It goes without saying that 2020 has been a pretty surreal year; lockdown showed us a whole new way of living our everyday lives. We developed a new language (I would have never expected ‘Covid’, ‘zoom’, ’self-iso’ and ’social distancing’ to be a part of my daily vocabulary), our friends, family members and colleagues morphed into 2-dimensional figures on a screen and 20 minutes became an acceptable amount of time to spend buying a pint of milk from the corner shop.
I count myself extremely fortunate that neither myself or anyone I know was seriously affected by the virus (my heart goes out to anyone reading this who has been) but of course, it still came with its challenges. As a yogi, it is in my nature to apply my practice and the yoga philosophy I have studied over the years to pretty much every situation I find myself in, regardless of whether I am on or off the mat. On reflection the past four months definitely highlighted three key things for me…
Everything in life is constantly changing
The law of impermanence (or ‘Anitya’ as it is known in Sanskrit) is a key concept in Buddhist philosophy; the belief being that all of conditioned existence is transient, evanescent and inconstant. This concept encourages us not to become too attached to one set state, as it will inevitably change at some point. Being able to accept these changes, to allow these shifts to happen without the need to control too much, can help us to be at peace with whatever life offers us.
The majority of us, to a greater or lesser extent, love to plan and predict our futures…we create ideas in our heads regarding how the next day/week/month year…ten years will look. These plans or predictions are generally based on what we are, what we know and how we feel now. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but problems can occur if we become too attached to these ideas, if we fail to recognise that these things could change at any given moment. If we do not accept this, we are likely to suffer in some way, perhaps in the form of disappointment, frustration, anxiety or anger.
Lockdown was the perfect example of the unpredictable, impermanent nature of life; reminding us that things are always changing and there really is only so much we can control.
“We need not look far to see that there are vast areas beyond our control. In fact, we are able to control only a very small arena in our lives. Beyond control, we must also learn to surrender and dance in harmony with the many cross-currents of life in which we find ourselves.”
– GANGA WHITE –
Human connection is so valuable
The word ‘Yoga’ (Yuj) means ‘to unite’. Although during lockdown I didn’t see anyone outside of those I live with, in a strange way I felt a stronger sense of unity with people than ever…my extended family, my friends, my yoga students and even people online who I hadn’t met. I think it made so many of us realise how important human interaction is, and as a result made us appreciate one another more. Eckhart Tolle says “to love is to recognise yourself in another’, and I truly believe this feeling of unity and connection that Ifelt with people was a result of us recognising that we were all in the same boat, we were all at the mercy of something much greater than us.
Despite feeling connected, I still missed real human interaction so much. However good the technology is, seeing someone on a screen will never be the same as seeing them in the flesh. Pre-lockdown, we perhaps wouldn’t think twice about having our phone on the table during a family dinner, or replying to a text while with a friend…but now I feel there is a new appreciation for real-life human interacted, something that should never be taken for granted or traded in for technology.
“We all have one thing in common: we all have different minds, we all have different bodies, but we have one soul, we are part of one soul. If we can see the soul in each other and relate to it, find it, understand it, respect it, then that oneness will be forever.”
– YOGI BHAJAN –
Life doesn’t have to move at 100MPH all the time
In Western society, “busy’ is seen as a badge of honour; we are fixated on being productive, on being successful and achieving as much as we can. Although being ambitious and self-motivated is great (providing we are doing it for the right reasons), the amount of pressure we put on ourselves doesn’t leave much time for slowing down, for reflection and for rest. In today’s world, we have an excess of doing and a poverty of being; as Thitch Naht Hanh so beautifully writes ““we are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.”
During lockdown, a lot of us suddenly found ourselves with more free time on our hands, with more time to just be. The world was put on pause, giving us permission to pause too, to slow down, to sit back and look at our lives from a distance, to appreciate the little things; a cup of coffee in the morning, a walk in the countryside, learning a new skill that we otherwise wouldn’t make time for. As cliche as it sounds, time moves so fast and so much passes us by; although it’s great to be busy, we mustn’t be afraid of slow moments…they need not inhibit, but rather enhance our lives.
“Take in the essence of like as you would smell the fragrance of a flower, delicately and deeply, with sensitivity and appreciation.”
– B.K.S IYENGAR –
I think these are really valuable lessons to take with us as we begin to move forward, as things slowly transition back to ‘normal’.
If we are better able to accept change, if we remember to appreciate one another, and if we give ourselves permission to slow down once in a while, then we could potentially create a life that is so much more fulfilling than it was pre-lockdown.