Remember the last time you longed for a retreat from the world?
- Maybe a weekend with your oldest friends, with plenty of great food and laughter.
- Maybe a yoga or spa retreat with a favorite teacher.
- Maybe a hiking or rafting trip to a place you’ve always wanted to see.
Now you are in it, unplanned, unexpected, threaded through with tons of worry, fear, and uncertainty attached.
Not exactly the restful, rejuvenating respite you’d envisioned. Not even close.
And yet, even in this time of rampant uncertainty, there are pockets of peace to be found. All of this time at home offers us plentiful opportunity for pure presence and mindful awareness.
With news, advertising, and social media now all Covid-19 all the time, I know I’m shutting off and tuning out more and more.
Which leads to even more time to tune in.
* Tune in to the food that’s right in front of you, breathing slowly, savoring, taking in nourishment on every level. Paying attention and eating peacefully actually allows you to digest and absorb more nutrients.
* Tune in to the expansive signs of spring. Here in the northeast, color is exploding after months of grey and brown. Yellow forsythia. Pink cherry trees. Green shoots and leaves of endless variety.
* Tune into your breath in ways that soothe the nervous system, especially the vagus nerve that runs through your digestive organs and endocrine system — try breathing in to a count of four, holding for four, and breathing out to a count of eight. A longer exhale is the key here.
Don’t aim for normal, or anticipate getting back to whatever normal was.
Now is not the time to go full tilt, or expect others to. Nor can we imagine or foresee what our lives will look and feel like once this crisis has passed (other than the sheer comfort and pleasure of being able to gather together).
You don’t need to use this time to sit like a monk and attempt to achieve enlightenment either. As Mary Oliver put it in her much loved and quoted poem Wild Geese:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Now is the time to be gentle with yourself and those you live with.
Now is the time to allow all feelings to arise and move through you, and even to collapse into the hardest ones once in a while.
You will get up again. I have faith in you, in myself, in all of us to come through this time intact.