Scott and I are currently in week four of our lockdown. Our New Mexico governor wisely called a state of emergency well ahead of the others. So in an effort to do our part in flattening the curve, and shortening the duration of this crisis, we shut our doors socially and professionally (i.e., to seeing clients in person). Fortunately, a portion of our work––coaching, online courses and Wisdom Circles has always been done virtually, so our days are still engaged and fulfilling. But that doesn’t make the lockdown any less challenging.
In my lifetime I’ve attended dozens of silent retreats and meditation sabbaticals; I’ve engaged in voluntary isolation retreats in order to listen to the quieter voices of my heart. Lockdown is different. Lockdown takes place amidst a worldwide collective terror and confusion, and hence requires many strategies to keep you resourced – from the spiritual to the very practical. Over the weeks I’ve been noting the tools and practices that are assisting me to navigate our lockdown.
I thought to share them with you.
Before I do, however, I wanted to mention one important point. Unlike catastrophes such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and droughts, over which we have absolutely no control, we do collectively have the possibility for a lot of control over this catastrophe. If the whole world stopped, right now, and locked down for two weeks, the crisis would abruptly end. As New York Times health and science reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr wrote last week, “If it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all Americans freeze in place for 14 days while sitting six feet apart, epidemiologists say, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt.”
Given that, I’m curious why our leaders don’t unanimously create monetary, social and procedural conditions for that to happen? What do they put first over human life? Greed? Denial? Ambition? The need to be right? Partisan politics? In coming months, after the final death count, as we grieve the loss of loved ones, while we pick up the pieces of our lives, we will all remember how each and every political, institutional and corporate leader handled 2020.
Scott and I are noticing three distinct reactions to the pandemic: denial (“What’s the big deal?”), panic (guns and toilet paper), or realness (let’s end this thing). The real are in lockdown, and supporting lockdown for others. So for all of you out there in reality-land, I offer these 15 strategies that may help you in the coming weeks or months.
15 Ways to Navigate Lockdown:
1. Make Your Bed – resist the temptation to sleep in and stay in your PJs. This sends a message to your brain that you don’t matter, nothing matters, and life is bleak. Wake up early, get dressed, get moving and make your bed.
2. Build Community – build circles of cohorts, peers, friends and colleagues. Have Zoom happy hours and birthday parties. Reach out to old friends. Let neighbors know you are there for them. Send letters and cards the old fashioned way…by mail!
3. Get Outside – Take your dog for a walk. Grab a friend for a social distance hike or walk – but meet at the trail head or park, so you are not touching any shared surfaces such as inside cars or at front doors.
4. Practice Emotional Intelligence – Give friends and loved ones a break – don’t take personally their form of fear (distancing, defensiveness, or clinginess). Receive what you can, give what you can, and take care of yourself emotionally too. There are times when the COVID-19 emotional and mental fallout can bring out the worst in me and Scott, rendering us briefly like two cats in a burlap sack. It’s ok. Breathe, take a break, realize this is not who you are or the other is.
5. Feed Your Heart and Brain – my favorite book right now is Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. Get into poetry or literature that shores up your courage.
6. Give your Heart and Brain a Break – by 7 pm I sometimes can’t bear to feel anymore or think anymore. So Netflix allows me to bask in empty and light entertainment like The Office, Shrek, or Avenue 5. No serious movies or documentaries for me!
7. Focus on Wellness on All Levels – I spend at least 20 minutes every morning closing my eyes and clearly envisioning all those I care for (my family, the earth, clients, faculty, staff, all of you, as far as my vivid imagination can reach) as healthy, resilient and robust. I have been taught (and it is my experience) that thoughts can have influence when they are aligned with what is to be so. Focus on what you do want, not what you don’t want.
8. Do a Brain Fast – I am very strict with my brain when it tries to move out of ’this moment’ and into future. Future thinking is toxic, catastrophizing, and destabilizes me. I limit my exposure to media. I read only two resources, the New York Times (Brief), and Dr. Besty Brown’s dispatch from the front lines.
9. Be of Service – We are at our best when we serve others. Do it in small acts of kindness, or big endeavors, whatever way you can. Notice how it makes you feel. Anthropologist Margaret Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. She explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. “A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts,” Mead said. Serve others. Be civilized.
10. Start Something New – We just held our first ever webinar last week. It was empowering for me to challenge myself in that way. Or perhaps you want to take an online class, or start yoga, or train your dog (finally) to stop jumping, barking, or chewing.
11. Plant a Victory Garden – This tells your brain you have a future! And at the same time you can feed yourself with fresh produce. Victory gardens were started in World War I and II to boost morale. Also called ‘war gardens’ or ‘food gardens’ they featured vegetable, fruit, and herbs planted at private residences and public parks. Scott and I are planting trees… to give us an even longer outlook.
12. Be a Spiritual Warrior – Spiritually we are being asked––not to find peace––but to deeply, viscerally acquaint ourselves with and feel enormous emotions right now. Fear, powerlessness, terror, anger, despair. Cultivating our capacity to feel them fully without trying to ‘make better’, ‘dress them up’, or stuff them to the side makes us a point of solid presence inside the chaos. It’s hard. It’s viscerally daunting, but stay present, breathe, and feel them. Notice that when you feel the fear fully, that it paradoxically grounds you. When I meditate each morning, I’m not ‘finding the calm / peace’ I am instead deliberately feeling all those huge feelings totally. In that way, I ‘become the peace’.
13. Practice Financial Proactivity – As a start-up, we learned how to create financial ‘runways’ to predict revenues and costs. Right now, everyone would be wise to create their own 12 month runway. Map out what would happen if:
- Revenues stay low to zero for a period of 12 months.
- You reduce costs by 25%, 50%, or 75%.
- You build in any disaster relief unemployment, grants, loans or programs
Stay abreast of all Federal, State and City programs, and also private programs available to you at this time because they are changing every single day. The US Chamber of Commerce held a Town Hall Meeting last week with piles of information for all of us.
14. Create a New Daily Work Routine – now that so many of you are working from home, discover the new research and new structures behind a truly productive day and re-design your optimal daily schedule and routine. The traditional 9 – 5 is poorly structured for productivity. I’ve totally restructured mine in some way cool and surprising ways.
15. Bask in the Freedom to Stop – finally, you have the ultimate permission to stop, slow down, empty your life of social obligations. Enjoy the spaciousness and the time while you can.
I hope you find these helpful. Please share yours!
The EQUUS Building Life Boats webinar – practical and spiritual ways to navigate disruption
A new message from our wisdom grandmothers
The EQUUS COVID-19 Community Resources page