In it together

We must go through this together, not just in the wisdom of knowing we’re unavoidably interconnected, but because we need each other psychologically and emotionally. We shrivel and die in isolation, and we thrive in connection. Looking at each other as expressions of life and divinity, we can see past petty annoyances and allow a softening of our edges. We become more receptive, less aggressive.

Pray for endurance. We have to endure those with whom we are confined, and they have to endure us too!

Many people are talking about these uncertain times and our uncertain future since the wider spread of Coronavirus, which adds to our stress levels and leads to more anxiety.

It’s helpful to remember that life is always unpredictable, events are impossible to plan with full accuracy and our expectation of predictability actually makes us unconsciously close ourselves off from new experiences.

Experiencing changes we didn’t want almost always leads to grief. Many people are feeling a heavy sadness and confusion at this time. Lately, I go through moments of feeling creative and proactive, followed by moments of feeling disoriented and unsure. This feels very much like grieving. We are grieving the life we have lost, and which we can’t yet foresee in its new form.

The first stage of grief is denial, and some people are still grappling with this. The degree to which we cling to our comforts, our routines, our prestige, our stuff, is the degree to which we will struggle with change. Getting from stage one of grief – denial – to stage 6 – acceptance – can be a slow and circuitous process. But it is made easier by becoming aware of our clinging and aversion, and recognising when we are living into the past or future at the expense of this moment. (I will write more on the topic of grieving at this time, because I think it’s important to help us process what we are experiencing.)

Reflect for a moment on how your body feels when you’re anxious. How is your stomach? Feel the place just under the middle of the ribs, where we find the solar plexus. What does that area feel like? What is the breathing like? Is the rib cage moving when you breathe? What are your hands doing?

I tend to fidget when I’m anxious: I pick at my fingers or fiddle with whatever I’m holding until I recognise my anxiety. Then my awareness of my fidgety hands allows me to recognise that I am feeling anxious and this gives me the freedom to choose more consciously how to take care of myself.

Mūdra is a wonderful remedy for anxiety, because it quickly occupies the mind and channels energy constructively throughout the body. Simple mudrā where all fingers are joined together, or touching the fingers of the other hand are best for anxiety. The finger tips are connected to mental energy and when they are calmly touching one another the mind quietens and comes into better focus. There is less dispersion of thought when our hands are calm, so we can be more aware of the mental patterns and eventually ignore them altogether.

Be free where you are.

The only thing preventing us from feeling free is our thinking. Once we understand this, we can turn our attention to practicing acceptance and equanimity. It’s a powerful skill to develop!

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years on Robben Island off the coast of South Africa, much of the time in solitary confinement. He became aware that the guards were controlling him by withholding his cigarettes as punishment, mostly arbitrarily and vindictively.

So, he decided that he had to quit smoking in order to free himself from at least this manipulation and punishment. The guards no longer had that particular weapon to use against him, because he no longer craved cigarettes.

He simultaneously freed himself from his own addiction, and from the tyranny of his jailers as well. This is the power of the mind. This kind of freedom, this self awareness, is what keeps us sane.

Panic only arises because of a stuck way of thinking about our situation: if we are restricted from moving around, as most of us are now, we become focused on what we can no longer do rather than what we can do or are doing in this moment.

We can be free wherever we are, whatever the circumstances: if we think we are trapped somewhere it is because we are thinking of somewhere else. We aren’t present where we are. As the late Ram Dass said so succinctly: Be Here Now!

Much love and light,