Life as we knew it changed forever in 2020. The whole world came to a standstill. Everything familiar seemed to turn into a life-threatening risk too large to take. Touch, closeness, proximity to other people, a simple walk down the street… Nothing was or has been the same since. There is no going back to normal, we’re forging ahead into a new era. Here are our five insights plus five exercises to help you remain hopeful about what life looks like now.
Stay in and get out of your bubble
You’re in one place with nowhere to go, literally. The cupboards have been cleaned out. The garden swept. You’ve built that table they advised you to on the pandemic group, baked that sourdough, laid in those veggies. You’ve fixed all the holes in socks, painted that self portrait, played with the dogs. Now what?
Become aware of and content with your physical space and surroundings.
Sit in a quiet room. Breathe in and out slowly. Start listening to the sound of your own breath, then the sounds in your immediate environment. As you breathe in and out, expand the area you are consciously listening to: The dogs barking next door with the regular beat of the sprinkler in the garden. A car passing by. Somebody’s phone ringing a block away. The sound of children playing in a backyard. Just sit and listen once a day. You will find your consciousness expands to be aware of everything very far away and extremely close by.
What time is it on which day?
It’s four o’clock on a Saturday morning and you realise you’re still wearing Wednesday’s clothes. You haven’t had a bath, you think you’ve eaten, and you’ve watched all the Netflix shows you can stomach. Days flow into nights into weeks into months. A year has elapsed.
Create a new routine you can stick to.
Set an alarm to wake you up each morning and to put you to bed every night. Eat, shower, or have a bath at the same time every day. Walk around the house or block of flats if you can every day for ten minutes. During your first circuit only look down, not more than a metre in front of your feet. Notice every little detail of the ground you walk on. Every leaf, rock, blade of grass. Go into the finest detail you can. On your second cycle, only look up at the horizon. See the walls, the mountains in the distance, the crisp morning light. Immerse yourself in the space around you. Then look up at the sky. Lie down on the grass if you can and just look.
Pay it forward
If we help others, we heal ourselves too. During lockdowns, less fortunate communities need help. Getting out there and serving provides an opportunity to be part of something meaningful. Join a community group or a feeding scheme. Cook meals at home or lend a helping hand in community kitchens. Get in touch with local NGOs or churches to see how you can assist.
Become aware of the people in your community who need help.
When you order home delivery or go out to shop and park your car, speak to the person serving you. Ask their name, if they are OK, and how their shift is going. Ask if they have a family, if they’re coping, and if there’s anything you can do to help. Make a note of the names of the people who serve you. Try to do this every time you go out. Build a rapport with them, it will make your trips more meaningful than just the groceries you buy.
What’s the rush?
We’ve all been conditioned to race to our next appointment, relationship, job, career. Why? Buddhists have a wonderful practice. It’s called “What’s in the bowl?” A simple explanation is: Appreciate what you are given. Do not regret what you have not received or dream about what you wished for. Just take what is in the bowl. Enjoy your drive, engulf yourself in your relationships like the sea closes in on a diver, show patience in your career, and focus on the jobs you are given. Do it slowly, consciously, and with joy.
Become what you do.
Make a cooking stock or take apart a piece of machinery, clean it, and put it back together again. It can be any stock or any piece of equipment. Think of a fishing reel, washing machine, vegetable, meat, chicken, or fish stock. Wash every ingredient or any part thoroughly, dry each one, and feel it. Look at it. Smell it. If you’re making a stock, chop each ingredient into small pieces, each one at a different angle. Take time to sweat them off individually before you add the next ingredient. Build the layers of your stock with time. If you’re servicing a reel, clean each part individually and think about its role and importance in the functioning of the whole machine. Put it back together patiently. Immerse yourself in it.
Write it out and let it go
We’ve all experienced loss in this time. Our framework has been dismantled and replaced with something new. Living through Covid-19 has brought with it the death of many dreams, businesses, and people. There is value in processing the things that are beyond our control so that we can focus on and own what we can change.
Reflect, own, and move forward.
Sit in a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. If you can do it in nature, all the better. There are various ways to do this exercise – you can go through it mentally or you can write it down on pieces of paper or in a journal. It’s up to you.
Part 1: Own it.
Think of everything that happened in your life over the last two years. Try to be objective. The point is to note all the decisions you made and actions you took. Go into as much detail as you can. Separate the things you had control over from those you didn’t. It might look something like this:
Actions I took:
I resigned from my job
I looked after the whole family while they had Covid-19 and was too exhausted to work
I looked for other jobs
I eventually found another job
My family recovered completely and we’re now on track to rebuild our lives
Things that were out of my control:
I could not find another job quickly
My family got Covid-19 and needed my help
The world came to a standstill because of the Covid-19 pandemic
It’s time to own your decisions and let go of the things that are beyond your control. To do this, take a long, slow deep breath in, think of your “Actions” list, and say to yourself and the universe: “This is my stuff and I own it.” Hold your breath for as long as you can. Then, start breathing out slowly. Breathe out everything from your “Out of my control” list and give it back to the universe as you exhale.
Perhaps the last two years are a reminder that it’s time we stop and think about what we are really doing with our lives, our planet, our relationships, and our future. We’ve all been offered an opportunity to reflect, rethink, and reassess what our lives look like and where they’re headed. Far from being daunting, this is an exciting time! Why don’t you start that business you’ve always wanted to? If that’s the case, we’ll be right here to get you up and running.
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