As we enter our fourth week of isolation here in Spain I am now finding the time to write a little. The current situation has brought feelings of anxiety and frustration for many, but also of hope and gratitude. We are collectively forced indoors with little to do but eat, sleep and reflect (and look after demanding children for those of us lucky parents).
In view of the current virus it is a good idea to think of ways to strengthen our immune system (more on that on a later post) but more than anything we are given an opportunity to go inwards and reflect. In our modern lives we too often spend our days chasing our tails, ticking items of a mental (or actual) list but we spend little time being rather than doing. In this race to doing more and more our breathing becomes more tense, more shallow, our lungs weaker. In Chinese medicine the lungs, the organ mostly attacked by the current pandemic, are about exhalation but also release and letting go. In the heart of the current chaos lies the opportunity to better let go of tensions, stress but also of opinions and ideals, fears, mental constructs that are only that, ideas. In terms of Chinese medicine the highest priority in healing is to maintain the Spirit so let´s contemplate that option first, especially if lately you have been feeling anxious, frustrated or even helpless in the face of the situation you find yourself in.
So how can we nurture that spirit? How can we change ourselves so we do not get stuck in fear, anxiety, frustration and all those not so helpful emotions?
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
It is helpful to quieten the mind as many of us probably spend far too much time watching the news or on social media, which is keeping our minds constantly distracted and busy, and keeping us from being in the moment. An exercise that may help you do that is practicing abdominal breathing.
Abdominal Breathingsitting comfortably in a quiet place and place a hand on your lower abdomen. Take a slow breath all the way down into your abdomen, feeling how this pushes your hand out. carry this on for a minute or two, whilst trying to be aware of your breath and sensations in your body. check how you are feeling now.
A lot of the feelings of fear or frustration we are experiencing are fears of the future, anger at what has already happened or will unfold later. At the moment the vast majority of the Western world is stuck indoors but let´s face it, we have roofs over our heads, food on the table, we have no worries about our immediate survival. We may be struggling emotionally but this moment is as much a crisis as it is an opportunity and it is really down to each one of us to take time to stop and reflect, try to be grateful for what we have and hopeful for what lies ahead.
Another challenge may be to be spending 24/7 with our “loved” ones. Having to navigate each one´s personalities in a confined space can be difficult but understanding where each person might be could help give each of us enough space to be. In Chinese medicine the five elements relate to different organs and functions but also emotional states and each of us has a tendency towards one more than another. People under the influence of Fire will be likely to want company, Wood will draw us to want to move and be active while Earth will pull us towards being centered, quiet, less active. There is no right or wrong way to be, but everyone will need some space to be themselves. It is also important to realise that the structure to our lives given by work, school, etc was taken away overnight and keeping some level of routine is crucial, especially for the younger ones. For teenagers things will be especially difficult as their reference at that age is their peers, their friends rather than their family and they cannot see them so maybe it is a time to allow more screen time on social medial so they can talk to their friends and be teenagers.
This time of confinement may be difficult to bear for many but it is also an opportunity to stop and take stock, to reflect on things, to dig deep in order to keep the peace in our homes, to be more present. Someone recently told me those that can transform with change will be those who thrive and that may very well be true. So let´s take that opportunity to grow and change so we can thrive later!