This past week I have been ill with a very nasty cold virus – not ‘the’ virus. However, ‘the’ virus certainly had an effect. I felt much more self-conscious. I was due to speak at the Mindful Living Show on Friday, but instead stayed at home. Partly, this was because I felt a bit too poorly to be travelling from Scotland all the way down the London. Partly, I felt uncomfortable being on public transport at the moment, potentially coughing and spluttering. In MAHQ they joked about me clearing the carriage! Alan stepped in to deliver my talk and Jacky and Lisa attended the stand during the weekend – all went very well in my absence.
My parents, in their seventies, were supposed to be visiting at the weekend, but we all thought it was best to reschedule the visit. So I have been here with the dogs, resting, watching re-runs of Death in Paradise, and when I have had the energy, sewing a bit more of my tapestry. It is the first time that I have been ill while living on my own, which I have been aware of. However, I have some good friends and family checking in on me from time to time and a good friend here at Samye Ling bought me a few bits and pieces I needed from the supermarket.
Usually, when I have a cold, I make an attempt to cough into my elbow and I wash my hands fairly regularly anyway. However, usually I don’t pay that much attention to who I come into contact with or who I might pass my virus onto. I certainly wouldn’t cancel work or social events because I might pass my virus on to others. This feels quite different at the moment and I wonder if this will change in the future? I think I will be a lot more aware of my potential for spreading germs in the future, than I have been in the past.
When swine flu was happening in the UK, a few years ago, both myself and my partner were very ill with flu. I developed bronchitis, which isn’t unusual for me, and ended up on anti-biotics. My partner ended up in hospital with double pneumonia, dehydrated and on intravenous anti-biotics. It was very scary. He recovered fully, but it took several months before he was back to full health. I think this experience has influenced my reaction to the current virus. Another thing is having elderly parents, elderly teachers and an immunocompromised mother in law undergoing chemotherapy. Another thing is that many people will not be paid if they are too poorly to go to work.
I was trained as a scientist in my youth and so understand the importance of following an evidence-based approach to whatever is unfolding. This is a part of my conditioning. I notice that I have been keeping myself informed of the latest advice from the experts, the NHS and the government.
I did need to go into Lockerbie, to the supermarket, pharmacy and post office, early this week. So I Googled the quietest time and headed off first thing Monday morning. I had a pocket full of tissues to cough into – if required – washed my hands on entering and leaving the supermarket, and kept out of people’s way. Some of you reading this are probably thinking I am a neurotic nut case and sometimes I think this myself. I felt uncomfortable being out in public with a nasty cold and taking these steps eased my discomfort. Neurotic nutcase or not – I can be compassionate to myself about how I feel – I can and do accept that I may well be a compassionate neurotic mess!
Other friends and colleagues seem a bit more blasé about what is happening and so my reflection is that, as with everything in life, our habitual response to what is happening is conditioned by our past experiences. We will all have a different attitude.
I am just about to chat with those in MAHQ about the MA’s response to the corona virus. Currently we are following government advice and continuing with face to face courses, but we are pointing course participants to the latest advice for containing and delaying the coronavirus. However, my feeling is that we need to be flexible and allow participants to reach their own conclusions, based on their own personal circumstances, about whether they want to attend a face to face course. Some may not want to attend, in which case we can offer them the option to attend online!
It is quite easy, when ill, to fall into a pit of self-pity or self-blame. Thinking about ourselves – I, me and mine – usually heaps on the suffering. Thankfully, this is no longer my habitual pattern. Instead, I take it as an opportunity for a well-deserved break, in an otherwise busy life, to watch a box set or to listen to a few audio books. It is an opportunity for self-care until I get better. I am very grateful that I get paid when I take time off work due to illness and I recognise that many people in the UK don’t have this same opportunity.
My approach to the current situation is that it is much better, to think about others, than to be worrying about myself. In particular, can I take this as an opportunity to care for those who are more vulnerable than me and to do what I can to contribute to a community wide effort to support each other. It is an opportunity for practicing care and compassion to those around me.
Good luck with it all! I am thinking of you.
You can practice mindfulness with Heather by joining her on the following courses:
Teacher Training Level 1 at Samye Ling – 3-5th July 2020
Heather also teaches on the MSc Studies in Mindfulness.
Finally, there’s the perfect chance to practice with Heather, Rob Nairn and other tutors at the Mindfulness Association by becoming a member for £10 and joining our 10th anniversary conference weekend at Samye Ling 15th – 17th May.