Justin Baldoni has relied on the power of prayer during the coronavirus pandemic — and the power of cold water.
“Even though I still don’t do it as often as I know I could, prayer has been so helpful, and faith is really what’s getting me through this,” the Baha’i actor, director and entrepreneur told TODAY in an email interview. “And therapy. And cold water exposure and time with my kids and breathing exercises … but also prayer!”
The “Jane the Virgin” star — who’s quarantined in Los Angeles with his wife, Emily, and their two children, Maiya, 4, and Maxwell, 2 — opened up to TODAY about the role his faith has played in his life during the pandemic.
How faith has helped him face the challenges of the pandemic:
Baldoni said the Baha’i writings teach that “these worldwide challenges present opportunities for humanity to mature. We learn to attribute more importance to our moral and spiritual welfare than to our material prosperity, and I really believe we are seeing that happen globally as we speak.”
He said the writings also teach that “we need to view things internationally — that if our problems are global, then so are our solutions. … I think this pandemic has not only exposed our material unpreparedness — our undeniable lack of PPE, vents and other critical infrastructure — but also, and more importantly, our spiritual unpreparedness. The virus does not care if we’re rich or poor or black or white, but that’s how we’ve organized ourselves and ‘other-ized’ ourselves throughout history, and that spiritual immaturity is now going to come with a heavy price. The way this virus disproportionally spreads along lines of class and race will be just as undeniable as our material shortfalls.
“So the Bahaʼi Faith definitely provides a lot of insight, and it’s also a daily source of inner happiness. Through God we are told to not rely on the external or superficial for joy and serenity, and while no one is perfect at that, it’s an incredible guiding light.”
How he stays connected with his faith:
“It was pretty amazing to see how almost instantly the global community of over 6 million Baha’is went virtual. So now, everything in our community is online, and Emily and I host a weekly Sunday study circle which has also shifted to Zoom, but in a way I feel more connected than before. I think this period of isolation has reminded everyone not to take each other for granted. So whether it’s the activities of our local Baha’i community that have gone online, reaching out to friends I haven’t connected with in a while, or having deepening and emotional check-ins with my Baha’i brothers, we’re rediscovering that physical distance doesn’t determine how close we are with one another.”
How faith has guided his interactions with his family during the pandemic:
“Emily and I have introduced our kids, Maiya and Maxwell, to more of our spiritual toolbox, which has been beautiful. Maiya is in kindergarten and Maxwell was just beginning day care, and we’ve always said prayers together at bedtime, but it’s opened up a whole lot of new conversations and people to pray for — especially friends who have had the virus and whom we’ve almost lost, and friends who have recently passed away.
“In our faith, prayer is our foundation and it’s seen as kind of the anchor in our lives. So we try to start and end our day by reminding ourselves that we’re a spiritual being having a physical experience. We recently started teaching the kids breathing exercises and Emily started practicing some Kundalini yoga chants with them that have been amazing. It’s a way to slowly teach them meditation, and now, after we sing a few prayers, it’s their favorite thing in the world. It’s been super helpful to slow down and focus on our breathing — but let's be real, it’s mostly for Emily and I because 30 seconds later they’re back to jumping on each other and climbing on the walls.”
A quote that provides him with comfort and hope:
“I should start with the quote tattooed on my arm, which is from 'Abdu'l-Bahá, a central figure in the Bahaʼi Faith. It says, ‘Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble, and there is always time.’ That has really been my mantra through my career but also in my marriage and personal life while trying to figure out how to balance all my commitments. It reminds me to always be present and that I need to make space for the things and people I love. Having it tattooed on me has definitely proven to be a blessing and a curse as I often find myself saying I don’t have time, and then catching myself.
“There’s another quote I turn to in times like these from Bahá'u'lláh, the prophet founder of the Bahaʼi Faith. Bahá'u'lláh said, ‘So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.’ For the first time in human history, I believe we are all focused on one thing. Every country, every city — the whole world is all being affected by this virus and in many ways just that idea on its own is unifying. What an opportunity we have, collectively, in front of us. To start to see each other as one family, one ocean, one garden, and to see our differences as strengths — to see how creative and inspiring people have become, how helpful and kind we have been to each other.
“The triumph of the human spirit is such an incredible and hopeful thing to witness and I can now see firsthand how unity can truly light up the world. That brings me hope.”
What he would say to those who might be struggling to find hope at this time:
“First, just take a deep breath. Literally, take a deep breath. Try ‘box breathing.’ Take a slow, deep breath for five seconds, hold it for five seconds, release for five, and repeat. Then, let’s remind ourselves we’re not the only ones struggling through this. It’s perfectly normal to get ‘mood poisoning’ when the world around you looks like it’s falling apart, when the truth has some more dimension to it. There’s another story unfolding in the world right now even if it’s less visible, and it’s a world of people that are reaching out, doing what they can, and sacrificing for others. Recognize this incredible opportunity to be a part of that army of love out there.
“And if you need a therapist to talk through your emotions, do it! Do what you need to do, know that you’re not alone, and remember that this is only temporary. This, too, shall pass.”