In Spirit: Anxiety and Insecurity During a Pandemic: Discussion with Nathalie Delay

Mariette Raina: Some people are experiencing significant anxiety related to the pandemic and the isolation it creates. What mechanisms are at play beneath this anxiety?

Nathalie Delay: Not everyone is prepared to experience this face-to-face with themselves. In general, when one engages in a retreat, it is a choice, one prepares for the experience. But today, for many people, it feels like a forced withdrawal, and most of them are not ready. There are deep fears that can emerge, and we are alone facing our inner monsters.

The uncertainty generated by the current situation leads to a radical loss of security at the external level. If one is not in touch with an inner deeper security and operates only on an external security, then the answer is inevitably fear. Some can no longer work, lose their jobs, can no longer see their loved ones; these are essential human needs at stake. If we have never touched a more fundamental security, anxiety arises. What is happening leads us to dive into the depths of our being, but not everyone is ready for this dive.

For me, this is one of the reasons that makes this situation complex to live with. This is why it is important that people be accompanied in one way or another. If you have never worked on yourself and you are not in contact with your inner being, it is difficult. Sensitive people, those who are psychologically more vulnerable, who may already live in a latent state of anxiety, cannot do it alone, they need to be helped.

The anxiety attacks come from areas of our psyche that have not been sufficiently explored and heeded, from childhood traumas. Isolation risks bringing us face-to-face with deep, visceral feelings of insecurity. Some people are helpless before this basic lack of security which can rekindle past trauma. They need to be helped to find their axis and their anchorage in reality.

MR: Being accompanied as much as possible would mean accompaniment by someone who has already undertaken this path and connected with their own internal depth, with whom we could talk and sort out our experiences, or do readings or yoga?

ND: It is important, in my opinion, that there be someone who can anchor. Whether it’s a psychotherapist, a spiritual master, or even a friend. Someone who already knows a strong interior stability and who can embody this support of security and confidence for the person in distress.

MR: In fact, we can apply what you are talking about to any external situation that involves us and brings us into this state of insecurity. The pandemic reaches much deeper mechanisms of the being. Are we basically talking about the mechanism of “insecurity”, pushed to its extreme in this crisis?

ND: Of course, absolutely. I am thinking also of initiations in certain cultures. When you go from childhood to adolescence and then to adulthood, initiation is a leap into space in order to mature. It immediately confronts us with our limits and pushes us to surpass them. We are faced with the fear of not being able to get through, of not being able to go further. The difference between the current situation and an initiation is the framework. A ritual makes sense. The elders are there and accompany the process. I think this is also what is lacking now, we lack a deeper meaning. In politicians’ discourse — and of course, it is not their job so we cannot blame them — there is an absence of deep meaning to help us through this crisis. The crisis could actually become an initiation, but it is not framed in these terms at all, so it will not help everyone to mature. It is not supported by wise men, nor lived through in a conscious way. On the contrary, it is approached in a hyper-reactive mode. We don’t take time to get to the root of the problem it raises. Most decision-makers are not in touch with what is deepest and most essential life. The actions proposed generate reactions of disproportionate worry, strong anger, even violence. We are in fact in an action/reaction cycle, which generates a lot of confusion. Faced with an absence of landmarks, of deep meaning, people are lost. It is essential to regain contact with the deeper meaning of life, to rediscover a true spirituality.

It is a question of getting back to a vision that includes the internal aspect of the situation. We need solid external referents to help us find such a vision.

MR: What do you mean by external referent, precisely? A sage, a psychotherapist, in fact someone who helps you give meaning to what you are going through? Thinking of the initiation you mention, or the sage, would this be someone who has a more encompassing vision of the situation?

ND: Yes, because it’s impossible to broaden one’s vision without a basic minimum of internal security. For this, we need a point of support. It can be a therapist or a sage who serves as an anchor for a return to a healthy reality, undistorted by fear. Someone who is in crisis first needs to be reassured, brought back to their basic ground so that they can broaden their vision from there.

MR: René Guénon talks about the four ages. He says that right now we are in an age of decline before going back to something more open, spiritual, connected. It also seems that in astrology, we are in a crucial moment of change which only takes place every 2000 years or so… all this to say that, if we look at several approaches or theories, the crisis we are experiencing seems inevitable, and seems to be occurring on a very broad scale. It calls for drastic change. Also, we have known for years that the environment is in danger and we are still disconnected from this fact, and the fact that our modern societies are no longer supported by wise men, by this accompaniment of a deeper meaning we were talking about earlier… Without going into projections, what do you feel about all this?

ND: What is happening now is like a slap that invites us to wake up. In our personal lives, we often receive such slaps. Either we understand the message and we reorient ourselves, or we refuse to pay attention and we resist. The dissonance increases and the slaps become stronger to bring about a readjustment. I have a feeling that more blows are waiting for us, perhaps more violent and more brutal ones.

We are creating more and more dissonance in us and all around us because we are no longer in touch with reality. Stopping activities and distractions forces us to listen, to take time, to reconsider what is essential. At last, we have the opportunity to realize that we have lost our relationship with the simple reality of being.In a garden, for example, you observe, you listen, you receive living intelligence which is infinite. This contact has an impact on the way you live and behave with the living. I have a feeling that we will receive other initiations, and if we do not understand this one, the others will be more drastic. Those who will survive the next crises are those who have the ability to accept losing everything, to question their state of comfort, their beliefs, and who can adapt to other paradigms with flexibility and creativity.

MR: Can you elaborate on “contact with reality” and “living intelligence”?

ND: Working in the garden, observing nature unfolding day by day, we realize that it gives us a great deal of the kind of information which is essential to understanding the universe. Reality speaks … it’s abstract, it’s not easy to put what I feel into words. But let’s say that it speaks in harmonic terms, in terms of vibration. We feel its rhythms in our own cells, its cycles, the consistency of this set of infinite dovetails. When we can hear this subtle harmony, we intuitively know how to place ourselves in relation with reality. But when we are completely taken over by the mind, by our conditioning, we no longer know what living is. We just project beliefs and images onto it, we don’t listen to what is. There is an infinite intelligence, in which all forms coexist and connect according to a very subtle law. Connecting with this intelligence implies going through an organic feeling, it is wordless.

This virus comes from life, a living dynamic we can no longer listen to or respect. It comes from wild animals captured and locked up in horrible conditions. We claim ownership of living things and treat them as merchandise on the pretext that we are modern and civilized. It would be interesting to understand the deeper message of this virus. It certainly asks us to realign ourselves with reality and stop our foolishness. What we impose on animals is so violent that it is cruel. We are in such disharmony, such lack of respect for life. This virus tells us: “That’s enough, stop harming the natural world!”

MR: It’s a bit like when you actually get sick with flu, gastro or something. When you are sick, if you examine it more carefully, it becomes not so much a problem to solve as it is the body regulating and eliminating something internally and externally.

ND: Exactly. There is really an intelligence in all the phenomena of living, in illness, in anxiety. If we can come into contact with this intelligence, if we know how to listen to it, it helps us to harmonize and transform what is dissonant in us. Illness is a message to listen to. The balance of the human body is reached through the death of thousands of cells every day, there are cleaning operations, constant regeneration. So there are times of unavoidable destruction. Illness can cause us to return to healthier functioning.

MR: The situation seems to give us a chance to refocus on our priorities. Also because when there is a huge number of possibilities every day, you can get lost in all the choices. Whereas now, all of a sudden we come back very strongly to what is essential, and fundamentally important for each of us …

ND: What is interesting to me in this confinement situation is the fact that all of a sudden we find ourselves deprived of our usual activities and entertainments. We get back the time to listen to our inner needs. In daily life, we tend to get caught up in a series of occupations — and by the way, at this particular moment, we can also get lost down a rabbit hole on a social network, given all the information and the messages we constantly receive. But this radical stoppage may allow us to realize what we really need, and it may be a shock to catch on that our needs don’t amount to very much after all: to have a roof over our heads, something to eat, good friends and the time to appreciate the simple fact of being alive.

But to come back to your initial question: what advice is there for people who are anxious? Anxiety is not a problem to be solved, but a profound message to listen to. It is here to bring us back to a greater truth. Do not fight, but enter the heart. Anxiety is the sure sign that we are no longer aligned with reality, that we are not in contact with what is true in us. It is a lack of truth. So don’t be afraid of it, it brings us back to our most basic resources if we know how to get to the heart. There is a wisdom in anxiety that we can only discover by coming into full contact with it.

Photo credits @nathaliedelay
Horizon, cycle 1, 2015 (graphite and pastel on wove paper, 32 x 60 cm)
Cosmic law, 2006 (tempera on paper, 50 x 50 cm)
Nothing is stable, 2019 (tempera on paper, 14 x 9 cm)
Photos: Monet’s garden in Giverny, 2012
The light behind objects, 2017 (pastel pencil on paper, 25 x 25 cm)

Art by Nathalie Delay:

About Nathalie Delay

Nathalie has been an artist and truth-seeker from an early age. When she was 26 she encountered the Kashmiri Tantric tradition, and then at age 40, Kashmirian yoga with Éric Baret. For 12 years she has transmitted what is most important to her from her experience: See – the Art of Reality.

The way of reality:

About Mariette Raina @mariette.raina

Mariette has a master’s degree in Anthropology. Yoga has always been part of her life since she met the teaching Kashmirian yoga and its tradition in 2008. Since she is 25 she regularly travels to France, Brazil, Chile and Canada to share this practice.

As an artist, she uses the mediums of the body, photography and writing to investigates the act of perception, the relationship to the image, as well as the body as a vehicle of expression between tradition and modern times. Since 2015 she has been teaching photography at the Cultural Activities of the University of Montreal.

Mariette joined the Never Apart center team in 2016 as a writer of monthly articles for the spiritual column, where she also organized an exhibition in 2018 Traces of life: a journey from Canada to South Asia and worked on Dax Dasilva’s book project Age of Union.

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