In any challenging situation, we can find solace in asking, “what can we learn from this?” As we navigate life in a time of pandemic, can we discover the thread of opportunity alongside the suffering and chaos? It calls to mind the beloved Rumi quote,
“The wound is the place the light enters you.”
The fallout from COVID-19 is illuminating the shadow work of our time, both personally and societally. It’s time to face what we know deep down is no longer working.
Many are calling this virus a “warning shot.” We know the way we’ve been living isn’t sustainable from how much we overwork to how much we rely on fossil fuels. If we take this time of social distancing, isolation or lockdown to turn inward, we can come out of this ready to rebuild a world that’s stronger, kinder and more sustainable.
This is our chance for a great reset. We welcome you to join us in focusing on the following.
Vipassana meditation theory teaches us that we create our own suffering through craving and aversion, basically, by not accepting the present. There are countless ways we do this from scrolling social media feeds to binge-watching the latest reality TV series. We might be telling ourselves this is a healthy distraction, but it’s time to internally check-in and if you’re really running away from the present.
Sometimes, we refuse to accept reality because we think by accepting it, we’re giving in. But the opposite is true; we can not change what we’re avoiding. Worrying about what may or may not happen in the future will only put you in a fear-based state, which disrupts our ability to think and act logically.
Becoming Friends with Fear
Fear is everywhere right now. It’s in the news, in our conversations, and is running rampant through our bodies. While our fear is justified, it is also out of control, and many of us are experiencing adrenal fatigue from being in a constant flight-or-fight mode. This state causes our bodies to produce cortisol, known to weaken the immune system and induce the self-centred, panicky behaviours we’ve seen play out over toilet paper and canned goods. To stay healthy and sensible, we must address our fear.
How to put this into practice: Engage the parasympathetic nervous system with Yoga Nidra. Thank your fear for doing its job and let it know you’ve heard it, and it can move on. Try visualizing it, leaving your body and returning to the size of kernel around your solar plexus or root chakra, wherever you feel it stem from.
Eroding Old “Stories”
We all have what are called stories, ruts or thought conditionings. Neural pathways strengthen over time by reacting to a thought or situation the same way over and over. A common one today is we are what we do; we build our sense of self around our profession. In a time of mass lay-offs, this can leave us floundering, trying to figure out who we are and what our place in the world is. The good news is, we can clean-up these stories.
How to put this into practice: Take time to notice your reactions. Once you become aware of a story, do nothing. This sounds easier than it is. But you want to ease away from reacting. It is the reaction that continues the story and digs the rut deeper. Practice this for long enough and eventually, the story will fade, and you’ll be free from its conditioning.
Putting Mental Health First
Spending more time alone than usual and being stripped of a regular routine and faced with a bleak news cycle can be fiercely triggering for mental illness. Now is the time to prioritize mental health above all else.
Even if you don’t have an underlying condition, we’re all susceptible to elevated levels of anxiety, stress and feelings of loneliness right now. Create structure, see if your therapist will conduct sessions online, get enough sleep, eat well, and keep moving your body.
This situation has brought out a heart-warming show of generosity from the wellness community, check out a sampling of free resources below.
How to put this into practice:
- Calm app is offering free meditations
- yogagirl.com is hosting a #30DaysofSpace community yoga challenge
- Danielle LaPorte is posting daily wisdom and advice from health experts on Instagram
- Real is offering digital mental health support services
- We’re offering free access to our 40-Day Premium Meditation Challenge. Simply send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in ?
This is also a great time to catch up on popular self-therapy, and mindfulness reads like The Power of Now, The Body Keeps the Score and The Untethered Soul. Many Canadian public libraries offer digital loans through the Overdrive and Libby apps.
When we practice gratitude, we shift from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. From this space, it’s much easier to see that we have everything we need, and if we don’t, we can get creative.
This time can be a welcome break from the consumer mentality, where suddenly it becomes clear it doesn’t actually matter that our couch is a little bit faded or that our dishes don’t match. This can extend from things in our home to people in our lives and the environment around us.
How to put this into practice: One way to show gratitude for the things you own is by fixing them. We live in a throwaway society, but as businesses shut down, buying new won’t necessarily be an option. Not only is repairing what you already own great for the earth, but it’s also empowering to realize how resourceful you can be.
Other ways include thanking the farmers and workers who are keeping the food supply chain open as you sit down to eat, or sending messages to the health care workers in your life, thanking them for continuing to go to work and risk their own health to help others.
Thinking of the Collective
Sadly, not everyone is following social distancing orders. That a person would put their own wants over the safety of others shows how “I” based our culture has become. What the “flattening the curve” model can teach us, is that we’re stronger together.
How to put into practice: Focus on feelings of empathy and compassion. If you’re in a position to support local businesses, offer to shop for your older neighbours and give to local food banks. By simply asking yourself, “how can I contribute today?” you can generate ideas. If you want to dive deeper into the idea that we are all connected, check out the book Oneness with All Life by Eckhart Tolle.
Holding Space for Grief
Most of us will be touched by COVID-19 in one way or another, whether we experience a temporary loss like physical touch or a job, or a lasting loss, like of a loved one. Because the majority of this loss is untold, we’re experiencing what author and grief expert David Kessler calls “anticipatory grief.” Essentially, knowing a loss is coming but unaware of the specifics or size. To manage grief, we need to accept and hold space for it.
How to put this into practice: Some therapists suggest physical movement, from therapeutic tremoring to letting yourself have a full-on, adult temper tantrum. Kessler recommends after moving through the five initial stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (realizing they may not be linear) to embrace the sixth stage, looking for meaning. He says finding meaning is an integral part of the healing process.
This pandemic is bound to bring up different work for all of us. What’s most important is that we give it the necessary time and attention to move through it. By healing ourselves, we heal our communities, and by healing our communities, we heal the world. Or in the words of yung pueblo,
“They asked her,
What is the key to saving the world?
You. You are the key. Heal yourself, know yourself, make yourself whole and free. Release all limits so that your love can flow unconditionally for yourself and the world, this will open the heaven of your heart completely, and it will guide you without fail.”