Below are the 4 things that I have found most helpful during lockdown. Taking this time to reflect on life has opened my mind to doing things a little differently going forward. When life re-starts my new ‘normal’ is going to look a little bit different. When life re-starts, what is your new ‘normal’ going to look a like?
Life in Lockdown
Life has never been like this. Covid-19 is having a devastating effect across the world. Fear, sadness and illness are unsettling for everyone. But, in amongst it all, still there are positive stories of neighbourly and community support and kindness, and people going the extra mile to help their family, friends or even strangers in their street.
Like most households, I’m sure mine isn’t very different. We have our daily injection of Joe Wicks, our spare room has become a makeshift office and my son is experiencing the wonders of a virtual classroom and video calling his friends to stay in touch.
More fortunate than many people to have all of this, I know I am lucky to be healthy and safe with my family cocooned at home. We have space, a garden and food in the fridge. We have stripped things back and are living simply and minimally. My mind often wanders to those who don’t have all of these privileges (and they are privileges!), those who are working solidly through this, or those without a safe place to call home.
1. It begins with a Pause. . .
What I’m finding most difficult is the uncertainty of this situation. There are no defined answers. How long will lockdown last? Will my family and friends be ok? When will the schools re-open? When can I start treating patients again?
Maybe you are like me and have an intension to maintain a daily practice: either Mediation, Qi Gong or Yoga. But the reality is you never quite maintain it for any length of time. I never managed this before Covid-19. The irony of having so much ‘free time’ and still not managing to do this during lockdown does make me giggle. (Mmmm … Maybe my personal block to daily practice isn’t my lack of time after all!) But, even in all this uncertainty I’ve found a way to stay centred which doesn’t set involve taking time out of your day but incorporates a daily practice throughout my day.
Last year I really enjoyed reading The Art of Contemplation by Richard Rudd.
It’s one of these books you read that doesn’t actually tell you anything new! What it does do really well is provide a roadmap for getting to your calm and centred place in a practical step-by-step way. What it does is place Contemplation as a route to wholeness using an unforced and relaxed approach. Learning to Pause is the first of many steps and exercises on your path to spiritual growth and completeness. This Pause is what you do before any thoughts, actions or reactions.
Taking time to Pause in this way is really helping me get through lockdown. Just to Pause and be still before I think, speak or do something allows me to catch myself in the moment and give me the equanimity and time I need to respond rather than react. By Pausing in this way I am coping better with the limitations and frustrations of lockdown. I underestimated the significance and simplicity of using this Pause to create stillness inside. I encourage you to find out more and give it a go.
2. Stepping off the World
The world goes round pretty fast; sometimes it feels a bit too fast and I just want to step off! Along with all the negatives that have come with Covid-19 there are hidden gems too.
I find old patterns hard to break; I am a creature of habit. After the shock and sudden changes created by enforced lockdown, my initial thoughts were that I have some space and time to get things done! My time away from clinic could be really productive and useful. Unfortunately I slip into “doing’ rather than ‘being’ all too readily. However, I have decided and am giving myself permission to come at it differently and enjoy some opportunities.
For example, normally, with my work and regular school I would never have this much time with my son. It is really important to me to make the here and now as positive as it can be. His school have been great and there is online support for after the Easter holidays. But when schools re-open my son won’t remember his maths exercises or his writing assignments. What he will remember from lockdown is not what he did, but how he felt during his time at home. My response to Covid-19 plays a huge part into not just my son’s understanding of the situation but how he will remember this chapter in his life.
So some days it is ok and feels good to be busy and working towards getting things done with our semi-online routine and cyber-connection with the wider world. Other days, I’m enjoying in my spare time doing absolutely nothing! So our day isn’t defined by what we have done in the day but rather how we were during that day. Not having a set routine and allowing ourselves to get board allows us to be creative and enjoy our downtime. So far this has included sleeping in a tent in the garden just because we can. Lying on the trampoline and imagining cloud shapes. Pottering about and listening to music and reading books and not thinking, “I really should be getting on with something else”. Not making any fuss just now and simplifying my life has been really important in allowing me to remain open to change.
There are so many no’s just now, it is so nice to say yes whenever I can. Giving myself permission to have this downtime is so liberating. I recommend you to the same. Allow yourself time to get board and then consciously decide what you choose to do next rather than running on autopilot. It helps you feel like a human ‘being’ rather than a human ‘doing’!
Lockdown forces creativity. I spent last night doing a 3-hour quiz with my wider family. From London up to the North of Scotland we all video-called and had so much fun! The quiz wasn’t even that important. It was just so nice to see family faces and hear their voices. The quiz gave us all a framework to just sit and chat and take our minds off this situation. My mum has been self-isolating for over 3 weeks now. I know she is safe and in good health and that in itself is peace of mind. She misses all of the grandchildren so our virtual quiz makes self-isolating not quite so … isolating!
Using our technology to stay socially connected is wonderful. For all the evils of too much screen time I think just now it is good to flex a bit. My son started video messaging with my mum during the last week of school when he was studying at home. In normal times, when he goes to stay with her, their thing is to play Countdown together in the afternoon. So now they are doing it virtually. They love it. It gives them time together and I get some time to get the boring stuff done when he in entertained, stimulated and spending some focussed time with his Granny.
If you’re not into screens and IT I would still urge you to make the time to pick up the phone or even write a letter to the people in your life you can’t see in person just now. Maybe re-connect with people you have lost contact with over the years. I am enjoying virtual nights out with friends in Glasgow and York and conversations with family members in New Zealand and Australia. Tomorrow night I am celebrating a joint birthday party on Zoom!
4. Define Your New ‘Normal’
Lots of people are saying “when things get back to normal . . .”
The reality is that the world and human consciousness has shifted. Things can’t and won’t be the same as before and I think this is not a bad thing. We all have a chance to re-create the world we choose to live in and this includes defining our new ‘normal’. I have decided my new normal in the emerging post-Covid19 era is going to look a little bit different.
During this time I’m thinking about where I will be in 5 years time and what I will be doing. What kind of parent and wife do I want to be? What do I want my Acupuncture practice to be like? How do I want to spend my spare time?
Time away from clinic has given me space to think about my practice and where I want to go with it. For me this involves additional training so in 5 years time my Acupuncture practice is more specialised and by focussing and spending time on self-care I am in a better position to help others.
I also want to have fun! Over the years, I’ve allowed playing the piano to drift out of my life. Not any more. I have organised joint Kodaly method and piano lessons for myself and my son to start after Easter. I am really excited about this! As a child I was taught to play the piano not taught music (subtle difference I know, but musicians amongst you will understand!). This time I’m choosing to actually learn music while having a shared interest with my son who is naturally very musical.
So think of something you always wished you could do, or had learned, then organise it, make some time for it and start doing it. Just do it! Be childlike again and be willing to open your mind and learn to do something new. Then in 5 years time you’ll be really glad you did. You will be able to look back and remember lockdown as the time you choose your new ‘normal’.