Hello again, friend, and happy Sunday! According to my journal, we are at day 64 of the quarantine in Oklahoma. It has been a curving, intuitive, stumbling walk through unfamiliar woods, right? With a few bumps and scrapes along the way? But it’s okay. It’s different, but it’s okay. I hope you’re okay.
I just wanted to pop in and offer a few thought experiments and coping exercises that I love, in case you could use a fresh approach this coming week. Take what you like, leave what you don’t, and feel free to share your own ideas!
Here and Now: I close my eyes and imagine an actual X-Y axis and put myself in the center of it, safe and surrounded by Love. I am here, in this beautiful place, today, in this moment, and this time is both fleeting and elastic. It will never come again. I am safe. I imagine each of my people in this space too, either in their own X-Y axis or in mine. Then I open my eyes and really pause. Friend, try to remind yourself that most worries and fears are about the future, the conjured up what ifs, and most sadness is about the past or the imagined or magnified losses. Not all of them, I admit; life is brimming with very real grief and I do not mean to diminish that. But if you can harness your energy and imagination and pour it all generously into the present moment, the current situation, you will walk more powerfully and deal with that grief better. Worries tend to dissolve in the heat of mindfulness. You will also be primed to more fully celebrate brand new joys!
Attitude of Gratitude: Bob Goff has some great explorations of the word attitude in his stories about small aircraft. He explains well the importance of small, imperceptible degrees as you set your course and how they change the plane’s trajectory, its ultimate destination. This image helps me remember that attitude is more than a flimsy notion about our thoughts, more than an invisible flavor; attitude is literally how we shape our path and progress in the world. And gratitude, as we know, unlocks all kinds of blessings. It’s an amazing combination.
Pretend This is All Your Design (befriend the moment): Do you ever feel trapped? Especially if you are really quarantined, right? This exercise is surprisingly helpful for me in lots of circumstances. It draws me out of a frustrated, victimized state of mind and helps me see how much is actually going in my favor. I do this in small, common moments, and I do this in the grander scheme of things too. It helps. Try it! Just literally pretend for a few minutes that everything you can notice was your idea, no matter how weird, no matter how “good” or “bad.” In fact, in this fantasy everything is good. Pretend that you had a secret and deliberate plan for everything to be exactly the way it is, and somehow your mind will begin to fish out the hidden benefits. You can (at least temporarily) become sold on the upside to every perceived limitation and obstacle. Results will vary, haha, but if you can get your creative juices flowing, then you can begin to see that some things are not so bad after all. Some difficulties really are blessings, or at least opportunities for growth. Life should not always be easy, right? Let’s scrape out all the benefits of weird times. Have fun with this one.
Accept, then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your life. ~Eckhart Tolle
Sensory Inventory: This practice not only refocuses me into the present moment; it helps keep words and phrases fresh and active in my mind. I try to do it at unusual times of day, too, not just the obviously poetic moments like sunrise or the golden hour. Invest a few minutes taking stock of a particularly stressful or unpleasant chapter of your pandemic life, and you might find some humor or hidden beauty there; you may even find a profound message. Try this practice when you do not feel the least bit poetic or particularly observant, so you can develop those muscles. Write down seven categories: Everything you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Now add your thoughts and emotions, for they are certainly part of your private landscape. Take a good, honest inventory and do so without judgement. Allow wide eyed observation and curiosity to take a high-resolution snapshot of what is a truly happening in your life. If I had students or children at home, I would absolutely be challenging them to write Senses Inventories at random times throughout quarantine, then keep those little scraps of paper in a memory book to read twenty years from now.
Move Your Body (in a new way): Oh man, haha! Okay, I have had to cut way back on running due to some spicy Achilles and ankle situations, and it took me some time to remember how good it feels to truly indulge in other physical activities, I mean indulge in the fullness of them, without the exhaustion of high mileage. After a few weeks of pouting then a few days of choosing joyful movement, my body feels good and lively again. I dare you to try this ahead of necessity. Move in all directions. Flex and stretch and allow life’s energy to literally flow through you, then make sure you are nourished and hydrated in your favorite ways. Our minds and spirits and bodies are already all one being, no doubt about it. Nurture that and enjoy the benefits.
Okay, that’s what I have for you today! How are you finding a bit of calm in the chaos? Please share. I wish you vibrant health and abundant joy this week. Hope to talk again soon.
“Although the world is full of suffering,
it is also full of the overcoming of it.”