Whatever your own experience is, the Covid lock-down, isolation and social and physical distancing invites us all to live more consciously.
We are all having a wide range of experiences with relation to the current situation of shut-downs, isolation and physical distancing. Some of us are working from home; some of us are still going to work; and some of us are not working at all. Some are experiencing financial insecurity, some are not. Some people are happy to be forced to stay home and get a much-needed break, or to enjoy a slower pace of life, or more family time; some people are having a hard time being restricted in their movements and being unable to carry on with life-as-usual. Some people are feeling highly stressed and anxious about the risks to health and safety - and financial security - and some are not.
Regardless of how you are feeling, what you are feeling, and how that evolves as this situation unfolds, the golden opportunity here is to be more conscious of exactly what you are experiencing. If you are happy to be home, to slow down, to focus on things you never have time for, what does that tell you about the life you are living? You might have a quick quip in response to that, about how, yes, you wish you didn’t have to work, or how you know the way you’ve been living doesn’t make you happy, or is even unhealthy. But just leaving it at that means that when this is all over, or as things incrementally move towards "normal" again, you will continue living as though your life is out of your control, and just go back to those old patterns. You will miss the opportunity to really stop and pay attention, to re-evaluate, and to take ownership and control of your life. Sure, the fantasy alternative might be to not have to work at all, or to have all your problems magically go away, but what are the very real choices you can make to alter your life or lifestyle, so that it is just a little bit more aligned with your happiness and well-being?
If you are having a hard time with the isolation, or the separation from others, or if you are feeling very anxious and fearful, there is an opportunity here for you to become focused on going to a new level of learning how to manage your thoughts and your feelings, your fears and anxieties, and to have more of an active role in creating your own internal state. A new level of self-awareness and self-mastery. A new level of core well-being.
Dealing with stress and anxiety like this are an opportunity to become more present to yourself, to become more motivated and committed to learning and practicing things like self-care, meditation, visualization, mindfulness. To reconnect with your authentic, inner self, which is where you will find greater peace, courage, and a centred sense of yourself.
One person I spoke to talked about experiencing grief: on the one hand, grieving the loss of connection with family, the loss of everyday encounters and of spontaneous shows of affection. On the other hand, the isolation is a reminder of other losses in the past, people who are no longer there. If you are experiencing similar things, the question is, again: “What opportunity is there here for me? Are there losses I haven’t finished grieving? Is the opportunity for me here to realize more fully how much others mean to me? Is it to work on nurturing connection in other ways? Or is it to work on my own inner life, finding peace within myself?”
It is actually really useful to stop and think about your all your feelings in this situation in terms of grief. If you are struggling with the way you are experiencing this situation in any way, ask yourself, “what am I grieving?” Try to find an answer to that, even if you struggle to think of it as grieving. Every difficult or negative reaction we have is essentially, at its very core, either a struggle to accept reality, or a story we are telling ourselves about reality, that makes it hard to accept. Grieving is essentially a process of adapting to a loss, and coming to a place of acceptance of that reality. Many of us went – or are going through – stages of grief just in dealing with the Covid 19 situation as a whole. Many of us went through several of these stages before there was even any evidence of the virus in our direct environment, because we understood what was coming: shock, when we realized the scope of the situation; denial, as an automatic response, because it’s too much to deal with, and we just want to carry on as usual; negotiation, where we try to “kind of” accept it on our own terms – still trying to keep some control and carry on as much as possible with life as usual. Then, anger, when we realize our powerlessness to do that; we really do have to stay home, restrict our movements, and even lose our jobs, or adapt to a new work situation we don’t like. Sadness or depression, when we give in, feel helpless, and feel like we really have lost something, or life isn’t as good. Ideally, we finally get to acceptance and come to peace with it all.
When we get to acceptance – or, given that progressing through these stages is not necessarily neat and orderly, the more we move into relative acceptance – we find ourselves increasingly in the present moment, instead of thinking back to the past, fearing an imagined future, or wishing for a different future. Being in the present means being more at peace, and more aligned with yourself, as well as with reality. That allows you to open to the actual possibilities that the present moment offers. When we are busy wishing things were otherwise, or reacting to the way they are, we don’t see the possibilities of the present. Or, if we see them, we can’t really engage them and actualize them.
One disruptive thing that is happening is that we are coming face-to-face with all sorts of things that we take for granted in our daily lives. That, in itself, is a really good opportunity to take stock of what we do take for granted and to step back and adjust our thinking and our expectations and our ideas about ourselves. There is an opportunity here to revisit and re-evaluate our sense of what are entitled to, or what we can take for granted, in our everyday lives.
Many people are exploring the possibilities of greater connection and compassion. This situation is not only calling us to live more consciously ourselves and in our close relationships, but also to live more consciously in our social relationships with others we don’t even know. We all have the potential to spread this virus unknowingly to others, so it becomes our responsibility to protect others as well as ourselves. Protecting ourselves is only possible when we take action to protect others; slowing the spread depends on becoming conscious of and responsible for the role we play, respecting the impact we could potentially have on others. That can have far-reaching, transformative effects. We are drawn to become much more conscious of our place in the whole picture.
This brings in notions of sacrifice, humility and respect for others, which have not been hallmarks of post-modern society. This is potentially a paradigm-changer, and can be personally challenging, but also a source of immense growth. Sacrificing what we have taken for granted, things we feel we have a right to or even need, for the common good, is an invitation to become more self-aware, and to dig deeper, connecting with what is essential in us.
We are all in this together, sharing a similar experience, so we are invited to focus on our interconnectedness, rather than our individualness. And since this is happening on a global scale, that invitation is to focus on our interconnectedness on a global scale.