with recommendations across various traditions and perspectives.

“Secular spiritual” practices

Prayers for the health of healthcare workers

Kim in Oviedo, Florida is a healthcare worker, and as such welcomes any prayers for all healthcare workers as they go to the hospital and medical facilities each day. Whether you're Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic, or don't have a particular belief, we can all express our gratitude for the risks they take each day and make a prayer for their safety.

Expressing collective gratitude

Melissa from Chicago, Illinois, but currently self-isolated in Javea, Spain shared this video of the gratitude applause for healthcare workers and service people that takes place at 8pm every night.

Calming the mind with meditation

Nick in Lake Mary, Florida uses the Calm app for “daily calm” meditations that are updated daily, as well as other guided meditations, such as AMDR or the sleep frequency 528hz.

Steve in Garfield, New Jersey also recommends a specific meditation for calming the mind: “Count 10 slow, deep breaths, repeat. When you notice your mind wandering, return to counting. Try to relax every muscle in your body.”

Dance for mindfulness of body

Aarti in Chicago, Illinois recommends a series of dance exercises by Arawana Hayashi to promote mindfulness through movement and breaking free of your “stuck”: https://arawanahayashi.com/watch

Disconnecting and reconnecting with family

Tony in Charleston, South Carolina put air in the bike tires and went for a family bike ride. “It got us out of the house, some fresh air and kept social distance from others.” While it’s not technically a “spiritual” activity, there sure is a lot to say about some quality time with your loved ones out in nature!


The Lord’s Prayer

Barb in Chicago, Illinois goes back to her childhood Catholic roots and says the Lord’s Prayer before bed, or asks for guidance and peace when she has a moment to step away from the noise.

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name. 
Thy kingdom come. 
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. 
For thine is the kingdom and the power,
and the glory,
forever and ever. 

Hail Mary

Natalie in Washington, DC says the Hail Mary when feeling anxious, sad, or lost. “Mary had patience and humility. She offers comfort during times of suffering.”

Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.


A steady heart for turbulent times

Kelly in Madison, Wisconsin shared this video with two instructors from the Tergar Meditation Community, which offers advice for navigating the challenging times we're in with wisdom and compassion:

Sending light and taking suffering of others

Lauren in Chicago uses Tonglen, or sending and taking, practice to help cultivate compassion for others who are experiencing suffering. In Tonglen, you visualize breathing in someone’s suffering as a dark sticky cloud, which is then transformed into a healing light that you then breathe out, washing over the person. Repeat for as many people as you like.

A Prayer for the Coronavirus Crisis

Amy in Lugano, Switzerland shared this prayer composed by Demo Rinpoche on March 16, 2020:

During the critical emergency of the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), with the desire to help relax the mental and physical uneasiness of all friends on earth, Demo Rinpoche wrote this four-stanza prayer with a warm heart.

All living beings are my parents,
All living beings are my siblings.
When all living beings are suffering
I fervently generate indestructible love and compassion.

By the blessings of immeasurable love
By the force of awareness of unmistaken truth
Of all previous great holy beings
May all living beings be free from the dangers of illness.

Grasping hands in a circle of friendship,
Seeing the wisdom of benefit to self and others,
By the perfections of generosity, morality, and patience,
May all living beings be free from the dangers of illness.

This disease, as well as
All future wars, famine, and crises shall not arise to be named.
From the smallest plant to every creature on this planet,
May all be victorious over unwanted harm.

A prayer for pacifying the fear of disease

Stephanie in Minneapolis, Minnesota shared this prayer written by a Tibetan Buddhist monk named Thangtong Gyalpo when an epidemic was spreading through his monastery and threatening its annihilation.

May all the diseases that disturb the minds of sentient beings,
And which result from karma and temporary conditions,
Such as the harms of spirits, illness, and the elements,
Never occur throughout the realms of this world.

May whatever sufferings arise due to life-threatening diseases,
Which, like a butcher leading an animal to the slaughter,
Separate the body from the mind in a mere instant,
Never occur throughout the realms of this world.

May all embodied beings remain unharmed
By acute, chronic and infectious diseases,
The mere names of which can inspire the same terror
As would be felt in the jaws of Yama, Lord of Death. 

May the 80,000 classes of harmful obstructors,
The 360 evil spirits that harm without warning,
The 424 types of disease, and so forth
Never cause harm to any embodied being!

May whatever sufferings arise due to disturbances in the four elements,
Depriving the body and mind of every pleasure,
Be totally pacified, and may the body and mind have radiance and power,
And be endowed with long life, good health, and well-being. 

By the compassion of the gurus and the Three Jewels,
The power of the ḍākinīs, Dharma protectors and guardians,
And by the strength of the infallibility of karma and its results,
May these many dedications and prayers be fulfilled as soon as they are made.

We all need some spiritual nourishment in these trying times. There are many approaches from all walks of life. If you have a particular practice that you find helpful, please share it in the comments below.

May you all be happy, free from suffering, and find courage and hope!