“In this bright future, you can’t forget your past. So, dry your tears I say.”
- Bob Marley
The Collective Change
Change has never been more visible or universally felt in the world’s consciousness than at this moment in history. Humanity is slowly evolving, changing its behavior to fight a common threat to its survival. A few short months into 2020, the world was thrown into the cataclysm of a pandemic that immediately yanked away the physical freedom to live life as we had always done. All of this occurring with little guidance on how to adjust emotionally. Now, the world must watch the daily coverage of heartbreaking defeats and rousing victories of epic heroes on the front lines from behind masks. This joining of hearts renews our compassion and our sense of duty to others during troubling times.
COVID-19 has also forced many of us to face our worst fear: our own sudden death or that of a loved one. Protecting our families and ourselves from a microscopic biological enemy and the stress of an economy spiraling into unknown depths has taken many of us into unfamiliar territory.
The indefinite closure of schools, public places and most businesses has also brought the new realities of pandemic life directly into every household. Learning to live in the confines of our home and especially the psychological effects of social distancing, is frustrating and traumatic for many of us. But we must behave responsibly, as it is clear our actions can affect everyone around us. Somehow, we must alter the way we live and relate to the rest of the world, no matter how unwelcome this change is.
Limit Your Intake of the Negative
One thing I can advise to help ease the stress is to be aware that our spiritual centers (our psyche and emotions) can easily become overwhelmed when inundated with nonstop media coverage and too much information. If possible, limit your news consumption and the intake of information to once or twice a week on your television, and if possible, try to read a news magazine or newspaper; at least there is only a finite amount of information that can fit in your hand instead of endless online hours.
Evolution During Crisis
It might be challenging to remember where we were in our “soul’s evolution” before the pandemic, but tapping into those meaningful life goals and dreams might be key to feeling more centered and stable today, and allow us some measure of comfort about tomorrow. Many friends have revealed that their biggest anxiety is not getting sick, but the unpredictability of not being able to plan ahead. I can relate to this fear, but then I remember that this variable – not being in control of the future, existed before the virus.
Life can us throw curve balls that literally change our lives instantly, such as a pandemic. When this causes our ideas or the structures that we painstakingly built to disintegrate, the tendency is to hover our emotional helicopters over the destruction, lament, and wish we could go back to our previous comfortable existence. Currently, we all want to change our lives back to the era of social inclusion, and most of all, freedom. Similar to when other major life events strip away our comfortable semblance of normalcy, we then can become lost and depressed. Prioritizing the care of our spiritual self is now more important than ever because we are all collectively sad, and that in its own right is also quite a heavy load.
It is something of a curiosity to me when I see endless commercials post-pandemic promoting solidarity and encouraging us to put on a brave face and embrace our new world, but I have rarely seen anything that explicitly allows us to grieve something we fear most: a not so distant past that was in all ways a better place. In our haste to plant new gardens of digital hope, maybe it is good to remember that we still can transplant the tangible growing seeds that we were once nurturing.
Reclaiming the Past
Set aside some time where you can be undisturbed and create an environment that you know will be soothing either by lighting candles, playing music or just being outside in your backyard. Take some time to clear your mind and have a sketchpad ready. Draw a timeline to represent all major past events up to the present in very general terms without details.
Consider yourself the master architect of your own life and this timeline as a blueprint. What were the foundational events leading up to this very moment? This might include choices made even before you became an adult regarding your education, career, personal passions, and of course, relationships. What were they? Write them at the top of the timeline.
Rarely can we build something so complex without some significant hurdles – what did you have to overcome? List them in order under the timeline. One way to assuage the unpredictability we all feel now is to embrace it with the attitude that no matter what problem is presented, we are fully capable of handling it. Looking back at the unpredictable and chaotic events you overcame, do you see the proof that you somehow triumphed if even in small ways?
Usually, there is a larger purpose, always trying to unfold in our lives - where were you before the pandemic? What goals went unmet or problems unresolved in your timeline? If you could create the last part of your timeline by imagining scenarios of the best possible resolution of issues or achieving those goals without the new limitations we have now, what would it look like? Start general and then fill in the vivid details. How does this make you feel? Hopeful and optimistic? It should.
Revisiting, examining and improvising our life blueprint, we might discover that we can strengthen our foundation even when the world around us seems to be unstable. Eliminate the need to predict or worry about the unseen obstacles ahead by having faith that those bridges will be crossed. You have been solving problems your whole life, so have confidence that you can handle even what the pandemic might throw your way.