I’ve been ‘locked away’ for 9 weeks now. When I arrived in Yorkshire just before the official lockdown occurred, I bought with me a suitcase full of winter clothes as it was still pretty cold and Spring definitely had not arrived. I thought I would be here for about 4 weeks before being able to return to my home to collect more of my belongings as I was planning to move into a new house I am buying on the Yorkshire coast.
Lockdown prevented the move and here I am, still here in limbo with my suitcase of Winter clothes.
As I sit here reflecting this morning, I am astonished that 9 weeks has passed. I bought 10 books with me and loads of painting materials with many good intentions. I am puzzled as I realise that I’m just coming to the end of the first book and only managed to paint just one watercolour! How did that happen? I’m aware that time may have gone slowly for many, but for me time has raced by. I feel as if I have been trapped in a time warp. Like I stepped through the wardrobe in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (my favourite book from childhood) and entered another world while time stood still.
I have been very busy with the Mindfulness Association though. I have been very involved in some of the online sessions including the members weekend and retreat, level 1 mindfulness training online and many of the daily connect practices. Together with my day to day job keeping the communications going with Lisa, it has certainly been an immersive time. At the end of the members 5 day retreat I felt I had been on retreat myself and found it quite hard to leave the bedroom I had taken over. It became a safe space. Like a sanctuary. Even the cat joined in most of the sessions. She seemed to arrive and leave with the first and last bell. I now use the same room to do my practice and lead the daily sits. I’ll be in there again on Sunday when I guide my first online practice day which includes some qigong, my favourite movement practice. Then again on Wednesday evening for the start of the online Level 1 Mindfulness training session.
Despite all the difficult things about being in lockdown away from my home, there have been some good things too. As I reflect on it all, the painful things stand out such as missing seeing my 2 daughters and my grandson. I have missed events which are usually family gatherings such as Easter and birthdays. Whilst I have been in touch with them all most days, it still doesn’t replace the more intimate face to face experience and group interaction.
The main benefit of being locked down in a beautiful place is that I have been able to observe nature close hand. My daily walk has been the same every day and it has made me so much more mindful.
Whilst watching a landscape day after day, I found that I notice even the smallest change in that landscape, let alone the bigger more significant changes.
Most of all I have witnessed the coming and going of Spring. It was Winter when I arrived, and the fields were brown. They then turned yellow as the gorse and rape came into full bloom. Now the yellow has gone and the fields are green again. I can feel the edge of Spring bleeding into Summer. There is more heat in the sun and the purple flowers of Summer are beginning to arrive.
And yes, I am hot. I am wearing the same clothes day in, day out. Most of them are too warm to wear now and I am limited to a pair of canvas trainers and boots on my feet and a couple of t shirts and leggings I usually wear to do yoga and tai chi.
This period of time has also been a healing time. There have been times I have been overwhelmed with emotions. Some of them I have expected and yet others have arrived as unwelcome guests in my guest house. At the Mindfulness Association we use this poem for the RAIN practice which helps us identify and explore unexpected and unwelcome emotions. The RAIN practice is part of our Mindfulness Based Living Course and Level 1 Being Present Course.
This past few weeks I have been able to deepen into my mindfulness practice as I have had fewer distractions and haven’t been dashing about here and there, as has been the norm of late. Rumi’s poem – the guest house has perfectly described my process of dealing with them. These feelings can be quite uncomfortable, so I have tried to pause and give them space to do their thing and pass through. I have noticed that gradually this has changed my behaviour a little, so I am not so easily triggered by situations that cause the discomfort.
I’ve shared the poem by Rumi before but here it is again. Just as a reminder.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
During this last 9 weeks I have discovered some new aspects about myself. There was one that was especially persistent. It was called guilt. The thing is during lockdown I had no reason to feel guilty about anything as I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere so there were no expectations of me.
Any time I noticed it arrive, or any other persistent emotions, I used the RAIN practice again and again to look at them and layer by layer set them free.
With the promise of beginning to ease out of lockdown in stages next week I know life will feel different as I revisit the areas of my life which have taken a short rest.
I have set an intention to remain mindful as I gradually tread these new paths out of isolation and be gentle with how I feel. My motivation for doing this is that this will give me the opportunity to change how I react as situations arise, and they will.
The landscape has transformed over lockdown and so have I, in a very subtle way.
I feel like a butterfly waiting to escape from the cocoon and will be interested to see what unfolds next.
I invite you to reflect on what you have noticed about the seasons and any subtle changes in yourself as you have traversed this difficult time. Is there anything you have learned? I also invite you to set your own intention for easing yourself out of lockdown in line with the guidance we are provided by the government. Maybe add to your intention to be kind to yourself for what ever you feel, knowing that’s ok too.
I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment after this post or write to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
with warmest wishes
Jacky is guiding an online practice day on 31st May – Mindful movement with Qigong and compassion and also teaching the Level 1 Being Present course online starting 3rd June. She is co-teaching on the Level 2 – Responding with Compassion with Heather Regan-Addis starting 31st July.
We’d love to see you there.
You can also join her or other Mindfulness Association tutors on the free daily practice sessions at 10:30am and 7pm.
Jacky has contributed a chapter to the Mindful Heroes Book entitled “Turning Empathic Distress into Compassion – A Hero’s Journey for Family Carers”. You can hear an extract from the chapter where she talks about the results of her MSc Studies in Mindfulness on Compassion & Family Carers. You can download a free sample of Jacky’s chapter here.