‘I didn’t change; I just woke up’ - Anon
People have experienced the pandemic in very different ways. Some of this has to do with our external environment: housing, social and economic positions all playing a part. But also for many in our society there has been something that has transcended our social positions, a feeling that we can and we are moving back towards sacred things we have forgotten. This may be a rediscovery of the sacred spaces outdoors, experiencing nature, the changing seasons and birdsong. Another sacred thing re-found has been the importance of solitude. Solitude has been celebrated throughout history as providing a sacred space for our internal world, but not something celebrated in modern society, not until recently when many of us have found space for it again in our daily lives.
Solitude is not loneliness, but the experience of being able to be with your own thoughts, being within your own body, peaceful and having contemplative thought. For some people, the reduction in social pressures has allowed for this part of themselves to be discovered. They have found themselves.
Finding yourself is not about having that ‘Eureka’ moment like a lightbulb going on above your head, or having a single moment of revelation. It’s not about changing yourself. We don’t necessarily look different or sound different. But inside, we have woken up and start to be able to listen to our inner self.
So when the announcement from Government of the road map to end lockdowns came, there were many who celebrated, but equally, a number of people feeling a sense of worry, anguish or disquiet. If it feels like everyone you know can’t wait for a big party and ‘get back to normal’, then it’s easy to feel like you should just go along with this, in spite of what your inner voice says. The peer pressure from friends, on social media and on TV has already begun.
But as the Government talk about ‘building back better’ after the pandemic, perhaps we too should be thinking not about going back to normal, but of creating a new normal?
So what can we do to prevent us from falling back into old or unhelpful patterns/behaviours?
Once when I was in a traffic jam complaining about the traffic I saw some graffiti that said ‘You Are Traffic’. So when it comes to social pressure we need to remember we are part of the social traffic. We can contribute to the congestion, to the pressure, or we can put forward a different way, say no, stand back, be brave enough to not follow the herd. If we relieve judgement towards how and if people socialise, then we take some of that pressure of them and ourselves.
Self-validation is about not seeking validation through groups of people, but feeling able to give ourselves the gift of acceptance. Sometimes our ego might get in the way of this as we come out of lockdown, and we might have a fear of missing out (‘FOMO’). The ego influences us through the means of fear. It gets into our heads and makes us ask questions like: ‘What if I miss out? What are people going to think if I’m not there? Will they think I’m rude or not want to be friends with me anymore? If everyone goes out on a Friday night, then shouldn’t I go too?’ It makes us think it must not be normal to rather stay in.
The practise of quietening the ego and allowing the spirit to return takes time and practice to master, and the lockdowns we have lived through have been a real opportunity for some of us to practice this. Those who have managed this over the recent pandemic will now need to be strong enough to resist the ego moving back in, and instead keep their spirit free.