I wanted a way to let those of you who know me or subscribe to receive my blogs, or to my You Tube channel, know how the pandemic has affected my work and what I am doing to re-create my work for such a time as when life begins to enter the post-pandemic stage of life—the so-called “back to normal” that people are so much looking forward to. Although everybody’s experience of the pandemic is unique, there are some elements within this global chaotic year that are shared by most of us, if not by everybody. I thought that maybe as I share my personal experience of the changes brought about by the pandemic, there might be something that I have learned during this time that registers as helpful for you, in your own personal process.
Well, first of all; the truth is, life isn’t going to return to “normal” as we once knew it. The past, as we knew it before the pandemic broke early on this year, is over. It’s gone. That isn’t a completely gloomy and negative thing to accept, however. Will we ever routinely shake hands with each-other again? Will we stand ten rows deep at the bar in the local pub, struggling to be served next, because we’ve been standing there for forever and the barman (or woman) keeps serving somebody else before us? Will we ever stand cheek to jowl in the London Underground as a familiar and recognised ritual every day before starting work in a busy office building? Will we spend a fortune on a return train ticket, only to find that we are not able to sit down, but are required to stand for the entire journey?
Despite the suffering and the restrictions that Covid has caused, and the passing of life as we have known it, there are also some positives to look forward to in the next stage of life: “after the pandemic.” What positives could I possibly be referring to? When we look back on this strange period, we will almost certainly realise that the biggest gift in the whole Covid situation is that of more time. Many people will not have received this gift, because they have been too busy complaining about the restrictions, but those who have stopped—or have been forcibly stopped—treading the hamster-wheel, will probably discovered some answers that they were needing before the pandemic began.
Time to reflect and re-assess
When the first lockdown started in March there was, at first, a sense of purpose and a collective mission: to rid the country of the dreaded virus. We were all in the same boat together, and it seemed to bring the best out of us all. But as time went by, the days became endless and, particularly for some, in deprived areas and those also in city centres, boredom set in and unrest began to emerge. Some people, although small in number, realised that it was not only their external life that was being forced to slow down, or in some cases to stop completely; it was also their mind. Could we make an inner separation between what we do, and who we are? Without my career, profession or business, who am I? This is, of course, one of the oldest questions of philosophy. “Know thyself” is one of the three maxims inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Delphi in Ancient Greece. A hidden gift of the lockdown, discovered by a few, is time to reflect; to re-assess and to understand ourselves better.
Time to come to terms with change
It’s all very well for me to suggest that there is a hidden gift in this pandemic, but for anyone who has lost their job, business or income, it is not something that can easily be seen as a gift, however profound the argument may be for the value of introspection and spiritual development. Change is something that we can be certain of, but not everybody can cope easily with sudden changes, especially if those changes are forced upon us rather than being the result of our own conscious choice. The one thing that never changes, however, is that everything changes constantly.
We are changing every minute of every hour of every day and every year. The one thing that remains constant is who we really are. There is a constant presence within that is what is known as the I Am. This “I Am” never grows old, never fundamentally changes and is always constant. It is our safe place, especially in times of outward change and apparent chaos. You can return to this safe place within yourself anytime and anywhere.
It has been often said: “life isn’t about what happens to you but how you react to it”. The truth of that saying is never more appropriate than now. Can we come to terms with the changes in our life? Can we pick ourselves up and face the future with hope? Can we get past blaming others for what is happening in our lives? Can we stand straight, look at our circumstances and say: “Okay, so where do I go from here? What is the first step I can take into my future?”
Time to grieve the past
Some people have lost their business or their job through the Covid pandemic. Some people have lost loved ones. Time will ultimately bring a soothing to heal the pain inflicted through such a loss, but the time required for such healing is long. The journey of transformation through loss, bereavement and grief is a process that requires complete vulnerability. The traditional model of living through the grieving process, recognised mainly through the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book Death and Dying begins with denial and anger, followed by bargaining, depression and acceptance. My model of grief transformation, and the one that I have personally travelled, begins with acceptance and is followed by expansion, positive denial, dialogue, enquiry and life beyond fear. Whatever your relationship with loss and death; whatever path you travel through the darkness and pain of grieving, you must be allowed the time and space to grieve your loss thoroughly. There is no shortcut to life beyond loss. Depending upon the depth of the cut, it may take weeks, months, years or even the rest of your life to live life fully again. Living life after grief is like walking through every day completely naked. There is meaning to your loss; there is beauty in your pain. It is difficult to see that now, impossible to feel it and hard to understand. But it is true. What you need more than comforting words right now is time and space. What your mind will tell you is that you need to be busy, to be distracted so that you do not feel the pain. I say to you; use the stillness—the time and the space that has been forced upon you—to feel your feelings, to explore the pain; to breathe through the worst that grief can offer and to emerge into life beyond loss. When you can sit and face the worst that grief can offer, you will know deep within your soul that love cannot die and that the most painful illusion of them all—loss—ultimately just that: illusion.
Time to know what you really want
If you were to ask ten people what they really want their life to look like—“what do you really want in your life?”—most, if not all, would say that they do not really know. Ask one hundred people the same question and you may expect to receive some clarity from maybe around ten. Knowing what you really want your life to look like, feel and be isn’t as easy as it seems. In the busy-ness of everyday life, with all its pressure and demand—the routine and habits—you probably collapse at the end of the day, either too tired to think or, alternatively, you may sometimes plunge into a desperate fantasy such as “if only my life were different!” or “if I could only win the lottery, I would…”Well okay, go on then, what would you do? If you could redesign your life, what design would you choose? What are you going to look like this time next year? In three years, five years time? Where do you want to be living? What do you want to be doing? How much do you want to be earning? What career or vocation do you want to be following? What relationship do you want to be in? Has it occurred to you that this enforced stop—or restriction on your ability to go on living the same life as you have been living—may in fact not be so much a lockdown as being a way of you being locked out of a way of life that you ultimately do not want to live. We are all being given time, an opportunity, to daydream: “what do I really want?” Think about it. Think deeply and carefully. Write it down, just like you might write down a dream that has impressed itself deeply upon you soul. Use the time creatively. It is time to dream.
Time to be creative
Do you consider yourself a creative person? Maybe the answer is “yes” maybe “no!” The truth is that all of us are highly creative, whether we think of ourselves as such or not. We cannot avoid being creative; with our words, actions, thoughts and ideas we are creating all of the time. The problem for most people, however, is our creativity produces circumstances, situation and dramas that we think are happening despite us. The latest piece of bad news is happening “to us”. It’s somebody else’s fault; it’s the virus, the politicians, the doctors, the media . . . “Stop the world, I want to get off!”
When did you last stop your own little personal world; when did you last step off the treadmill that is creating your own circumstances and situations in your life? Human beings are creating all of the time. As a human being, it is impossible not to be creative. Whether you like it or not, you are creating your day from the moment you wake up in the morning until the moment you go to sleep at night. If you only realised it, you may even be creating ideas or regurgitating them in your dreams at night.
There is a way to observe, update and modify or change your deep-seated ideas and thoughts—some of which are keeping you in a constant cycle of difficult, painful and maybe downright destructive patterns. Perhaps this current crisis has a precious gift within it. Maybe there is some beauty hidden in the ugliness of this pandemic. Can you connect with your creativity in the stillness? Can you endure the shock that comes from realising that you may be creating patterns of recurring problems and difficulties? If you can, even for a short moment of revelation, you may have connected with a power within yourself that can help to change your life, virus or no virus.
Time to create
When you can stop and get off the hamster-wheel that is your daily, weekly, yearly pattern of living—and recognise your ingrained ideas and thoughts that have created those patterns—and when you have given some time to know deep down what you really want for your life; it is then that you are ready to create the life that you want.
Maybe, just maybe, nothing other than this Covid pandemic could have given you the time to redesign and recreate your way ahead. Could it actually have come to rescue you from perpetuating the same patterns that your life is established upon? Is there a “saviour” in the pandemic? This is a hard question to answer, because so many people have suffered and continue to suffer because of Covid-19 that it seems almost sacrilege to suggest that it may contain anything worthwhile, let alone good. I am not suggesting that the virus is either good or a “saviour” but nothing happens in the universe without a reason.
This message may not be for everyone, but perhaps it has an element of resonance for you. If not, I understand you might feel angry with me for suggesting that something good could come out of something bad for some people. What I am proposing is simply part of my personal philosophy: that there is a force for good “out there” that is ultimately stronger than the obvious force for “bad.” Both polarities, good and bad, are creative: one destroys and the other creates. The creative force for good is within you. When you know what you want, allow it to emerge as a design: first, within your mind and then it will begin to happen.
Time to establish a new future
Begin to establish your new way of being and your new way of living now. “I can’t because of lockdown, restriction; because of the virus” . . . But now is the time to start. When do the leaves on the trees begin their creative cycle of life; in the summer months? No, the creative work is happening underground throughout the dark winter months. Look at the magnificent buildings that decorate our city landscapes. Do the builders construct the building as they go along? Of course not; the designers and architects have spent much creative time planning, designing and drawing up plans that the builders can follow at a later stage.
When do you start creating a new life beyond Covid? Now is the time to start. Order always emerges out of chaos. Now is the time to dream. Now is the time to plan. Now is the time to create.
“The trouble is, you think you have time.” Gautama Buddha