Like most people, I’ve developed the habit of washing my hands more thoroughly and more frequently. As we continue to ‘cocoon’ and ‘stay safe at home’ (I don’t like the phrase lockdown!) I’m now giving as much attention to sanitising my mind as I am my hands. By this I mean I’m putting a conscious and concerted effort into what I’m focusing on, whilst also dealing with my fears and worries as they surface.
At this time when we cannot go outside, we can go inside. I’ve certainly been digging deep by utilising the resources and techniques I’ve picked up over the years to manage my mindset, emotions and manage my fears. I’ve also been going deep as I look at my fears and what the Covid 19 crisis has stirred in me.
Three years ago when cancer gate-crashed my life, I struggled to manage my anxiety as I grieved for what I thought I had lost. With hindsight, it was also a period of accelerated personal development. As Covid19 has gate-crashed all our lives, we now have the opportunity to evolve both individually and as a society.
“You are the result of the love of thousands.” This quote by Linda Hogan spoke to my heart when I came across it last year. In recent days, I’ve remembered that we are also the result of the resilience, courage and adaptability of thousands. We don’t have to go back many generations to appreciate that our grandparents and their grandparents endured wars, civil wars, rationing and famine.
Their bravery, their spirit is in our blood and DNA. I’m also reminded of the line from Maya Angelou’s poem ‘To our Grandmothers.’ “I come as one, but I stand as ten thousand.” As a spiritual person, I believe that I don’t stand alone, my cherished ancestors who worked and prayed for a better life for me are standing at my side.
When the story of our lives is written, we will all have a chapter titled ‘Spring 2020 Covid 19.’ How will you write your chapter? What will be the main themes?
One of my intentions for this year was to take a few weeks sabbatical. I felt I needed some time out to rest, resource myself and reassess direction after what has been a tough few years. The Universe has now presented me with a ‘timeout’ and in such a way that I don’t have to worry about missing opportunities or saying no to clients!
Regular readers of my blog will know that every year I go on a week-long personal retreat where to paraphrase Blaise Pascal I sit silently alone in a room. Now, we are all being asked to retreat. My intention for the Spring 2020 chapter of my life is to reassess what’s important to me, to fall more deeply in love with life, whilst being gentle with myself and thankful for the opportunity to press pause. If I was to choose a theme, it’s renewal.
Like most people, the Covid 19 crisis has stirred my fears. I know from experience, particularly in dealing with two cancer diagnoses in the last three years, that I cannot chase my fears away, but I can allow self-compassion in.
My first strategy for dealing with the emerging crisis was, like many people, to try to ignore it. As my diary began to empty up popped fears around income. Anger, which is frustrated fear, soon followed, because I felt I was no longer in control of my life. I remembered the words of Byron Katie ‘if you argue with reality you will suffer,’ and I didn’t want to suffer. The only option was to make peace with the new reality.
Like most of us, I’m conditioned to plan ahead, to live in the future working towards goals, commitments and deadlines. Now I was being asked to live more fully in the present. That’s when my spiritual practice kicked in. After all, wasn’t it times like this that I’ve been practising for!
Whilst the symptoms of fear in our bodies are very real, (tight shoulders and stomach, racing heart, shaky hands, fast shallow breaths) the root cause is the images and movies we habitually play in our minds.
As I’ve looked within, I’ve found that I’m playing three types of movies, sometimes on loop. The first is other people’s realities. I glimpse these when I watch the news, but like a virus in the computer of my brain, I’m not just empathising with others, I’m installing myself and my loved ones into their tragic reality and reacting to it as if it was happening to me. The second movie in the boxset is a projected future. One of the acronyms for fear is ‘future evidence appearing real.’
I’ve imagined getting sick, being in the hospital, dying, picturing my heart-broken family and no one is allowed to attend my funeral. I’ve also run variations of this with families members getting sick and the projected consequences. I’ve also imagined empty shelves in supermarkets and riots breaking out as society breaks down. We have fertile imaginations and unchecked, as Will Smith said, it’s near insanity.
The third movie I discovered I’m playing is what I’ve called Parallel Universe. This is when I look at my diary and imagine what I ‘should’ have been doing on a certain day. It’s picturing how life would possibly have been without the Covid 19 crisis, delivering a workshop, planning a holiday, attending a niece’s confirmation.
Common sense says if we are playing a movie we don’t like and it makes us feel bad, then eject it. What I’m doing is remembering to show compassion towards the self-defence part of me that is running these movies in the first place. I’ll soothe my inner child who is struggling to make sense of a situation outside of his control. As Byron Katie asks – who would I be without the movies, without the stories in my head? My answer – peaceful and calm.
We are all looking forward to the time when life will get back to normal, but we have an invitation now to question what sort of normal we want that to be. For me, there will certainly be more gratitude for the simple things in life and living in the present. Every time I wash my hands, I now visualise discarding what I wish to leave behind, arguing with reality, futile attempts to control what is outside my control and those irrational movies I play in my head. How liberating that will be.
I hope you enjoyed this post and you may also enjoy this one on Managing Our Fears.
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