Embracing the Shelter-in-Place: Carly Lynch and Victor Lemus
This episode was released Thursday, March 19—three days after Santa Clara county joined five other Bay Area counties issued shelter-in-place mandates. Besides the obvious public health measures and precautions, this change will bring about many spiritual, emotional and relational issues that will require reflection and intentionality.
Carly Lynch is the Director of Religious Diversity in Campus Ministry at Santa Clara. She has a Bachelors from Azusa Pacific and a Masters in Theological Studies from Boston University and is a resident expert on mindfulness, religious pluralism and embracing slowness.
Victor Lemus is the Director of Retreats for Campus Ministry, and studied at Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara’s Pastoral Ministry program. Victor hails from Guatemala and worked at Greg Boyle’s Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles before coming to Santa Clara.
Both Carly and Victor are two of the most wise, centered people I know, so I thought an episode talking to them about the nature of the shelter-in-place caused by the Coronavirus would be a perfect antidote to the anxiety many of us feel right now.
Gavin Cosgrave: What message would you send people in this time of shelter-in-place?
Carly Lynch: Allow yourself to settle into a space. It’s no longer trying to grasp for what was, but we’re in a new season now. It’s going to require a good bit of creativity and readjusting to enter into that space. What I would tell people through that is to be patient. It’s going to require grieving, but it will take time to discover new things and what this new season will look like.
Victor Lemus: The first thing I would say is to remember to breathe. It’s funny how quickly we can forget that, especially when we’re anxious, stressed and inundated. I would also be vouching for space, and not the social distancing—that’s a given right now. More so for individuals to make space for themselves, especially as you’re texting and calling and watching TV. But we need to create space for ourselves to get in touch with ourselves and listen to what is happening inside us as a result of these practical changes.
GC: Why should we embrace slowness in this time?
CL: One is that emotions are high right now. There’s a lot of things that people are feeling: anxiety about the state of the world, or just your own sadness, grief, concern or frustration. I think a fast pace gives us permission to ignore a lot of those things. In this season where we have to reckon with these feelings, it’s important to move slowly, but that can be painful.
Once you can take time to be present to the things you’re feeling and allow them to be your companions, it requires a good bit of creativity to know how to move forward. In older times before cell phones, people would have to stand in line at the grocery store and think through their day. People had to problem-solve their lives. We learn how to think creatively and navigate our lives in new ways, whereas when we keep ourselves busy with cultural notions of success or platforms of social media, our channels for the way we view life become narrow. This time invites us into a season where we can slow down and go into our internal reserves. I think we have an inherent creativity that comes out of that.
VL: Times like these do a number on us because they reveal our lack of control over reality and circumstances. That realization can be fear-inducing or provide a small measure of freedom. There’s a Franciscan Richard Rohr who shares that the things that move us into new stages of life are often the things we ourselves wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves—things out of our control. This time is an experience of that because there are lots of unknowns.
I do think that we are invited to have our doing be a lot more focused and intentional than we otherwise would. A lot of our doing on a day-to-day basis is not that intentional. It can be for distraction, or having full calendars or being productive. Now when we have a lot stripped away, that can be fear-inducing or an invitation to another level of freedom where our doing can be more focused and intentional. We can be intentional about social media, how much TV we watch, sleep, meditation, silence, family time, FaceTime—all these different decisions can be focused and intentional.
GC: How can we balance being informed with not getting sucked into social media? How can we practice creativity and intentionality?
CL: A lot of us feel a bit out-of-control. We’re tired of hearing “just wash your hands.” We want to do more. But we’re not well trained to know what to do when we’re out of control. The American Dream is that you can always control your circumstances, and that if you have enough money or capital you can have control. Now, we think that if we keep consuming news we can control the situation. It’s good when you can realize that you’re trying to take control. You can stay up to date with what the CDC is saying, know my local and national policies, and do what I can to be healthy and safe. That’s it!
I think many of us who have been drawn to Santa Clara because of its Jesuit values, we’re fearful of what we can do to serve and care in this time. We want to use social media for good and have an outreach. I think we’re taking that productivity that used to go into our classes and turning it into a frenzy of “I have to be the best isolation person ever” and it’s becoming a bit of a performance. I think this time really is an invitation to make space and allow yourself to bored once a day. Like truly get mind-numbingly bored and ask, “what am I going to do? Do I like coloring? I might go on a walk and collect leaves.” If we can get past notions of control and productivity, we can settle into a space of finding out what’s next. We can ask, “what else am I besides someone who is productive and in control. Am I someone who’s really caring? Am I also someone who has values?” We can uncover some of those depths.
VL: It’s ironic that we’re inundated with so much, because there isn’t much to do. I know that creating space can be a challenging thing. What does that tangibly mean? Should I just sit in silence and see what happens? I think there is a necessity to carve out some time for solitude where it’s just you. Maybe as a senior you’re really sad about your time ending just like that. Maybe if you’re a faculty member you’re anxious about your technological ability. Though it is helpful to connect with friends and have your community, but to a certain extent. We can’t just be processing without listening to what’s happening within us. The more room we leave to listen to what’s inside of us, the better we can listen to what’s outside of us.