Working from home as a writer, I was already social distancing and physical distancing.
My husband also works from home. We live in a log cabin in the woods, so we don’t get many visitors except a few friendly Buddhist monks from a monastery that took root across the road five years ago, and some Buddhist friends we’ve made through the monastery. So when the pandemic broke out and people were asked to stay at home, our lives didn’t change much in what we do every day.
Where our lives have changed is that we now have more social gatherings online and over the phone. If anything, this pandemic has meant we’ve become more social. We’re spending more time connecting with friends, family, and loved ones.
Not long after we moved here nine years ago, from living and working for 20 years in New York City, I was serendipitously led to an interfaith seminary program where we studied world religions for two years. We were told that the most important part of any kind of spiritual journey was to commit to a daily spiritual practice. I experienced a lot of resistance to this at first, but over time, I learned that on the other side of my strongest resistance, are most often my biggest breakthroughs.
Sitting for 33 minutes every morning for two consecutive years created a space where I faced my Self. I continue to create a space where I observe my humanity from my divinity. I create a space where I allow divine guidance to flow through me. I create a space where I cultivate courage and compassion both for myself and others. I create a space where I spend time alone with myself. I create a space where I face my shadow and my muck, knowing that like a lotus flower, I blossom because of, not in spite of my muck.
This experience of spending time alone with myself every day for two years, changed me.
The enforced staying at home during this global pandemic is creating the conditions for people all over the world to spend time with themselves too.
I’m curious to see how this experience will change people.
How was I changed by committing to two years of a daily spiritual practice? I became more aware of my ego. I became more aware of how my ego would often dictate how I showed up in the world. I became more aware that when I was identified with my ego, it usually created suffering for myself, and sometimes for others too. Because when I’m identified with my ego, I feel either superior or inferior. When I’m identified with my ego, I’m not able to connect with the humanity that exists in you, in me, and in all human beings. I wanted to win. To be better than others. To show how superior I was.
Another way I changed was by learning how to tune into and connect with my own soul. With my own inner divinity. When I listen to my own soul, which lies deeper than heart or mind, I am aware of our shared humanity. We’re all spiritual beings having a human experience.
Two days ago, I joined an online Zoom gathering of 1,200 people organized by Otto Scharmer’s Presencing Institute. There will be three more online gatherings over the coming weeks—they’re calling it #GAIAjourney. 5,000 people apparently joined over the sessions throughout the day. Simply the technological aspect of hosting an online gathering for 1,200 people at one time blew my mind. And then we broke out into smaller groups, first for introductions: name, where you’re from, what brings you to Gaia journey, what intention you are bringing. I was in a breakout session with a woman in North East Italy, another woman in Paris, a young man in Munich, and I’m an Australian living in Southern New Hampshire. The reality of how this is hitting people all over the planet was driven home to me by listening to these individual stories.
The second time we broke out into smaller groups we were asked to consider these questions:
1. What am I being called to let go of?
2. What am I noticing about my inner state and response?
3. What is beginning to emerge now?
1. My husband and I already let go of what we needed to release nine years ago when we gave up our careers and lives in Manhattan and moved here—this move was prompted by my husband facing his own death when he was diagnosed with cancer. We count our blessings every day that he recovered, and we now live our lives from a different place. The German guy asked about the financial aspect of being able to give up salaried jobs. I told him we read the book, Your Money or Your Life.
2. What I’m noticing about my inner state and response is the same that I noticed when I sat in a daily spiritual practice for two years in interfaith seminary. I cultivate a space to observe and sit with every single human emotion that arises in my body, from the depths of fear, anxiety, panic, hysteria, hate, anger, grieving, delusion, to the strength and power of love in all its forms—compassion, empathy, kindness, generosity, impersonal love, enthusiasm, and the list goes on. As the neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor writes in My Stroke of Insight, “every human emotion lasts for 90 seconds.” Beyond that 90 seconds, I’m clinging to the emotion rather than allowing it to pass through me.
3. And insofar as what is beginning to emerge now? This pandemic shows no discrimination based on religion, race, nationality, sex, age, socioeconomic status—everyone is vulnerable. And it’s through our shared vulnerability and interconnectedness that we have the opportunity to grow and evolve.
Please take a moment to consider the above three questions for yourself. Spending time with yourself may just turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever done.