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Smiling With My Eyes by Neil Anderson

Apr 30, 2020

If someone had told me that I’d be writing the next newsletter at the height of a global pandemic, I’d have recommended a good therapist. Nevertheless, here we are, and there are few areas of our lives not touched by it.

Sitting here in isolation as I write this leaves me to allow the fertile ground of stillness to do the talking for a change and perhaps allow that stillness to be a catalyst for a few things to be voiced here.

At the time of this writing, we have a global count of more than 2.3 million cases of Coronavirus with a death toll of just over 160,000, soon to be one of many grim milestones. Humanity is coming to terms with an unseen enemy while wrapping our minds around large numbers too abstract for us to apprehend the real horror of such loss and suffering.

As members of a loving, supportive community trying to become more conscious, we can become aware of our chosen responses and reactivity and I want to offer that we were made for challenges such as this. Our choice to access the healthier aspects of our type and other higher potentials can only result in a more actionable and loving approach to a problem fraught with many unknowns.

By now we know the oft-repeated practices of our work around sitting with our momentary states of consciousness. The pressing conditions of the current global moment can bring us back to our states of confusion, fear, judgementalism, or other processes that obscure our real capacity to listen, act or be available (to ourselves or others) in whatever capacity we are needed. It’s a tall order indeed.

The mandated social isolation so necessary to reduce transmission feels stifling and highly inconvenient, even draconian with widespread implications not only for one’s personal life but globally, causing massive disruptions or collapse in systems of support.

The variations of our living situations and experience present us with different ways to process our temporary isolation. Not that this is easy for many. It’s not. With a pandemic being thrust upon us so suddenly, the fragility of what we had in place personally or collectively is made apparent, but this dire moment has been seen to be the driving engine for the best in us to appear. In many instances, we can smile, laugh or cry at our frenzied responses to keep some web of connection in place even as we grieve the loss of the familiar.

Seemingly small things are big things in this pressure cooker of a situation. Placing that phone call to someone, even someone you don’t normally contact, can be a lifeline for both the caller and receiver. It can be a form of reaching out with one’s hand. Your voice or message can be the one they need to hear even if it’s only checking in. Even if they are not available or don’t respond immediately, they can know you reached out. Don’t underestimate the impact of that. It’s huge.

Self-care now becomes more prominent in these times. How are you taking care of yourself as a doorway to the availability of self and others? For example, I continue with my daily walks, usually in the morning when my energy is a little higher, and it’s proven to be a great way to connect with neighbors who are out doing the same. We smile or nod from behind a mask or render a muffled hello, and I have learned to smile a little more with my eyes, something I had not paid much attention to before.

They gaze back, and they get the connection. Perhaps it’s our small way of pushing back the feelings of isolation. Also seeing, smelling, and hearing the many things we blur past when we drive or miss with our preoccupied minds brings out the fullness of so many things we think we don’t have the time for or dismiss as unimportant. Daily movement of some kind, even from a seated position, can get our energy levels up through increased circulation and breathing and combats the sedentary heaviness that comes from reduced activity or long periods of stagnation. Small things take on new significance when we move.

In isolation, we are likely to experience many self-reinforcing or self-validating thoughts or fears that may make worry or anxiety worse. Finding things that disrupt that loop can be important. Sharing those periods with another can be difficult especially if one is prone to depression or anxiety but when it feels appropriate to do so, it’s ok to reach out to another who can be supportive even if it’s online.

A trusted group or individual can be a powerful bridge of connection especially for those who rely on therapy, counseling, groups such as AA, or some aspect of the mental health system. If we have family or friends in such circumstances the free time many of us suddenly find ourselves with can be the perfect catalyst for reaching out. It can mean the world to someone.

Much discussion has been around what to do to “keep busy” at this time. It seems there’s much social reinforcement to stay that way and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, here’s a great time to grapple with what that means to you. To be “unbusy” or unproductive is often something we are told to avoid, and as my now spotless kitchen proves there’s some truth to that. But an unscheduled siesta can be seen as productive too. Could a little downtime be the thing you need to say, recharge your batteries or perhaps get in touch with renewed sleep patterns? It has for me.

Reacquainting yourself with your bodily rhythms of sleeping, waking, hunger or moods might be a much-needed chance for a reset. A quiet allowance for such things to arise can start a whole new conversation with your mind/body organism. We are probably more adaptable than we think and it might be a good time to play with that. For example, I am now eating twice a day instead of three and, I’m noting the changes which I can say in my case is for the better. I think I’ll keep it.

Is it possible to take up a new interest? Perhaps something you put on the back burner for lack of time or focus? Perhaps its something that when addressed can get you over the hump of your hesitancy or procrastination to give you that surge of gratification of a barrier breached or something achieved. This is a potent time to look at that. For some, this pause may not come again. Use it.

Obviously, this is could go on for days, as it encompasses so much on so many levels. There are many areas here that for the sake of brevity I have perhaps glossed over or left out and that’s ok. You’re free to craft your own responses to what is clearly a multilevel crisis in our time that carries with it the attendant feelings of boundary dissolution for that is exactly what it is — a form of symmetry break with the usual way of living and being.

Surely there are other periods ahead perhaps on this scale, some maybe not. Let’s do it as consciously and lovingly as we can. We are enough and we have enough to do it. Thank you.