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Covid-19 and Your Spirituality by JC Ramos Paulino

Covid-19 is the name of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. It has ruthlessly shown us how our society can be disrupted overnight. And it will also show us how resilient we can be. In a matter of months, the collective human species will get back on its feet. It will dust itself off, reflect on a few lessons learned, and move on. Yes, Covid-19 will leave scars in some of us through memories of loss and suffering. But as a whole, life will go on. That is all well and good. Down the road, it is going to be okay. Covid-19 will be in the rearview mirror—a chapter in human history. 

Meanwhile, however, how do we deal with the anxiety and fear on a personal level? How should we face the current economic uncertainty and threat of loss? 

Here are two concepts to help you come out stronger on the other side of this crisis. 

Evolution and Growth One of the most potent forces active in the cosmos is the drive toward evolution. In its current stage, our universe is evolving, growing, and expanding. You are the outcome of this drive; so is everything else in nature. When you are growing, a dynamic drive enlivens every cell in your body and puts you in harmony with other elements experiencing growth in your environment. The opposite happens when you are stagnant—there is harmony there, too, but that harmony is with things that cause decay. 

Growth includes at least three areas: 

• Physical 

• Emotional 

• Intellectual 

Physical growth encompasses the development and nurturing of your body. It includes what contributes to it, like your health, possessions, and finances. Emotional growth includes your relationships, psychological health, and spiritual development. Intellectual growth comprises the knowledge and skills that you acquire. These three areas combine to give you a spectrum of activities, a field of play for the game of life. 

Growth in any of these areas will give you a measure of pleasure. Experiencing growth will have a positive impact on your spiritual well-being. 

One of the side effects of Covid-19 is having more free time in our hands, so use some of this time to grow in an area of your life! Watch a little less news and a bit less Netflix. Instead, invest some of your time in learning a new skill, cultivating a new relationship, or strengthening your body. Learn how to code webpages or use Photoshop. Locate old high school friends via social media and rekindle those relationships. Work out at home for a half-hour in the morning or take a walk for 15 minutes in the evening. Be greedy and do all three! 

Start growing in an area of your life and see what happens to your state of mind. 

Your Present Moment: One fascinating thing about humans is our capacity for conscious attention. Our conscious attention, combined with our dreams and goals, generates our faculty for creation. Thanks to this faculty, each one of us can bring entirely new things into existence. A song, a story, a painting, a smartphone, a car, an airplane, a skyscraper, cities, space stations… Humans can create anything our minds can fathom. Nothing else in nature comes close to the inherent abilities each of us owns. 

Your attention can be: 

• Conscious attention, guided by your conscious desires and intellect 

• Passive attention, guided by your subconscious 

To purposely access your capacity for creation, your attention must be conscious—it must be under your control. When you are drowning in negative and repetitive thoughts, your attention is stuck outside of your conscious will. It is snarled by turbulent emotions from your subconscious self-image. Whenever this is happening, your attention is out of your control and you are not really in the present moment. Instead, you are experiencing a pseudo-reality inside your own head. Life can feel quite miserable when we keep re-experiencing asphyxiating emotions that are out of our control. 

But! It is possible to master your conscious attention. Mastering attention allows you to be more and more in the actual present moment, and the present moment can be quite joyful. But mastering your conscious attention takes time, and frankly, the mechanics of doing so are beyond the scope of this article. You can, however, practice a simple mindfulness exercise designed to bring your attention into the present moment. This will give you a brief respite. 

Step 1. 

Notice when your attention is not in the actual present moment when you are instead inside your own head. It may surprise you to realize how often this happens! Acknowledge it. The more relaxed you are about acknowledging it, the better. Say something soft, like, “Oh, okay.” Avoid judging, criticizing, or dwelling on it—it doesn’t matter what drew your attention. Just notice it consciously, because conscious attention briefly halts subconscious activity. 

Step 2. 

Ask yourself, “What is the best thing I could be doing right now?” And then wait for an answer. In most cases, the answer you get will spark a desire to engage in productive activity. 

Try this exercise and see what happens. 

I hope these two concepts of growth and being in the present moment will help you. Please spend some time on them—they could promote your spiritual well-being during the Covid-19 chapter of our lives.

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On the Launch of “Bearing Witness: Poems from a Land in Turmoil” by Martin Jumbam

I have read through these poems a number of times already and each time all my senses are on the alert. Clearly visible before my tear-soaked eyes is glaring proof of the senseless destruction of whole villages, with piles and piles of bloated corpses rotting in the sun and emitting an awful stench that floats in the air wherever the infamous bearers of death come knocking. In these poems, I hear the helpless cries of our men, women and children as they desperately flee for shelter into forests. Audible in the thick bushes is the agony of women in the pangs of child birth followed by the weak whimpers of new born babies, who barely have time to take in their first breath and then they are gone!

Share with me a few verses from a poem by a good friend of mine, who prefers anonymity at the moment: “Pain, blood, she wailed. She lay helpless, hapless. Her cheeks drowned in a pool of tears as hugely violent contractions stretched her abdomen to dolorous limits. Blood! Like she had never seen before! She pushed and pushed and pushed. A piercing tender cry filled the air. The baby was out. It cried again and again. Then suddenly, it cried no more. She lay helpless, hapless….”

In these poems, echoes the voice of the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice has been heard on high: of lamentation, mourning and weeping; of Rachel crying for her children and refusing to be consoled over them, because they are no more” (Jer. 31:15).

There are Rachels and Rachels and Rachels, countless Rachels lamenting, weeping, mourning and refusing to be comforted in our land because their children are no more. And this lamentation is not only coming from villages and towns in “Ground Zero.” In fact, as I listen, I hear similar wails and weeping and mourning arising from the hamlets of poor people in Ebolowa, Akonolinga, Bertoua, Garoua, Kousseri, Dschang, you name them. Families there too are mourning their loved ones slaughtered in this needless war being waged with the pretext that Cameroon must remain “one and indivisible.”

One of the beauties of these poems is that they moved me to the point where I started reflecting on a poem I never wrote. If I were to write one, it would be about a young girl around 20 years of age, who arrived in Bamenda and was immediately sent to man a post on Sabga hill, which is on the way to my village. In fact, at the foot of Sagba hill lies the Ndop plain. Overlooking the Ndop plain across from Sabga, is another hill, which is less than ten miles from the village of Nkar where my umbilical cord lies buried. I have gone through Sabga to my village countless times in my life time. Suddenly, Sabga has become a spot, among numerous others, where the children of the poor, like this unfortunate girl, have gone to die. I am sure that this girl was more at ease in her deep forest, where huge, ageless trees provided shelter for her and her family. On Sabga, with practically no trees behind which she could hide, the approaching bullet hit home and she desecrated our land with her blood.

She was just the daughter of poor peasant farmers, who must have celebrated with pride that their daughter had joined the army. To them, it was an opportunity for her to bring back some money, but instead her dead body was brought to them. Many other sons and daughters of poor families from east of the Mungo have also stained our land with their blood in this godforsaken war.

Meanwhile, the children of those prosecuting this destruction of our land from their air-conditioned offices in Yaoundé, are snorting cocaine in their parents’ luxurious mansions in the 16th District of Paris, “le 16e Arrondissement,” where the wealthiest of the wealthy live in Paris. Others are said to be buying shops in the rich quarters of Los Angeles in California, USA. Do the megastars of the American film industry really need the loot from our treasury? I wonder.

These poems also echo, for condemnation – and rightly so — the despicable acts of kidnappings for ransom by the “liberators” of yesterday, who have turned into the bandits and highway robbers of today. Some of their sponsors, who are hiding in foreign lands, are urging those on “Ground Zero” to kidnap, for a ransom, sons and daughters of the land coming back home from abroad. Simply mind-boggling but true!

I applaud the editors’ decision to feature poems from east of the famous divide — the Mungo. They, as illustrated by the death of the poor girl mentioned above, are also victims of this conflict. I also enjoyed poems in Pidgin. The editors of this anthology, Professor Joyce Ashuntangtang and Tande Dibussi, did this lingua franca an honour by giving poets a voice to also echo the anguish and cries of our people in a language that is so widely spoken and understood.

To crown it all, this beautiful anthology ends with a poem of hope by LiLian Lem Atanga entitled, “Songs of Hope.” What else can our people yearn for except the hope that the peace, which has eluded this unfortunate “land of promise, land of glory” for so long, will finally fly in, from the still dark horizon, like a dove, with an olive branch in its beak.

How beautifully light and swift over the ridges of the mountains and hills of our butchered land are the feet of these wonderful men and women of the pen, who are serving as true messengers of peace!

Salaam! Shalom!