On March 26th Coloradans were ordered to stay home to prevent the spread of the highly contagious and deadly COVID-19 virus. Today, two months later, as the orders are being lifted, slowly, and in stages, we find ourselves emerging into a new reality where the danger is still real. As Father Richard Rohr writes on his blog, “There’s no doubt that this period will be referred to for the rest of our lifetimes.
We have a chance to go deep, and to go broad.
Globally, we’re in this together. Depth is being forced on us by great suffering, which as I like to say, always leads to great love.” He describes a polarity that I have experienced myself during this time… feelings of concern, confusion, doubt, anxiety and real fear while at the same time peace, quiet, closeness, connection, simple pleasures and love. Buddhist wisdom describes this paradox as co-emergence… where two competing and even opposite truths can be present and alive in any moment or experience at the same time. I find this teaching helpful as I reflect on my COVID-19 experience and what, if any of how I felt and what I learned, I’d like to carry with me as we all carefully move back into the world again. Yes, there has been, is and will continue to be great suffering for the foreseeable future and yet how can we “go deep” and harness the good from this moment?
Curious about what we might carry forward with us from this experience, I conducted a highly informal, quite limited survey of friends and colleagues, asking them to share an aspect of their lockdown experience that was actually positive and deepening.
I wanted to know too what practices they intend to continue moving forward in order to hold on to what was good in the suffering.
Their answers were highly aligned with Father Rohr’s “great love”, ranging from daily walks with beloved partners, quiet time with themselves, more frequent calls with family and friends and delicious spaciousness that allowed room for reading, cooking, gardening and simply being. Here’s what they said:
What we enjoyed doing the most and what gives me pleasure every day is the yard work we did. There is nothing like gorgeous flowering pots and plantings to make you feel alive and happy. In the mornings we both get a cup of coffee and walk around the yard to see how much things have blossomed or grown since the day before. You would think one day isn’t enough time to see change but you might be surprised. I know I was. – KM in Denver
I think the most profound positive that has come out of lockdown for us is a greater sense of self-reliance. During lockdown we learned—really relearned in most cases—how to do all this ourselves. YouTube was very helpful for everything from home repair to how to cut my hair myself. I already knew how to cut my husband’s hair which I used to do all the time 20 years ago, but hadn’t in a long time. It came right back to me and I gave him a great haircut! The sense of self-empowerment and self-reliance is something neither of us want to give up. – EW in Bremerton, WA
I can think of countless times I’d say to myself, “I wish life would slow down! I’m moving too fast and never have time to… fill in the blank!” This experience, after I had time to grieve, allowed me to make meaning out of this situation and I noticed that when life slowed down, so did the noise in my head. – LM in Los Angeles
I’ve actually been quite surprised by my response to the virus, stay-at-home orders, social distancing, etc. Forced to stay at home, I relaxed and found I was enjoying being home … I was not going stir crazy. In some ways, I am living just the way I want to be living. I’ve been making cards, relaxing on the deck with a book, enjoying “adventure” walks with the dog instead of just checking it off my to-do list, etc. I am an introvert and that side of me is thriving. – LB in Highlands Ranch
Not being able to distract myself with my regular habits, those of making future plans – travel, or otherwise, rushing out to run “needed” errands, working, visiting museums or parks, filling time with family and friends, I have been working on the practice of relaxing into the “isness” of the time, trying to focus on the immediate and what is present, trying not to grasp constantly, solve constantly, or wish for something different. When I am able to do this, I find more peace and certainty. Even at some future point when there are more available activities and ways to stay busy, I want to remember this feeling, and hold this practice. – TS in Denver
Although my workload has stayed relatively consistent and with more stress than usual, having slow mornings and the freedom to break off when I need to during the day has allowed me to manage my stress much more effectively than feeling like I am expected in the office. Moving forward I would like to continue morning walks, spending time working on the house, more game nights and catching up with friends at home or in the outdoors, and more delicious banana bread baking! I would also like to hold a stronger boundary on listening to my needs and not coming into the office when I don’t need or want to. – LQ in Denver
Taking morning walks with my wife and dog before we eat breakfast. The light exercise at the very beginning of the day is calming for all the uncertainty during the pandemic. Sometimes they are long walks and sometimes they are not depending on how we are feeling and that’s been great. We start off the day connecting, talking, and accomplishing something together. – DP in Denver
What I know from my own experience, is that the slower pace of being forced to stay home helped my nervous system calm and I discovered a new baseline for what my body and brain FEEL like when I’m at ease.
Those stress feelings were easier to notice and to soothe with greater quiet in my life.
As I re-emerge, I intend to continue nurturing my new baseline with intentional schedule management and continued regular mindfulness and meditation practices. What about you? What will you carry forward with you?
Michelle is a mother, a partner, a friend, a spiritual seeker, a psychotherapist and someone who strives to cultivate the nine attitudes in her own life every day. She has a BA in Communications and Humanities from the University of Colorado and an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Mindfulness-based Transpersonal Psychology from Naropa University and she completed her internship at People House. Michelle’s practice, Soul Care Counseling, offers mindfulness-based practices that support clients seeking to become less anxious, less stressed, less reactive and more grounded, present and connected with their own inner ally. As a result of their work together, clients are able to communicate with themselves and others with greater clarity, care and compassion. https://soulcaredenver.com/