Go within. Breathe deep. Feel your feet as they embrace the surface below. Straighten your spine and neck but make sure it’s not rigid. Relax your shoulders and open out your hips. All good advice and easy to do on our more Zen days. But what about when you feel like thrusting your fingers up into the air and reaching for the pinot gris and a box set of Swedish despair bled out in darkened rooms?
My husband retired in the first week of lockdown. Dreams of joy, sunshine and swimming together in the grounds of our beautiful, if modest, new home in Tenerife have been cast into the air and exchanged for covid-appropriate excitements such as online Spanish lessons, the simplex crossword and daily trip to the local Spar where you might find the opportunity to exchange yardstick niceties in the forecourt. Today we found an abundance of lush dandelions in a nearby field and learned how to make a bitter, tonifying salad. Yesterday, we made tea from the nettles that grow out the back; it’s possible we now have the healthiest kidneys this side of Africa.
Laughter tinkles around the village again as people begin to adjust to the new normal, learning to joke from a distance and exchange fear-generated whatsapp alerts with Fr Ted snippets and soothing videos of kittens, peacocks and dharma talks. The yellow and black signs outside our shops no longer shock; we can pass them by with less than the cursory glance we would give a 2 for the price of 1 offer and greet our fellow customers with a closed-lip smile.
Every morning I wake up and check in with my central nervous system, how is my gut from deep within and am I remembering to breathe with ease? One saving grace is Sunyata Buddhist Centre in Sixmilebridge who live stream their morning meditation at 7 am. Slithers of sun pour through their window at the same time as mine connecting us and, though the numbers of their sanga is diminishing, there is such joy in sharing this intimacy with like-minded souls.
The drive to begin daily qigong practice takes a lot of self-love. If the night before, I gave way to irritation at my husband’s takeover of our kitchen (after years of having it virtually to myself as he worked away) and large alpha-male presence in our compact home, somehow I cannot give myself this gift and so, after bringing him a cup of tea, I bury myself in the latest Eckhart Tolle or Plum Village video and nourish myself with the knowledge that our challenges are opportunities to develop patience.
In the past week, I have connected online with loved friends who are self-isolating alone. In a world where all of our family members can be 1000’s of miles away, are there safe alternatives to insisting that people only have contact with those of the same blood? How does loneliness affect our mental wellbeing and are marriages designed to withstand continued compression within four walls?
And so, dear friend, whilst Covid 19 is bringing us the lessons of how to face our fears, what does it teach us about loneliness and relationships? What new skills are streaming through our fingertips as we embrace this new way of existing? What are our blocks and what are the stories we are telling ourselves? How can we come out of this with new gifts?