Photo by Joshua Sortino
These are not easy times. Now is a time unlike anything anyone born after 1945 has ever seen. The world is full of new unknowns and new possibilities. I don’t know about you, but I tend to cycle through almost every emotion on a given day, and the emotions I can’t reach feel frozen. I am grateful for the times when I thaw and can cry and feel more deeply. I am grateful for the support I have and the support I can give others to feel too. My favorite definition of confusion, that I learned from Ray Castellino, is that confusion means there’s more than one thing going on. There are so many things going on right now it’s hard to know how to respond. And while we are all living through this moment, we are not all being impacted in the same way. It is certainly a time we will remember for the rest of our lives, if we are fortunate enough to live beyond it, and a time which will surely be studied and spoken about many generations from now.
On hard days, I have focused on those future generations, and my belief that the transformative and difficult times we are living through will clear a path to a different and more sustainable future for them. The shelter at home time gave us – and in some places is still giving — months of cleaner skies and fresher water and less noise. We have all learned to adapt to some degree, and our practice at adapting is teaching us new skills. It is also showing us that we have more capacity than we were aware of before the world came to a halt.
While the new stable, the new normal is a long way off, find what is stable in the moment. The chair under you. The floor. The Sunrise. The Moon. Your experience of the moment. Your love for what and who you love. Your ability to talk and listen. Your breath. When the going gets hard, breathe for someone who cannot breathe right now. Open the space in your lungs – and theirs.
Death has always been close, and it is more visible now. We will all die, there’s no way to change that. What we can change is how we live. Even in this time when so much of our normal routine and security is upended, we can find more aliveness, because it is within us and all around us. We are being given daily opportunities to find good and value in what we have, and to call out wrongful death even more fiercely.
It is important now for both our mental and physical health to recognize safety in the moment. The world has always had threats in it, but there are new ones now. We used to do a lot of things without considering the risk, but now we have to. When you are safe, like when you return from being out in the world, take the time to let your body recognize that it is home and safe. Feel your body’s response and savor it for as long as you can. The felt sense of safety is instant medicine for our nervous system always, and essential to practice while we are all living under so much stress.
Though the future looms large with questions, make it through this moment, today, tonight as authentically as you can. Get support when you need it. Give support when you can. Don’t tell anyone how to feel – there is no “right” way through this moment. Instead, help people recognize what they are feeling. Let us give ourselves permission to be terrified, enraged, grief-stricken and stunned. In any order or all at once. Let us each gain the clarity of our convictions and the strength to act on them. May we grow through this challenging time into people that future generations will be honored to descend from.
What follows is a list of some of what I’ve done in the last few months and some of what I’ve taught students to do for a long time to support safety and well-being and the recognition of the immense power of life in the moment.
WAYS TO FEEL BETTER IN THE MOMENT
1. Orient to the space below you and the external surfaces your body is touching. Orienting down helps us settle down.
2. Notice your body, then the external surfaces, go back and forth between the two until you find your breath. The process can calm you down.
3. Notice your capacity to breathe. Thank your body for being able to breathe even when you aren’t noticing.
4. Take a breath for someone you know or someone unknown who is struggling for breath right now.
5. Look around the space you are in and ask your body to decide if you are safe where you are right now. Notice what happens when your body feels safe.
6. If your body doesn’t feel safe, ask your body what it needs. If that need is too complicated in the moment, meet another of your body’s needs, like water or fresh air.
7. Thank your body for its knowing and its ability to sense safety and danger.
8. Recognize the aliveness in you right now.
9. Go outside and sit on the earth. Spend time with a plant or watch an animal. Look with fresh eyes, as if you are seeing for the first time. Notice something new about what you are looking at, maybe the shape, color or movement. Then notice the felt sense in your body. Let your body and mind touch the sense of new without the sense of loss. New and loss are often together now. Take time to note when they’re not.
10. If you start to feel better from taking any of the above actions, pause and feel the change. Too often we skip this step, and thus the chance to feel better.
11. Share what helps you feel better with someone else, so they can too.