How are you doing?
How are your sleep, home life, work life, bank balance, relationships, family, and friends doing?
And… what’s the state of your mind?
My answer to that first question: in free-fall; to the second question: in free-fall.
“But you’re a yoga teacher and you meditate, you should be fine!” I’ve heard more than one person say.
“You must be centred and unfazed in this crazy time as you do yoga,” said another, in his opening line via a certain dating app.
Here’s the thing, all the yoga, spiritual practice, and ‘work on oneself’ that anyone can or might do, does not make you immune to the events of the world.
Suffering, loss and disruption are a part of life and sometimes these things hit such a peak that it’s not possible to sail through it, let alone not be impacted.
I know, there are tonnes of books and experts and speakers who talk about how to insulate the mind and heart from pain and sorrow. The classic axioms “change your mind-set”, or “be positive” just don’t work for some things.
As I write this, it’s been a fortnight since “things” really changed in the UK, visible and visceral transformation in terms of the atmosphere and then restrictions on people and services. Times that by a thousand of times over for the changing complexion of the capital, London.
For me personally, it began with having to limit people in yoga classes, and then limit social contact. Soon I was then advised to not visit my Mother (who is 72), nor other close family members. I live alone, work alone. Enforced ‘aloneness’ though is a very different feeling.
Then, across just three days last week, this happened: the business, my yoga teaching, that I’ve devoted every day to in some form for the last 16 years of my life had to ‘pause’; every studio I teach at had to close; colleagues and business owners I know well all lost their work; one of my dearest private clients had to let me go because of their own financial hit; two highly pressurised workplaces where I deliver meditation to help keep everyone calm had to shut up their offices.
The final nail was witnessing London’s thriving, incredible, insatiable business, retail, leisure, entertainment, cultural, tourist and of course financial centres all close, in the space of just 24 hours.
What’s more, the closure that became obligatory, was, we were told…
As any self-employed person, freelancer or business owner will tell you how unsettling that one word – “indefinite” is.
My work, family and city don’t just mean a lot to me, but contribute to who I am.
And then there was more.
I have friends who work in the NHS. I began to get stories and feedback on what was happening at the frontline in London’s hospitals, savaged by the sudden huge increase in cases and suspected cases. You will probably by now have read and been informed of the scenes depicting the insurmountable challenge our doctors, nurses and hospital workers of all ranks and file are trying their utmost to meet and deal with. Scenes and situations that have broken my heart and left me feeling rather helpless.
And then you see those world maps, and graphs. You see Italy changed forever. You hear of New York, which alongside London is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, shut down. You wonder what is really going on in the far east and the nations there, and how those countries will fare in the weeks and months to come, with second and third waves of the virus spread predicted.
Social media and my news digestion (which, yep, is a lot) compounds the grief, uncertainty and anxiety I feel. But without it, I would feel like I’m neglecting the world, my country and my city. I suppose I let myself be saddled with the weight of the emotional and mental consequences of reading, listening, checking and hearing the social media and news media noise, rather than switch it all off and focus on ‘self-care’. No judgement at all if you are in the latter category, and in fact, I applaud you for having the strength of will to that. It’s just not in my DNA to switch off.
Because here’s the thing.
I do believe focusing on yourself and your own wellbeing is essential to daily life, and of course during times of challenge and adversity.
But I don’t believe ‘just focusing on yourself’ can actually lead to wellbeing.
Yes, have your routines, eat well, try to move and don’t sit at the computer all day. If yoga and meditation are your thing, continue on. Be it Joe Wickes PE in the morning or Sadghuru meditations in the evening, take what helps you.
But don’t be afraid of what comes from feeling connected.
We humans are animals. Whether you live in a rural hut on a beach or in a flat in the city. Whether you are a banker, businessperson or barista, or a parent, student or freelancer. We are all connected whether we choose to be or not.
And god if anything has shown that more than ever, under bright lights, it’s this global pandemic.
*now go wash your hands, and then clap them for the health workers who saved lives today.
-picture credit: Olivia Reynolds