COVID-19 has certainly disrupted the lives of many in varying degrees globally. The instability, uncertainties and challenges have us scrambled to adapt to changes in processes, structures and systems as well as our lifestyle. Implicit to all these, are our interaction with others, interdependence of communities and connection with humanity. That is a lot to grapple with. Inevitably, stress, anxiety, fear or frustration can mount on us, taking a toll on our well-being and challenging our resilience in this difficult time.
I have never spent so much time on social media/news before this, and found myself tearing up involuntarily each time for just about everything I read/saw - perseverance of healthcare folks, goodness in people and acts of kindness; suffering, loss of loved ones, acts of injustice, cruelty to animals and more. I feel the pain and heaviness, and also the love and spaciousness in my heart - deeply touched by our human conditions and humanity.
The experience is precious to me as it reveals subtly a quality of strength - resilience. I feel a sense of malleability arising collectively as part of the human race, and openness in going with the flow of life, embracing the not-knowings. Resilience is like a seed that is already in us, a seed waiting for the 'Light of Attention' and 'Water of Allowing' to grow and flourish.
It has been my privilege to be facilitating mindfulness classes, even amidst the pandemic, through the virtual mode. The virtual mode was something that did not cross my mind before COVID-19. Thanks to all the supportive conditions, I did not hesitate to plunge in when my client has a need for it. The learning was significant for me in terms of confidence in the technology piece, and the fine details of conversion from the usual intimate in-person format. However, the experience has been very fulfilling and joyful; while I missed the warm bodies, it has been heart-warming to catch glimpses of my participants' home environment and their loves. The feedback has also been amazingly encouraging!
This experience broadens my perspective on how the virtual mode can bring precious work that would have previously been inaccessible to people living in remote areas or for whatever reasons, to now benefit from it. Something that I have taken for granted living in Singapore where everything is so accessible. My heart is so full of gratitude for all that I am blessed with... and the continuous learning that emerges in my pathway.
So how can we nurture the seed of resilience?
The Light of Attention
In mindfulness practices, we pause and pay deliberate non-judging attention to our direct experience to help us deactivate the ‘threat-defense system’ triggered by stress and anxiety, and activate our ‘care system’ which helps to reduce anxious thoughts and increase feelings of stability. When our nervous system is regulated, we have the capacity to approach our difficulties with more clarity and ease.
A helpful practice to anchor ourselves is to purposefully taking a few conscious breaths to start, and then transiting into normal breathing, bringing our attention to our breathing (the in-breath and the out-breath) or to our feet (noticing sensations in our feet).
The Water of Allowing The quality of response-flexibility is the essence of mindfulness practices, and the key role of resilience. Moving from our automatic pilot, knee jerk way of reacting to a place of responding appropriately with choice. The metaphor of 'Water of Allowing' has a few layers. Flexibility and openness are inherent in the fluidity of water - its nature to assume different shapes and form, including formlessness. They are also the qualities for embracing broader and differing perspectives and ideas, cultivating greater flexibility in how we respond to difficulties and life.
Another layer of 'Water of Allowing' is about going with the flow of life. Life happens! It does not matter whether it is to our expectations or make sense or not, it is what it is. 'Allowing' instead of 'Resisting and Ruminating' enables us to channel our energy and resources to more constructive outcomes. This quote from Eckhart Tolle speaks to this:
"The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral. It is as it is. "
Cultivation of this quality takes time and consistent practice. I find mindful stretching a very helpful practice to start. When the body is more relaxed, flexible and open, the mind follows. An open mind-heart is full of possibilities! Learning to tune into our body- the sensations and their nuances, allows you to tap into the wisdom of your whole self.
The Soil - Our Body
For the seed of resilience to grow and flourish, we need healthy soil: self-care is mandatory, not a nice-to-have. Nourishing our body with appropriate amount of sleep, rest and nutrients. Engaging our mind and heart with energizing and joyful activities, and supportive relationships. The soil is part of mother nature's gift and the appropriate response is to honour its preciousness. Without it, no seed can grow.
With healthy soil, light of attention and water of allowing, we create the conditions for what is to emerge, to emerge...