What is the Invitation in This Moment?

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

We have begun a re-wilding of the earth and ourselves. Dolphins are returning to Venice’s canals and children everywhere are finding ways to sustain themselves, free of the industrial/military/capitalist frames of modern education.

The question I hold right now, the question I think we all should consider is:

What is the invitation in this moment?

I’m finding there is an invitation to slow down, feel more. My city –and the world at large– is addicted to busy-ness. Business is busy-ness. Rush, rush, rush. Now, there is nowhere to rush to. Meetings have been slashed and cancelled to the bone. There is a collective slowing down and turning in. (And please refer to the first footnote for gratitudes for those who cannot slow down right now and solidarity with those who are finding themselves in severe economic straits.)[1]

This slowing down and turning in time is being threatened by our technologies. There is a frenetic energy to get everyone to work together online. The internet has become our savior. It makes us feel productive, connected, “normal”.

But the internet is NOT our savior. And these are not “normal” times, and I don’t know why we are collectively in such a rush to get back to the same ol’ same ol’ activities that feed capitalism and inequality.

What kind of lasting change can we see come from this? What will people have experienced, learned during this time?

Here are the invitations that I’ve noticed in the last few days:

Quiet is good. I often prefer to be alone, in the quiet, to gazing at the faces of my colleagues on a screen.

Limit your virtual connectivity/Stay in your body. When I’m on video calls, I often feel disembodied. I think one contributing factor to this is that in order to see my colleagues, I must also see myself. Watching myself is tremendously distracting, way more fascinating than watching my colleagues. Watching myself gets me out of my body. I’m wishing for more phone calls where we quietly listen and meaningful respond, where we can feel ourselves sitting in our couches or floors or chairs, our feet on the earth, breathing.[2]

Being outdoors IS a savior. The fresh air, the sounds, the smells. Being part of a larger world. I feel this as much when I take out the trash as when I walk in the park. Just standing on the stoop gives me a new vista.

Not knowing how to be of service in this moment is OK. It’s pretty clear if you’re a healthcare professional or someone else providing critical services, like keeping grocery stores, mass transit, and pharmacies running. The rest of us are of great service parking our butt on our couches.

Productivity does not rule. It’s good to take a sacred pause, to rest.[3] The incredible proliferation of social media posts, blogs, emails, and groups organizing mutual aid is, at this stage, partly a manifestation of the need to DO something, and I’m obviously not immune from that. I think how we can be of service will become more evident as this time plays out. Sabbatical your quarantine, as adrienne maree brown puts it.[4]

Caring for others requires exquisite self-care. As I adjust to a new reality of sharing my space 24/7 with my husband and two children, I am doubling down on self-care to keep me grounded and present during these times. I express gratitudes, breathe and meditate, drink a lot of water, take naps, practice yoga, bathe with candles and incense, eat delicious food.

Treat yourself like you’re in the middle of an endurance race, because you are, spiritually speaking.

–Tara-Nicholle Nelson[5]

Intuition rules. You already know this.

Compassion and love rule. Ditto.

Get your ya ya’s out! Jump up and down. Dance. Drum. Spring clean. Sing. Yell. Shake. Outdoors. Online with others. Alone in your bedroom. Get that energy out!

Connect with real people and animals when you can. When I first wrote this a mere two days ago, I included “take walks with friends, six feet apart,” but now that seems off the list, indefinitely. (Earlier this week, my friend Jessica and I walked through the park, holding a two-meter stick between us. It helped us keep our distance AND it became an ad hoc performance piece/conversation starter with other folks we encountered.) So. Hang out on your stoop or front entrance and say hi to neighbors as they pass. A few days ago, my husband Andrew and son Max drummed outside our house; children from across the street joined in on their stoop across the street. Cuddling with our cat has been a boon.

Remember that we are energetically connected.[6] There are so many people I want to have a touchpoint with right now: friends, families, clients, colleagues. It’s not possible to keep up. I am trusting that we are holding each other in our hearts and following our intuition for when it’s the right time to connect.

Be mindful of your media consumption. I check in with myself to see if I am in a place where I am able to consume new, likely devastating information. After Trump was elected, I remember reading some very helpful advice that we should be mindful of when we consume media and also have a plan for what we’re going to do immediately afterwards: Go back to work? Stretch? Eat a chocolate? I tend to check for news about once or twice a day, for just a few minutes.

Learn something new. Andrew and I are both intending to build new, non-work related skills during the extra time we now have at home. Much to Andrew’s delight, I am taking up drumming, his trade. (He keeps telling anyone who will listen that it speaks well of a 31-year relationship when your wife decides to take up your craft!) Andrew is improving his Spanish. Max is transforming a portion of our backyard into a vegetable garden, making sourdough starter, and organizing a weekly anticapitalist reading/learning group. Cedar, my twelve year-old daughter, is a sponge and takes any creative prompt her teacher gives and runs with it. She’s presently creating hilarious music videos about COVID-19.

You got this. It is in our human born nature to know how to get through this moment, alone and with others. You are built for this. You are resilient, creative, and part of nature and human society. You can find ways to thrive and your efforts will help others and the world do so as well.

Decenter yourself, decenter humanity. We are all connected in this breathtaking, astonishing, mysterious universe. We humans wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the fabulous trees eating up carbon dioxide and making oxygen for us. And the equally, if not more so, fabulous trees wouldn’t be here if we didn’t, in turn, release our life to the earth, decompose and create soil that nourishes.

If we had the consciousness to see the impact of our choices on our greater world; which is our greater heart, then we would see that we are more a part of life on this Earth than our society allows us to recognize…. What we do to the forests, what we do to the oceans, the rivers, the great biosphere, eventually we do to ourselves.

–John Robbins from the song, Is This a Bridge Exactly[7]

I am hungry to see how people are transformed during this time. Will there be individual decisions to not go back to the same ol’, same ol’? Will there be small, quiet revolutions or big, boisterous ones demanding that we insert our humanity, our animal selves, back into our daily lives?

I hope that we are like cats that cannot be herded, cats who have found their wild selves again.

I would love to hear YOUR thoughts, learnings, and leanings about what you think is the invitation in this moment.

Peace and love,

Alissa

[1] We can’t thank enough the frontline workers during this crisis, who are putting their lives on the line and working beyond their regular capacity to help us all function: health care workers, grocery and pharmacy workers, transit workers, package and mail delivery folks, etc. AND while I know that there is and will continue to be incredible suffering during this time, both in terms of health and economics, my husband Andrew pointed out, fairly, that if we were a socialist society, we’d largely only be suffering the health consequences, collectively. Right now, I certainly hear more distress about lost jobs, accessibility to health care, inability to pay rent, and food insecurity than I do about the suffering of illness. It’s a slow monster typhoon speeding up, though, and we’ll be hearing more about local physical suffering quite soon.

[2] My friend and colleague Chris Corrigan has a great post from 3/19/20 on warming up and slowing down virtual meetings.

[3] Thank you for the beautiful phrase used by Tara-Nicholle Nelson, in her 3/10/20 podcast How to Become Immune to the Global Pandemic of Fear

[4] Thank you to adrienne maree brown for this beautiful turn of phrase shared on 3/20/20 and general wisdom during this time.

[5] See Footnote 3!

[6] Gratitude to Carla Stangenberg of Jaya Yoga Studio for invoking this affirmation as she introduced the studio’s first online class on 3/17/20.

[7] Full quote can be found at the beginning of Sharon Gannon’s essay from 3/19/20, which my yoga teacher Ramit Kreitner of Jaya Yoga Studio quoted at the beginning of her meditation this morning.

 

 

 


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