Covid-19 has varied greatly for each individual from devastatingly tragic to merely challengingly life-altering.
I’m lucky, I fall on the latter end of the spectrum. Everyone‘s healthy and safe and I have a roof.
I know all that, and yet I find myself struggling with not making this about me—how am I bettering myself, how am I healing, how am I optimizing these lemons into lemonade. This pandemic and the loss it is creating is much bigger than that, so I feel guilty.
***Full disclosure: it’s been difficult redefining my role in a yoga and meditation landscape that is no-touch and studio-less and basically staring at myself in a box on my computer screen wondering if I have a financial future.***
My job is all about dropping the ego from action, for the sake of myself and the world. Panic states naturally call for us to react from the ego: our ego is what keeps the other person from taking our money, partner, sense of self and that last pack of toilet paper at Costco. Ego is the armor we use to protect ourselves as well as how we make sense of existence.
In the past, I have put myself in situations specifically designed to stretch my ego comfort zone. Self-mastery stuff like plunging into an ice bath, or fasting, or upending a life I loved to move to a mountain to start from scratch—all designed to drop inward to link with my vital nature. The difference with a pandemic is it wasn’t a choice. For any of us. We were all blind-sided.
And so, I have struggled to just find a comfortable seat in my meditation practice as my monkey mind tries to figure out which tree branch I need to grab onto. It has been exhausting.
Don’t get me wrong: our personal narrative is what gives our life meaning, and apart from monks and wandering sadhus, we all have to figure it out.
So how do we find our authentic voice that allows us to respond rather than react?
Here’s what I’ve been doing:
Every morning I just sit and observe. First my outer landscape and then transition into my inner one. Then, objectively and without judgment, I think about my actions from the last 24 hours—the bad stuff but also the good, choosing just like seeds which ones I’d like to grow and which ones are better removed. If I find myself getting emotionally attached I soften my brow and breathe a little deeper.
After that, I start to drop my focus to my center. It’s a space about 3 fingers below the belly button at the center of the body. Through most eastern cultures, it is a sacred spot, generating our energy and purpose. Have you ever had a feeling in your gut? It tends to be the one you really can’t ignore. So by concentrating my breath here, I know how I’m really feeling about things.
I give myself about twelve deep breaths for each stage, or I set my insight timer for 3-minute intervals. Finally, I just focus on my breath. I find it easier to do after I’ve processed whatever was weighing in my mind and gut. When I’m done, I do morning pages (automatic journaling for about 3 pages) just to sweep away the debris.
I’ve found this helps me see my surroundings, circumstances, and goals with a little more clarity, compassion and calm. And then I can hear myself a little more clearly. My monkey mind can sit on a branch, take hold of a mango, and just be. And that is more than enough.