Yay Isolation! (This Can't Last Forever Right?)
Well it was finally announced. As with much of the world, my city is going back to some version of early COVID restrictions. While anticipated, it still feels a like a new event, especially with winter coming.
Part of me is a little afraid. There are some moments living alone during isolation when you start to forget what's real. Seeing everyone on a screen makes it all feel a bit constructed, like The Truman Show. You kind of want to say, "Okay guys I'm just going to stay in bed today. Stop the show, you can all just take a break!" You question your instincts. Start to wonder if you just stop showing up for meetings if they'll still happen. You just don’t feel real without being reflected in the people around you. The reactions on their faces. Their body language. It’s like the whole tree falling in the forest question. We all need something to bounce off of. Our vibration. And when you're sitting on the edge of two bubbles, you don't really belong anywhere.
But this time I'm a little bit more prepared. I've been psyching myself up for this for the past few weeks. I'm all about changing your mindset to change your experience. It's possible in most scenarios. I thought if I could go into this period with a bit of a "Yay Isolation!" mindset, and focus on the positive end of it (beyond just keeping everyone safe), I could actually really enjoy it this time. I've planned a quarantine period so that I get to see some family around the holidays, and other than that I have a list of things to do that would take me through the next 10 quarantines, leaving a little room for that lack of motivation that we've all experienced during this pandemic.
Thankfully I scheduled some time away over the last little bit at some amazing, affordable, out of the city retreats to get some space outside without a million people. It's been essential. The most recent retreat was at the Dharma Centre of Canada and it's been a long time since I've meditated for such a concentrated period of time. Where my only job was to take things slowly and to breathe, walk in nature, eat, sleep, look at the stars, meditate, and give back with some tasks around the centre. You can't even read a book, or talk, so you really limit that impulse to fill your brain and time with all the things. It was so good for the brain and heart.
I was reminded of some of the Buddhist concepts that I always relate to, and I think they will be really helpful for this period of time as well. Meditation is all about awareness, of the things around you and where your head is at. With the ultimate goal of actually being in the moment, instead of freaking out about the future or bemoaning the past. At the start of the weekend our instructor asked us to notice when our brain was filled with one of three things: Anticipation, resistance or preoccupation. and let me tell you, for me, it's usually one of the three. The idea being to notice these states, and to try to bring yourself back to the present moment. For example:
Anticipation - During the last lock-down, I was anticipating being lonely and sad, so I drank preemptively. This time, I'm going to just try and sit with my feelings and distract myself with more healthy things. It is winter, and red wine is my winter "go to", so we'll see how that goes!
Resistance - They just announced that we have to clean out our desks at work, as the office will be moving to telework longer term. I have 16 years worth of stuff there. It was sort of my secondary storage facility (especially for my high heel collection - not really something I see myself using over the next while). I was never one of those people that wanted to work from home. I live in the city in a small space because my after work time was so important to me and I hated commuting. Who's laughing now! Not me ha. So when they first announced it, I was really resisting hard mentally. But now I'm trying to embrace it. I like the idea of streamlining. I love not wearing make-up and being able to get more workouts in. I feel very okay with not potentially sitting on a urine-covered seat in the bus. It's a definite shift in mindset for me and it's helping. Resistance adds a layer of suffering. There's the thing you don't want, and then there's the negative feelings around resisting it. So just let it go, ya know?
Preoccupation - a woman in our class asked the question, how do you solve a problem you're preoccupied with if you try to not let your mind be preoccupied with it? And the answer really is that there is a time for thinking about a problem or a decision, and a time to be present in the moment. And you don't want the problem to take up all of your brain space, or you'll miss all the moments. So I'm going to try to not preoccupy myself with what's wrong. And set boundaries on my thinking around the hard stuff.
I have to say, while I haven't meditated in a really focused way in a while, there was a moment when I really felt it's impact. As a result of an unseasonably warm weekend, we were sitting outside on the grass, as dusk approached. I decided to keep my eyes slightly open, looking into the space ahead,unfocused. And about every three seconds, I could see the light change almost imperceptibly. It was beautiful. Peaceful. I've never noticed all of the shades of light in dusk. Worth slowing down for, at least once!
At the end of every session, we all repeated "may all beings be well, happy, and free of fear". This is my hope for us all as we bridge this time to a vaccine! Another concept of Buddhism is Loving Kindness, and I'm hoping we can all show a little loving kindness to ourselves when we're having a bad pandemic day. No situation, feeling, pandemic even, is forever. Accepting impermanence is the key. Not fighting it (we all see how fighting change can take over a life ;)).
I'm leaning into isolation with excitement, tools in place. So here's a yay to winter sports, a yay to a lower carbon footprint, a yay to getting rid of some schtuff, a yay for being cozy, a yay for not having to wear nylons and make-up, a yay for taking things slowly, and a big yay for living room dance parties.
I can't wait till this is all just a story we tell each other. Until then, make your story a good one.
What are you doing to stay sane this winter?