I have spent this last week reflecting on how the current climate with the Coronavirus is making me feel, and ultimately, how I am responding to that.
For me it began with some concern for the people who were at risk of dying of the virus. I know several people who suffer with their health and became aware of an underlying fear for them catching the virus. I even caught myself crying about one person in particular and how I would feel if they caught it and died.
Once I had researched the virus I realised that I personally am not afraid of catching it as it is reported that most people experience mild cold symptoms. I became aware that any fear was more related to not being able to live my life as normal. My good old friend preference became a very noticeable visitor
Lisa and I attended the Mindful Living Show last weekend. We ran a stand for the Mindfulness Association. Last year Duncan and I were kept very busy on the stand and we put a lot of work into preparing for this year’s show. Running up to the show there were daily messages arriving in my inbox reassuring me that the event would take place and the organisers and the venue were doing everything they could to minimise risk to the virus.
The first day of the event arrived and Heather came down with a bad cold. That meant she couldn’t give her planned talk. Normally she would have come but because we are all advised to stay at home at the slightest hint of a sniffle or sore throat, she decided to stay at home and nurture herself. In turn this had an impact on Alan, who, totally unprepared, bravely took her place and gave a talk and guided a practice on the main stage. I was so grateful for him being there as I don’t think I would have had the same courage.
The event went well, but because we are all being advised to avoid crowded places, there were only half the people we expected to visit us at the stand. This made me feel disappointed as our whole reason for being there was to spread awareness of the wonderful courses the Mindfulness Association has to offer.
The next thing that has started to affect me is travel plans. I travel on trains a lot. Within the next 10 days I am planning to be at Samye Ling in Scotland to teach the first weekend of the Level 1 Mindfulness Course with Alan. From there I go to our MAHQ meeting in Manchester. Then next Thursday I am back in Scotland for another meeting before heading home via Yorkshire, where I will be visiting a friend.
I always book trains well in advance to reduce cost. This week I have found myself agonising over whether I should book a train or not. Will the course be cancelled? Will the meeting be cancelled? what if I get a cold before I am due to travel? I became aware that this was making me feel a bit stressed. I booked all the tickets anyway and then felt fear of not getting a refund if I had to cancel them last minute.
Then this morning I hear that my friends have had their holiday to Italy cancelled due to the severity of the outbreak of the virus there. I felt so disappointed for them that I sent them a bouquet of spring flowers to cheer them up.
Later on today I visited the supermarket to do my regular shop. I couldn’t believe how bare the shelves looked. Even a simple, regular task of doing my shopping is transformed by the virus outbreak! I felt huge irritation rising because I couldn’t buy what I wanted to buy. This made me realise that I have previously never had any gratitude for the ease of my own consumerism in the past – just always handed to me on a plate. All I have to do is push a trolley round filling it with the items on my list – with very little thought. I realised how often I shop on autopilot.
Then there is the body awareness. Constant washing or sanitising of hands. I notice how they are changing. How dry they feel. Fortunately, the supermarket did have hand cream – and I was grateful. Every morning I wake up I am looking for the faintest sign of a cold – because that would change everything.
So within a week the outbreak of the Coronavirus has made me feel stressed, anxious, fearful, sad, irritated, disappointed and disheartened and even gratitude. Or has it? It was actually more that my ego preferential system (or EPS as Rob Nairn explains in his teachings and the Mindfulness Association teach in Level 3 Insight training) was working hard in the background. I did notice early on that my preferences were really being challenged. Things were happening that I didn’t like and that made me feel uncomfortable.
The Mindfulness Association’s definition is ‘knowing what is happening while it is happening, whatever it is’. A phrase we often use in our mindfulness teaching is ‘the seeing is the doing’ which comes from Krishnamurti.
Ah, yes, the seeing is the doing. As soon as I noticed what my mind was doing. It didn’t like this situation at all and was intent on making me suffer. There is enough suffering, so I decided to surrender to it all. I set an intention to be truly mindful, and just be in the moment, now, today. So, if the course is cancelled or I don’t get a refund, or my travel plans are totally disrupted, I’ll worry about that in the moment it arises. Not now.
I felt a complete shift in my body. A lightness descended on me that wasn’t there before as I was reminded about what mindfulness is all about. Furthermore, I was reminded to be compassionate to myself for how I was feeling and compassionate for others as we realise our common humanity of being in this together.
Every week I spend a few hours in the woods with my grandson while he attends a forest school. Recently it has felt barren, dull and bare with old fading crunchy brown leaves that fell long ago in the autumn. It has been devoid of colour as the bare trees have been resting. Today I noticed hints of green as shoots of new growth made their way through the leaves on the woodland floor. Tips of trees had the tiniest of new green leaves growing, still folded as they magically emerge. Once this had caught my attention my awareness heightened more and more.
As we walked back to my house, we saw birds of prey in the sky, beautiful swathes of the colour pink, yellow and purple adorned trees as blossom began to flower. Daffodils adorned the bases of trees. It felt like the world was suddenly coming alive again. I noticed how I was suddenly feeling bright and cheerful, even hopeful and I realised that I hadn’t once thought about anything I had been worried about. I had been totally living in the moment.
Could it be that my heightened awareness around the current epidemic facing the whole world right now had taught me a lesson in mindfulness? How about you?
I invite you to take a pause and notice how the health threat and current situation is affecting you. How is it making you feel?. What do you notice about your preferences? You might like to take 5 minutes to do our guided Self Compassion Break. I’d be delighted to hear your comments. You can leave a comment after this post or email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org
I wish you all to be well and at peace this coming week
Jacky will be co-teaching Level 1 – Being Present with Alan Hughes at Samye Ling 13 – 15 March 2020 and on the Level 2 – Responding with Compassion with Heather Regan-Addis at Samye Ling Summer 2020.
We’d love to see you there.
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.