We are living through unprecedented times. A few months ago, I never would have believed a societal shut-down like the one we are experiencing would have been possible. But here we are. And with all the fear and unknowns raging around, it is harder than ever to maintain any bit of balance in our lives.
Yet, it is precisely at this time that I feel it is most important to be balanced, perhaps more than ever before. There are four main reasons why: 1. to protect health (more on that later), 2. to begin transmuting the fear into something positive, 3. to take advantage of the benefits this time is affording us, and 4. to aid in creating the best possible outcome for ourselves and our planet.
Let me explain, both why and how.
As many of you probably know, we have two main branches of our nervous system - sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is the one known as "fight-or-flight", its our emergency response system. When you are afraid for your survival, stressed, worried, and feeling out of control, you are likely in sympathetic mode most of the time. This system was designed to work in short intervals, to allow us to deal with immediate dangers and threats. When it is activated for prolonged periods, as is often the case in our modern lifestyles, this carries a number of negative ramifications for your body as a whole. A prime consideration in this time specifically is that when you are in sympathetic mode, the functioning of your immune system is severely impaired. So, the more fear you are carrying around getting sick, around life circumstances, around what is happening in the world, the greater the degree of immune impairment and the more vulnerable you are. Break the cycle. You don't have to be living in fear! We'll talk more about how to do that later on.
Let's take a moment to acknowledge the collective aspect of our culture. Every emotion we have has an energy to it. You can tell/feel when someone around you is angry, sad, or joyful without them having to speak, yes? So imagine a room full of people, all feeling strong anger, sadness or joy. How would that feel. Pretty intense! Now multiply that by millions. In our world right now, there are so many people feeling fear, sadness, worry, disempowerment. That energy cloud is huge and it envelops all of us. This is one of the reasons why many of us have been feeling so emotional and rocked by waves that we can't see but can definitely feel. It is important at this time to be aware of how the collective energy is affecting you. It is possible to clear this energy from your body and even to change it, which is what I would encourage you to do, both for your own health and for the well-being of society as a whole. Yes, stay home, yes wear your mask in the store. AND, help change the energy. Feel gratitude, find joy. Its ok to have fun, laugh and be thankful, even during difficult and serious times. As you stop contributing to the cloud of negative energies, you help to transform the situation for everyone in a beautiful and positive way.
Think about the benefits
I would also like to point out the benefits of recent life-shifts, on both a personal and societal level, and the opportunity it provides us if we can view it in that lens. When was the last time we slowed down? How many of us have had the opportunity to be home, be with our loved ones and maybe do things we feel we never have "time" for? As a society we are always in go-go-go mode. Time is always in short supply and self-care, connection and appreciation for the home and family are often not at the top of the priority list. This time many of us have now is such an important opportunity to really look at and reassess how we are living our lives. Is it feeding us? What is truly necessary and what do we do just out of habit, routine or feelings of expectation or obligation? As we think about these things, it may become very apparent that shifts are needed. Shifts that prioritize, health, family, and connection. This is so needed in our culture, for individuals, for society and for the health of our planet.
So, considering all this, let's talk about outcomes. Can you imagine, what if there was actually a positive overall outcome to this situation? What if people were able to step out of their fear and into an empowered place of hope, love, support and connection? What if people, families and communities began to prioritize health, balance, and sanity over work, obligation, and the drive for more? Just imagine how that would change our world, our economy, our environment and the challenges we face as a species. Structures would begin to pop up that actually support personal wellness, the environment, and the family. Physical and mental health would be improved, relationships would be improved, people might be happy. Imagine. Yes, there will be sadness, grief, and loss that come along with all that. It is not all sun and flowers. But let's give some focus to the positive aspect of things rather than focusing only on fear. Put some energy into the positives and I guarantee it will benefit you and everyone else as well.
Now comes the how. How do you escape all the fear and begin to bring in a more positive outlook and perspective? There are so many techniques out there, but outlined below are a variety of suggestions that I have personally found to be effective. Most importantly, experiment and find what works for you. Tune in to your body and feel, how does this thing I just did affect me? Do I feel calmer, more uplifted? Do I feel deeper in chaos? Then, limit what leads to chaos (like turning down the volume on it), and increase what leads to calm, joy, peace (turn it UP). Pretty soon and with awareness, the balance will start to shift and you can feed yourself that which leads to stability, positivity and empowerment.
Suggestion #1: Connect with nature
If there's one thing I would suggest over anything else, it is this. Spend time outdoors if at all possible, preferably in someplace with plants, trees and water. There is little that is more grounding and calming to the body, especially if you can be in direct contact with the earth or water (think bare feet or sitting directly on the ground). Forest, beach, river. They hold such healing power and pull us out of the chaos in our minds. Also, being outdoors often means moving (walking, hiking, running, etc.), which is also extremely beneficial for the body and mind and can be invaluable in processing difficult emotions.
Suggestion #2: Make time for stillness
This is another very beneficial practice, and one that is easy to never get around to actually doing. Find space and time in your day to just be, undisturbed and quiet. Though your mind may be busy, try to release attachment to any chatter and let it float on by. Find some guided meditations if this is difficult for you. There are many great apps and other resources out there to support you in this. Though our culture often does not recognize or honor it, we all hold great wisdom inside ourselves. The only way we can access this is by getting our minds to be quiet enough to hear it. Take time also to tap in to how you are really feeling, instead of what you are being influenced by. Check in with what your fears and concerns are and reflect on how realistic or grounded they are. Can you let go of some of the worries you are carrying around?
Suggestion #3: Nourish the body
Both for your physical health, as well as your emotional balance, it is important to connect with and care for the body. This includes things like eating a nourishing diet, using appropriate balancing and strengthening herbs and supplements, practicing good self-care and getting good rest. Keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all diet that is good for everyone, however, an abundance of organic vegetables, good fats and healthy protein is always helpful. Nourishing the body goes way beyond diet though. Listening to your body and responding to its needs is very important at this time, and will help you get more in touch with your own empowered guidance and wisdom. This could mean sleeping long nights, taking extra time to rest, journal or just space out, getting good exercise, stretching or taking a long bath. Whatever it is that feeds you, truly and deeply, do it!
Herbal medicines can also be very helpful in staying calm, grounded and feeling strong. There is so much information out there about this, but at this time, I think rhodiola, cordyceps and astragalus are particularly useful for dealing with stress, supporting the lungs and immune system, and strengthening the body.
Suggestion #4: Limit your intake of media and find positive ways to connect with others
The greatest contributor to the fear we are all feeling is the media. While you can definitely stay abreast of current events, limit it to that and avoid taking in more than necessary. Also, be aware of who you interact with and what their attitudes and opinions are. If the people around you are in panic mode, it will be much harder for you to stay centered. Try to connect with people who have a more grounded and positive take about things and make an effort to expose yourself to this attitude whenever possible. Again, don't take this as avoiding or hiding from what's happening in the world, but rather taking charge and bringing more balance into your perspective of it. Staying connected with others is definitely important in this time, as we all spend more time at home. Just be aware of who and what you are choosing to be influenced by.
Suggestion #5: Cultivate trust
If there is one word that has the possibility to transform your life more than any other, I would suggest it is this: TRUST. Can you imagine what it would feel like to trust your life: trust that you will be taken care of, trust that things are working out just as they are supposed to, trust that things are happening for a reason even if we can't see it. Trust your body to take care of you, trust the universe to bring you what you need, trust that you are being offered an opportunity, if only you can be open to it. Maybe this will sound dreamy or foolhardy to you, but I can say that if you live with this perspective, life will never be the same. When you trust, there is no longer worry. And what good does worrying do us anyway? It has many negative effects, but what does it give us? It may be really hard to stop worrying if it is an ingrained habit for you, but maybe, at least sometimes you can start trusting. Worry then will naturally disappear. Try this out! When a worry comes up, try shifting to trust and see how it feels. For me it a very different and immediately noticeable change in my body and energy.
In the end, we all have a lot more influence over our experiences than we tend to recognize or take responsibility for. We often have the idea that things just happen to us, like a leaf being swept along in a stream. The way to become more empowered is to take charge of our perspective, even very consciously molding and crafting it, so that our experience of it is more positive and enjoyable and our outlook more optimistic. Two people can experience the very same event but have very different viewpoints about how it went and what its significance was. So, view life as a struggle or an opportunity? See challenge as difficulty or as opportunity for growth? See only suffering, or recognize the gift that comes with it? Though it is not always easy, these are the questions I encourage you to reflect on, at least some of the time. And in so doing, you change your experience of your life and help shift the energy in the world to a more positive place. I hope these reflections and suggestions have been helpful and allow you to take greater charge of your experience in these challenging times. Wishing you much love and great joy on your journey!