We are being asked to stop, slow down, stay at home, and distance ourselves from others. As human beings wired for connection and yearning for belonging, this is a unique and challenging moment in our history.
When operating from survival and scarcity, witness the people who build “walls”, isolate, hoard, protect and defend. It’s seductive to react like others from our tribal primitive brain and be controlled by fear and anxiety. The threat of the virus is real but it is our reaction that’s important. Our response to the ground shifting beneath our feet, is the only thing we can control..
Of course one must plan and stay informed, but the real call to action is to move beyond fear, greed, selfishness -from individual concerns to the concerns of all. Like me, many others are feeling the forceful undertow of dread but a more powerful excitement of evolving consciousness; community building, sharing resources, local futures and new economies. Acknowledging the fear but not giving it any energy, helps me to manage my thoughts in a more constructive way.
We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.
In all of this, we have an opportunity to grow our relationship with ourselves, and have courageous conversations with others that actually lower the walls of our protections and judgements. Instead of hugs and kisses, our words and gestures are the glue that keeps us (1.5m) together.
I love the phrase from Zainab Salbi, author, humanitarian and media commentator, “Freedom is an inside job.” How do we create a sense of freedom in containment? How do we want to shape the space where love and compassion resonate more strongly than endemic fear and anxiety?
In this great pause, I remind myself of three things and I feel my pulse slowing and my breath deepening.
- Impermanence – this too will pass.
- Surrender and let go – in resistance and holding, there is suffering.
- Presence – mindfully experience the light and dark of this unique moment in our evolution.
Now is time to cultivate community with empathy and generous listening. This guide for Better Conversations produced by On Being is a fabulous starting point.
Here are some other suggestions for the Ultimate Pause.
- Craft a family contract about how you want to navigate this time with your loved ones. What zones of the house do you want to use for games, electronics, quiet space, retreat?
- Check in with your neighbours, wider community, or people you see living on the street. What support do they need – meals, basic supplies, childcare support, or a phone call to chat?
- Forge new work or community alliances remotely. Consider gifting or trading your services online with others. Listen to those that don’t share your views and ideologies, knowing that conflict is community wanting to happen.
- Reconnect with friends you have lost contact with. Take a leap of faith and repair damaged relationships, reconcile differences with others. Attend a Non-Violent Communication Course to develop your capacity to navigate conflict in adversity.
- Support local charities by volunteering on their hotlines. Listening to others stories strengthens neural networks that dial up compassion and empathy – “try walking a mile in the shoes” of the marginalised: homeless, sick, the elderly.
Image: Michael Leunig, When I talk to You, Harper Collins