A friend recently asked how he could stop feeling so negative about the imposition of a quarantine. Like a lot of us, his daily routines have been dismantled by the requirement that we stay home. Challenging this wonderful dude even more is the fact that he’d spent the last six months deep in the discipline of rising above a long-standing depression. His self-care routines have enabled him to shift his diet, strengthen his body, redirect his career ambitions, communicate effectively with his family and reach out for support when he needs a boost.
In short, he’s done amazing work on his own behalf. Understandably, he’s concerned about losing his momentum.
Now, his world is mostly in the home and quite a few of his new patterns are not. I told him, everything you’ve done has prepared you for this. You’ve learned how to rise.
The same can be said for all of us.
We all have the capacity to thrive through this. In fact, it is precisely in situations so far beyond our control that we can see most clearly how our response to it determines our bounce.
Please forgive me if this ruffles feathers but your resilience is based on every little thing you’ve ever done to rise above terror and into the wonder, the potential, the call of your entire life. In short, your bounce is based on a choice. Will you celebrate everything that life has to offer or will you stand in the posture of the victim? We don’t get to choose life’s gifts for us; we do get to choose how we receive them. What life gives you is reality.
This doesn’t mean we don’t all occasionally lament. And it doesn’t mean we settle. It means we strengthen ourselves to welcome life, moment by moment. We’ll have the stamina to participate in whatever change is yet to come. We’ll know how to respond.
Here’s an exercise for you. It requires your awareness, your honesty and a willingness to feel your body. Take a moment to dish out some serious lamentations. Say them out loud even. Here’s help: ‘I don’t like this at all. I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to stay home. This ruins my routines. Why are they doing this to me? What if I have to be on a ventilator? This is scary and lame at the same time. I miss my life.’
Now, pay attention. Notice how you feel. What kinds of sensations are present in your body? Picture the many ways you might act out these thoughts. How do you behave with these thoughts in your head?
Is it awesome? Do you dig this person? I’m not saying that the situation we’re all sharing is easy. I’m simply saying that we might be more competent in our healing if we choose to experience it differently. It’s new and fascinating, if you choose the wonder over the lament.
I had this experience earlier today. I sat with my dog on a piece of grass beside the sidewalk. Balboa Park, just beside me, was closed. A cop cruised by and ordered everyone out of the park toward the sidewalk where I sat. They moved. We all shared a small amount of space now. My thoughts told me that the cop was absurd for putting us all in awkward proximity. Then I realized how tense I felt. I decided to welcome the fact that, like me, all these fellow wanderers had an instinct to savor the grass beneath their feet. I fell in love with all of us. We knew our bodies wanted the nourishment of sunshine and air and trees. We all scattered in our quiet, physically distant ways.
I had to shift my thoughts. The experience changed for me. I found connection, comfort and peace in place of the tension.
Try this now. Say the words out loud that offer the opposite of your lamentations. Like this: ‘I don’t mind this at all. I can get sick and will probably heal as I have before. I can stay home and be productive. My routines can be altered and adapted. I don’t have to worry about a ventilator right now and I pray for those who are using one. This is scary and I’m okay. This is lame and I’m okay. My life is ongoing and changing at every moment.’
Check in again. How do these words affect your body differently? How might you behave with these thoughts in your atmosphere?
If you know me, you know I’m a proponent of practice. I’m pretty sure the whole of our life is meant to be a practice in learning how to experience every moment without pretending it’s supposed to be somehow different. Every day, for as many moments as I can muster, I practice loving the world and all its inhabitants exactly as the package comes. I don’t always succeed. But when I fail, it’s great. When I fail, I know I’ll learn how to practice better.
So consider using this time to practice watching your thoughts and the effect they have on you. Your thoughts are powerful and persuasive. Please use this incredible time to learn how they convince you of your posture in life. Then look at yourself in a friendly way to see if that posture is really how you want to stand.
You can rise to this wonder. You’ll be strong and helpful toward yourself and all those you love. We’ll all heal together. See how it feels to let these thoughts settle in your head. This is our practice. We all stand together.
I love you.