Originally published March 20, 2020
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. ~ Alan Watts
Just keep in mind: The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have. ~ Epictetus
In June of 2012 my mother had open heart surgery. After the ordeal, the only thing she kept saying she wanted, and her ultimate goal, was to “get back to the way things were before.” But when something that major happens to your physical body — literally cracking open your rib cage to access the main organ that keeps you alive, replacing a valve and rewiring some blood vessels — things cannot, and should not, go back to being the “same.” It’s impossible. First of all, as a lifesaving measure, your body should be functioning much better, which for her, initially it was.
However, because my mother was unwilling to integrate the larger message of healing, she clung too hard to her old ways, with no real lifestyle changes, mental rewiring or emotional processing. Three years later, almost exactly to the day of her operation, she succumbed to a different disease, compounded and/or induced by stress, and is no longer with us on this planet.
I share this as an analogy of where we are right now as a country, society, and world at large. No matter how we got here, this is our open-heart-surgery moment. We have, perhaps, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform ourselves both individually and collectively in order to be more optimally attuned and functioning better.
I realize that all might sound a bit dramatic, but I do believe this is the time we are in, even if we are only getting glimpses of the road ahead. As a species we have been out of balance and alignment in many areas of life, so whether this crisis is a natural occurrence we need to respond to urgently, or a manufactured one used to manipulate, oppress or profit off us, there can be no doubt it’s a wake-up call — a dismantling that on some level we needed and perhaps even subconsciously asked for to make us stronger from the inside out. It’s that big. And no one is exempt.
Now I never said this would be easy.
We are barely out of the “shock and awe” stage of this war/marathon, and you might not even totally grasp what is happening or what is yet to come. You may not fully realize that the life you had is in the process of transforming, which by its very nature means something must die in order to be reborn. And as author and lecturer Gregg Braden reminds us, there are five stages of grief we go through, some of them simultaneously. Which do you currently find yourself in: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression or Acceptance?
Because we don’t yet know the specifics, and there is still so much unknown of how this will all shake out, our mind/egos can start wreaking havoc and wanting to rebel against the lack of certainty in myriad ways. The good news is the one thing you can subdue your anxiety with is the knowledge that every challenge provides an opportunity. Every cloud has a silver lining. Destruction makes way for reconstruction. Something positive always comes out of something negative. As one door closes, another one opens. Something lost, something gained. And, as the old saying goes, “You are never given more than you can handle.”
When the dust settles from this demolition of the reality you once knew, you can start to think about how to restructure your life, your health, your work, your interpersonal relations, and your relationship to both inner and outer authority. You will start to understand more profoundly what you do and do not value, then act accordingly.
By now you’ve probably gotten a taste of what this new reality looks like for you — at least in the near future — with whom you’ll be experiencing it and how. For months now I’ve said to friends (half) jokingly, that I’ve been living in a hermitage, more self-isolated than usual due to some deep personal changes I have been going through. So now I can say to all of you, “Welcome to my world!”
I realize not everyone will have as easy as a transition with this pandemic-induced lifestyle change, i.e., especially if you are partnered, with kids, and now all working and schooling from home. Or if you have problematic roommates and family members with whom your interaction until now has remained minimal. Or if you usually use your abode only as a storage closet and place to rest your head at night because it leaves much to be desired …
Just as addicts need rehab, prisoners get house arrest/prison/solitary, and spiritual seekers and others need periodic retreats, remember those sites act as a container for transformation — made easier with some level of acceptance — whether they’ve come to that situation voluntarily or not. Ultimately, we must find the meaning and experience the feeling of being at home within ourselves, regardless of our environment.
For now, notice that this slowing down and containment forces us to focus on the quality, not the quantity of what we do and how we use our time, and with whom we spend (or don’t spend) it. What is the quality of the food you eat, the quality of the thoughts you think, the quality of the information you are consuming, the air that you breathe, the moments that you have? What about the quality of your communication and relationships? You now have time to do that journaling and think about who you are and what you are doing with your life. Who do you want to be and what do you want to do in a post-corona world? How can you build a quality inner foundation for yourself?
In my lectures, I always talk about how we need to take responsibility for our lives, our own happiness, no matter what the outer circumstances may be. Because it’s those very circumstances that we cannot control; but what we can control is our response. We have the ability to respond. The outcome in any situation, and the relative suffering we may or may not experience, is based on our response. So what will yours be today?
Not quite sure how to make this quarantine one of quality, not quantity? Give me a buzz and I’ll help you see the value of working on your inner Home Sweet Home so that you can build a palace worthy of your own glorious personal crown, not a corona of virus that keeps you down!
Please note: I realize there is part of the population who will be working harder than ever outside the home on the front lines; others will have extreme financial hardship and/or are stranded abroad. I want to acknowledge and profoundly thank those essential folks for your hard work and service, express empathy for those most severely economically and physically affected, and encourage you to trust there is a silver lining and much growth to be had for you as well at this time, it just might have a different “container” than I referred to above …
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