I’m sure you have your own list of lessons learned during this time of COVID because there is always a silver lining no matter what is happening in life. Sometimes you can’t see it until after the storm has passed. Sometimes, though, there’s a break in the action and you can see it while you’re in the midst of it. That’s what’s happening for me. So along with taking a look at some of what COVID is teaching us and what we can do with these lessons, let’s see how we can move through this experience from a slightly more empowered place.
Lesson One: Flexibility
One of the things this pandemic is teaching us is something my father always taught me which is the importance of flexibility. It was a quality that his life taught him and it was a high value for him. Flexibility made its way into almost every conversation we had about my life, especially my work in front of a crowd. “Be flexible,” he would say, “you never know what people are going to want or do. Be able to go with the flow.” I understood what he was talking about. Life is a rolling river. Sometimes it goes this way. Sometimes it goes that way and if I am too anchored in any one particular place when change comes, that can make things more difficult than they need to be. It remains priceless advice to this day. So flexibility is key right now because COVID showed us, in a very extreme way, that we not only need things to be a certain way, we expect them to be a certain way. These are our prefeences. We are seeing first hand how we respond and react when we’re not in control. For most of us, it’s not been pretty. Rigidity leads to suffering so be on the lookout for where in your life you could be more flexible.
How do I become more flexible?
Begin to identify what your preferences are when it comes to your life and the world around you. Not sure how to do that? Just notice what bother’s you and what your mind goes on and on about. Those are clues to unconscious preferences, which we’ve come face-to-face with during this pandemic. Bringing this information to the light of your awareness helps you see where you could be more flexible in your thinking. How we perceive things determines our we experience things. Whether conscious of them or not, unchallenged preferences can make you inflexible when things don’t go your way and cause resistance when change comes knocking at your door without warning.
COVID gave the middle finger to all of our preferences. It knocked us off our feet. You may not like it but you can use this time to take a closer look at what preferences may cause you to suffer. Once you have done an honest assessment observe how COVID challenged those preferences and how that made you feel. Then see if you can be more flexible with your proclivity. You can do this by asking yourself, What would my life be like if I didn’t need things to happen the way I want them to happen? Who told me (fill in the blank) had to be this way? How would letting go of some of my preferences make me more flexible? Less resistant? More at peace? Flexibility is a practice and we’ve got plenty of practice right now. Keep in mind, when we release our need for things to be a certain way we feel lighter and more able to go with the flow.
Lesson Two: The Benefit of Contrast
The other education COVID has forced upon us is the value of contrast. This is something that Esther Hicks talks a lot about in her teaching. Contrast is the experience you have when something occurs differently than what you wanted or expected. Contrast show us our preferences. Contrast also gives you greater clarity about how you want things to be. These two sides of the same coin offer us the chance to walk between the two by being mindful of where we are clinging to life having to be a certain way while using our creative powers to better outline how we want to live.
For example, when you are living in an environment that isn’t supporting your best life, you have a better idea of what kind of an environment you would thrive in. When you don’t have what you want, you have more clarity about what you do want. You wouldn’t know that unless you were living in an experience in which you didn’t have that. COVID has dished out contrast non-stop, from the personal to the collective. It has put us in one situation after another that we didn’t want, expect, or anticipated. Initially, it was so intense, we could not get our footing. We were swept away by the current of this pandemic understandably so. It has taken quite some time, at least for me, to steady myself in order to observe this contrast from a position of detachment and to use it as a fertilizer for the new design I’m creating for my life. So use the things that are happening to you and around you as a reference point to the life you truly want to live.
Lesson Three: Learn to be with Yourself
One of the reasons why people freaked out when we went into lockdown is because we were forced to be with ourselves and we have spent a lot of money and a lot of busy time avoiding being alone. We don’t know how to be with ourselves anymore and the internet, cellphones, and social media have a lot to do with that lost and necessary life skill. Also, we don’t know how to be with all that pain, all those unfelt feelings, all that hurt, all that trauma that we have stuffed away deep within. Not only are we afraid of our feelings but we’re afraid to feel them. It’s scary to feel such vulnerability and so we don’t. We’re terrified if we sit in the center of that wellspring of emotions we’ll drown. As a result, we have avoided feeling at all costs and now we’re paying a price.
The good news is you can choose again and make a different choice. You can schedule a few counseling sessions. You can ask a friend you trust to sit with you while you release a hurt that wants to be acknowledged. When you’re willing to sit with yourself and allow yourself to feel, no matter how messy, ugly or painful it is, eventually, that discomfort begins to subside. That’s the gift you receive when you show up fully for yourself. You don’t deny it, you acknowledge it. You don’t numb it, you feel it. Learning to be with yourself and bring compassion to your feelings, emotions, and life experiences is another meaningful and life-enhancing skill during these times of chaos and change. Use this time to go inward and do the deep work so you can experience more emotional freedom in the here and now.
Lesson Four: The Value of Questioning
This moment has given us the chance to shake the cobwebs from our thinking and question everything. That’s been another byproduct of this lockdown: it’s given us the undeniable opportunity to take a fine-tooth comb through our lives and ask ourselves some hard, long overdue questions.
- Do I want to keep doing what I’ve been doing?
- Do I love my work?
- Do I love my partner?
- Do I have the right people around me?
- Am I living in a place where I am happy?
- Are my lifestyle habits keeping me sick or making me healthy?
- Am I dependent on the news and outside sources to tell me how to think and what to think about?
- Do I have dominion over my thinking?
Having the ENTIRE YEAR to think about some deep and profound questions is a silver lining of this pandemic. It has caused so many of us to wake up and begin to make changes. That’s a good thing. We realize now with unbearable acuteness that death is always around the corner. Our minds often convince us that we have tomorrow but we know now that we don’t. Take the time to ask yourself these questions and be honest with your answers. Then go about making small but significant changes that can begin to more authentically align you with your true self, your core values and the kind of life you truly want to live.
Don’t Blame COVID
COVID has been the great agitator but it’s also been a great gift. However, we tend to blame COVID for how we feel when it’s shining a light on something we’ve turned our backs on. That’s part of our societal tendency to blame things outside of ourselves and avoid responsibility and accountability. We say to ourselves and others, “Oh if this would just be different then I would be different. If they would just do something differently, I would feel differently.” But that’s not the way life works. What a huge paradigm shift this is to go from believing that people and things outside of us cause us to feel a certain way to taking full responsibility for our feelings. That’s called maturity!
I share this with you quite cognizant of the true perils of this virus, the real consequences of this lockdown and the uncertainty of what is yet to be. That’s exactly why it’s helpful to look at what we can have dominion over and begin to empower ourselves with changes we can make for the better. This virus pressed the global “stop” button and it’s unprecedented in so many ways. We may never have another moment like this (hopefully we won’t!) during which we can do such personal work. That we’re all being given this opportunity tells me that it’s for the good of all humanity. We may not see that good yet but I’ve been around long enough to know that the seeds of change are always nestled in chaos. Sift through the chaos and uncertainty in your own life with the intention to let go of what no longer serves you. Look at it like a closet that needs a spring cleaning and throw away what no longer fits. Be bold and courageous and declare yourself the architect of your new life.
That’s the best of the silver linings in this entire experience. A willingness to let go of the old and welcome in the new. It’s not just a platitude for a new year. Right now it’s a foundational Truth to being the ones that create and design the new way. When we permit ourselves to question the experiences that fill our days, we remember we can change our minds and do life differently. Allow that kind of insight to activate change versus judgment. You’ll find yourself feeling more empowered during times of chaos. Do what you can to embrace these silver linings and make them work for you. You’ll notice a sensation of empowerment return to your sense of self. You have a right to feel that power again. To feel better, dare I say thrive.