What did you discover about yourself or the state of your life during the Corona virus lockdown?
While many people suffered unforgettable loss, pain and hardship, perhaps, you were among those who were able to use the time well: learning something useful online, dusting off and revisiting long neglected craft projects, finally finding time for regular physical activity, listening to inspirational podcasts, reading books (remember them!), catching up with rest, re-imagining work or business plans and taking them online, or, after a jolly good clear out, sending items to refuse heaven with great satisfaction.
Or, perhaps, you were among the others: secretly glad for the shift in gear from the frantic zipping around of 21st century life which had you spreading yourself just about everywhere – to the point you no longer knew where or who you were – to the healthier, slower, saner pace of having less people to see, fewer places to go and not so many things to do.
I park myself firmly in the less is more camp.
Compassionate Perspective The lockdown was an intense period for us all and not unlike being in a pressure cooker. Having been unwell with Covid for some time, occasionally I find I’m held hostage by an anxious tautness, especially watching people eager to bolt (understandably for social and economic reasons) into the world again.
At these times, my thoughts weave a pretty tapestry of worries that decorate my shoulders, face and inner organs with taut threads of tension. Then I have no choice, especially as my health continues to recover, but to practice simple movement and breathing to restore me back to my factory settings of calm mind and spacious, soft body made to live on a beautiful planet.
Before my work today as a mindfulness and yoga therapist in psychiatric and mental health, a large chunk of my life was spent working for UNICEF, a global aid agency. I can, therefore, see that the effects of the pandemic are similar to those of a humanitarian emergency: we’ve lived through enormous loss of life and there is a continued threat, and with disruptions in our social services and networks that battered economies and which will take time to repair and recover. It’s inevitable that mental health suffers and it’s absolutely necessary to discharge the psychological and emotional pressure before it gets stuck in the body.
Discharging Pressure Safely Having been through the pressure cooker, I’m sharing a few simple things I practised to release that pressure. These are meant as gentle suggestions which you may find useful whether you have a meditation practice or not, as a reminder to sample the simple and be kinder and non-judgemental to yourself.
Follow the Rhythm While I was unwell, there were days where the only thing I could do was lie on the sofa like a tattered rag and follow the rhythm of my breathing. Place a hand over your belly or chest and let the hand be moved by the natural flow and current of your breathing, just as it is.
Soak in the Sights Other times, I would look at the sky as I lay on my front and watch clouds blanketing the sky in grey or float likes wisps across the horizon. Allow your eyes to be mesmerized by colour in all its tones, shapes and contours, shades of light, size and movement, as well as all life that moves across it.
Listen Deeply Quite often I wasn’t up to listening to music. Instead, I found myself listening to birdsong I’d never heard before. Allow yourself to be fascinated by the twittering symphony of healing sound. Add to that sounds of the neighbourhood – soft, loud, sudden, voices, local wildlife and the return of the planes, trains and automobiles.
Touch Grace & Smell Wonder As I grew in wellness, I tended the lavender plants while inhaling their scent, scattered dry soil to grow lettuce and discovered, that what was once a chore, now became time to connect to the natural world as I watered the plants watching them tremble during their daily shower while I allowed the smell of damp, dark earth to waft up to my nose. Inhale and smell, touch and feel. Be curious.
Chew It Over Although a teacher of mindfulness meditation, I was often cynical about mindful eating as a practice. That is, until my throat and chest, raw with virus, shifted the gears right down for me and the body demanded eating slowly with awareness. My taste buds delighted, my palate savoured and my teeth got a chance to really chew and explore texture. Try it with a snack or at least one meal in a week. Be there with the food as fully as you can.
Move Kindly It was liberating to take the pressure off myself and move only within a range that felt comfortable for me at the time. There was no mental target of what constituted a ‘real’ yoga practice but rather a wisdom communicated from the lungs and muscles as to what felt right and what was needed in the moment. Allow yourself to be liberated by yoga or any movement without a goal and breathe softly into the shape you take.
I hope these simple suggestions inspire you to review how you approach the everyday and, if they do, feel free to scatter them liberally through your day and share with others.
Meanwhile, if you’d like more guidance in releasing your body’s store of tension and your mind’s store of the jitters, I’d be delighted to help you in my new online offerings of gentle Hatha yoga (for beginners to experienced) and mindfulness classes (for experienced folks), which you can find out about at my website www.theportableguru.com As my health improves, more will be offered.
Remember to keep it kind,
Remember, if you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety or acute or prolonged mental distress, always seek medical advice and talk to a doctor or seek professional help through counselling.