Good morning friend.
I hope this post finds you well, even amidst some fear and anxiety.
Seeing as we are all spending a little more time on line and at home these days, I wanted to offer you some encouragement. A space to breathe deeply for just a few minutes, and think about what is grounding you through these tumultuous times, to offer some practical resources, and remind you that you are not alone.
Fear is an interesting thing; often what perpetuates it is the fear of fear itself. You can be sitting in a completely safe environment, in your own home, but still be gripped with panic and adrenaline. Fear makes us forecast into the future and predict what pain waits for us there. The more fearful we are, the more we avoid the present moment, and think about what was, and what will be. Let me encourage you and myself today, to be in the present moment.
Wherever you are when you are reading this, try and sit a bit more upright. Plant your feet solidly on the floor or the ground. Lengthen your spine and take one deep inhale. Notice the sensations that come as you do these things. Do you feel more peaceful? Did you notice some tension in your shoulder or chest as you breathed in? Does your breath feel soft, or is it a bit constrained?
Something that I have found helpful in the last 6 month as I’ve cultivated meditation as a daily practice, is this simple phrase that I adapted from Dr. Kristin Neff:
This is a moment of suffering.
Suffering is a normal part of life.
I am here for myself in this moment of pain or suffering.
This loving kindness practice can help me stop the cycle of fear, of criticizing my response to my fear, and remind that my experience of fear is normal and needs compassion, not judgement. At the very least, during these times of social distancing and isolation, we can remind ourselves that millions and millions of people are in the same experience. Nothing we feel has not been felt before. Nothing we fear has not been thought of by another person. Our ability to ride the wave of fear or anxiety is found in remembering we are not ever alone, even in isolation.
Our tendency in North America is to assume that suffering is bad, and to be avoided. We certainly don’t want to intentionally cause our own or others suffering (and we want to take the recommended precautions by public health officials) but because suffering is a very real part of the human experience, this attitude towards it can be paralyzing. When we think the goal of our lives is to avoid any pain, suffering, or hardship, we can feel a sense of panic, failure, and anger when we experience loss or even inconvenience. It is normal to feel these things during this time, as we are all experiencing some degree of loss. The loss of control may be the source of our suffering, though, and surrendering to that instead of resisting it can reduce the suffering. Even loss of routine is loss, and a kind of hardship. The key is to not see this hardship as inherently bad or something to change.
Remember that the fear of fear is what we are often experiencing; when we stay in the present moment we are reminding ourselves to accept what is here and now, because that is all we have. Can we stay awake to what today has to offer, and be compassionate towards the suffering we are feeling, personally and globally?
Remember to stay in the present moment today, and if you wander back into catastrophizing or worry, have compassion for yourself. Take breaks from the news and social media. Lose yourself in a book or a creative project. Find ways to reach out others who may be feeling the same things you are, and encourage them. Go outside and sit on your front step. Wave to a neighbour.
These resources offered for free by Calm may be helpful to you in the coming weeks. Share them with a friend and remind them to breathe. There is no time like the present to start a daily meditation practice 🙂
Stay well, friends.