So we're into week six of this lockdown and I'm beginning to rethink how much of a gift time might be. It was great about three weeks ago but now I'm suffering the effects of too much time on my hands. I have to check a calendar now to remind myself what day it is, as each one seems to bleed into the other. And hey, I love Netflix just as much as the next gal, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. On most days, I feel ok, and sometimes I reproach myself for even complaining. I'm one of the lucky ones: I get to stay home and chill without the stress of financial hardship. I'm not on the front lines risking my life on a daily basis. That being said, denying my own challenges, which I'm sure are shared by others, isn't helpful either.
I've used this time to delve deep into inner work: yoga, meditation and study of yoga. In theory, what a great opportunity to do this! In practice, with no distractions, starting to sift through your shit, and some of it deeply buried for a reason, can cause one to start to lose their shit (which I guess is the point of spiritual practice). I know it's not quite like the sages of old sitting in their Himalayan caves, but some days feel like that, minus the ecstatic bliss of full communion with God (I'm not there yet). I'm more at the stage of dissecting all my past mistakes and feeling really bad about them; of noticing every noise and distraction in my cave and wondering why I chose this path in the first place.
I guess I can now understand the purpose of a spiritual "retreat" where there's really nowhere to run away from your thoughts and the Hurculean task of trying to get a grip on those thoughts. What they fail to mention is the occasional feeling that your sanity is slipping away. As a yoga teacher, what I'm really missing is bringing those insights I've stumbled upon into my classes. It's not necessarily that I need to share these experiences verbally with my students, but they do influence my approach, my understanding of what I'm teaching and my appreciation of the many facets that make up each student. I also now understand the importance of community, of applying what I've learned in a dynamic environment.
Sure, it's great to have epiphanies on your own but I don't normally live in a vacuum and what good is an epiphany if you can't test it out in "real" life. At the moment, it feels like there isn't a "real" life. This "virtual" reality is getting us through at the moment but it certainly can't replace being with other people and having a shared experience. If you can't use what you know, what good is knowing what you know?
I wonder if we'll be any different when we're on the other side of this pandemic. Will we be more appreciative of simple quotidian things like riding public transit, going out for a meal, traveling? Or will we quickly sink back into our default mode and forget how lucky we are to do those things? Some say we'll change after this is over but I'm not so sure. Did any deep, meaningful change in human behaviour occur after the Spanish flu pandemic? Or SARS or MERS? I want to believe humanity as a whole gets better after catastrophic events but we do have a tendency to backslide once things feel comfortable again.
If we learned from our mistakes, there wouldn't be any racism, sexism, xenophobia, totalitarianism, poverty, violence, etc... It's certainly touching to see how communities are coming together in this time of crisis, and the best of humanity is shining through. However, Canada experienced its worst mass shooting ever in the midst of this crisis. Which brings me back to sitting in my "cave", dealing with my shit. This is not easy work but it is essential if we want to see any kind of lasting improvement in human behaviour. Sure, a crisis inspires a temporary heightened sense of benevolence but if we're honest, as soon as the urgency of kindness disappears, so does the impetus to be kind.
What creates lasting change? Sitting in our metaphorical mountain caves and taking a few minutes each day to sit still and meditate, in any way that suits us. There's no right or wrong way to do it. But if we don't start paying attention to our inner selves, to the deeply buried, subconscious beliefs that create unhealthy, perhaps even malevolent drives in us, ultimately, nothing will change, and we'll keep spinning in the wheel of karma, doomed to endless repetition.