Photo from the March 2020 newsletter of https://www.rightuseofpower.org/
Like everyone else, I am trying to adjust to a new life back home here in Portland, Oregon, with orders from the governor to stay at home. On the one hand it isn’t so different from the way I was living before since I work from home, live alone, am an introvert and love solitude. Still, there are things that I love that I can’t do right now: group walks and hikes, meeting friends for coffee/meals, attending worship and coffee hour, going to arts events, shopping at Macys, etc. etc. Luckily we have technology that lets us see each other and keep in touch, and though it isn’t the same as being face to face, we can still stay connected and keep our work going. Most painful for me is that all my trips to events that I was so looking forward to have been cancelled or postponed. I may not get to see my adopted daughter, green sea turtle "coota" Glitter Mittens, get released back into the ocean in Georgia. And it will be interesting to see how we do a massive national digital rally for the Poor People’s Campaign on June 20.
I have learned through my own life experience that even in a dark time, there are still gifts that are being offered to us. One of the real benefits of this time for me has been all the spiritual teachers and healers and writers stepping forward to offer their podcasts and webinars and resources for free. Now instead of walking with my group of friends, I walk alone listening to a podcast. A friend sent me the newsletter of The Right Use of Power Institute, which I had never heard of, and found their articles on wrestling with this time of fear and not knowing very helpful. (See the end of this post)
Although my activism hasn’t slowed down at all with all the petitions being circulated now and the (even greater) needs of the farm and low-wage workers I advocate for, I feel a new spaciousness and commitment to nurturing my own spirit through daily spiritual practices such as walking, gardening, writing, gratitude, compassion, and making personal phone calls. I urge you to do the same and offer this 7 Day Guide to Gratitude by Diana Butler Bass as a good antidote to everything that is happening. (I as write this, a crow is gathering small branches off my neighbor's tree and a pair of mallard ducks have shown up in my yard (no body of water nearby!), reminding me that it is nesting time and life goes on.)
I am cautiously optimistic that we will come out of this stronger as a nation, that more people will embrace compassion as a way of acting in the world, and that we will enact policies on a permanent basis that support the well-being of people, especially poor people, and the planet over profit. Check out this new from author and activist Naomi Klein who explains that this time of “shock” can result in the impossible suddenly becoming possible.
As cocooning is forced on me, I take time to think of the ways in which I was living in a self-imposed exile. A lovely song by Claude McKenzie “Assikuman-Tetapuakan” (The Metal Chair) is sung in Innu, and tells the story of a man who assesses his life. He sits on a metal chair that represents his troubled memories. He thinks of lost loved ones and understands that he must stop waiting for the return of his love. He then looks out the window and perceives that the ice is melting. He wants to run away and hide but he decides to continue to fight the opposing forces that confine him. He will never sit down on this metal chair again.
My prayer is that when this time of crisis is over, we will come out of our cocoons, throw out our metal chairs, and commit ourselves anew to the practice of love, compassion and nonviolence for all beings and the planet.
By Beah Richards
Today is ours, let’s live it.
And love is strong, let’s give it.
A song can help, let’s sing it.
And peace is dear, let’s bring it.
The past is gone, don’t rue it.
Our work is here, let’s do it.
Our world is wrong, let’s right it.
The battle hard, let’s fight it.
The road is rough, let’s clear it.
The future vast, don’t fear it.
Is faith asleep? Let’s wake it.
Today is ours. Let’s take it!
This is an extraordinary and difficult time. With so much uncertainty and social turmoil, it is easy to give in to fear and hopelessness. We must keep physically safe to avoid being infected and infecting others. We must also take care of our own emotional and mental well-being. Below are suggestions to help you maintain your inner psychological balance.
1. Make a plan. Assume a disruption of normal life for three months and plan for different contingencies. Talk to a trusted person and write a list of essential actions: staying healthy, getting food, maintaining social contacts, dealing with boredom, managing finances, medicines and healthcare, etc. Stay calm and rational. Do not give in to apocalyptic thinking or panic buying.
2. Ration media. Stay informed, but limit your exposure to media that stirs up anger, sadness or fear. Do not allow yourself to get sucked into conspiracy thinking. Balance negative news with positive stories that reflect the best of humanity.
3. Challenge negativity. Write down fears, self-criticisms and frustrations. Think of them as ‘mind weeds’. Read them out loud in the third person using your own name (Jane/John is fearful because he/she may get sick). Be as specific as possible and listen carefully to your words. Use affirmations and positive self-talk to change your mood (Jane/John can cope with this crisis).
4. Quiet your mind. Do whatever quieting practices suit you best: meditate in the mornings, sit quietly with eyes closed for 5 minutes before performing a task (especially on the computer); get still before getting out of your car; take a contemplative walk in nature; pray internally.
5. Combat anxiety. Talk to someone about your fears. Distract yourself by doing something positive and useful. Get information on anxiety management. Practice deep and even breathing: see coherence breathing and the app: http://www.heartrateplus.com/.
6. Exercise regularly. Find a routine that suits your body and needs. Explore alternatives such as gardening, running, biking, walking, yoga, chi kung and online classes such as the 4 minute workout.
7. Sleep long and deeply. Wind down at the end of the day: avoid exposure to bad news, limit late evening screen time and snacking. Aim for seven plus hours a night. Take short naps during the day (less than 20 minutes).
8. Make a night list. Before going to sleep, write down those things you want/need to tackle the next day. Remind yourself that you do not need to think about those things again until tomorrow. Next day, create a schedule to tackle the most important tasks.
9. Stay emotionally engaged. Practice appropriate distancing but do not isolate. Stay in regular contact with family, friends and colleagues. Use Internet video conferencing so you can see people’s faces. Let others know that you love and appreciate them through words, gestures and loving acts.
10. Refrain from blame. Don’t take your stress out on others; take responsibility for your emotions and moods. Limit criticism and negative talk—even if the other person deserves it! View your judgments as not essential to your true self. Make an effort to recognize each person’s essential humanity.
11. Stay active. Do your normal work or education every day. Make a schedule—including a balance of work/break/meals—for the day and week. Tackle new projects and activities: learn a skill online, plant a garden, clean out the garage, write a book, built a website, cook new recipes.
12. Be of Service. Take care of elderly and vulnerable friends, relatives and neighbors. Remind them to stay afe (don’t nag); help with food deliveries; talk them through Internet setup; support them financially.
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Daily Quarantine Questions
1. What am I grateful for today?
2. Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?
3. What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today?
4. How am I getting outside today?
5. How am I moving my body today?
6. What beauty am I either creating, cultivating or inviting in today?
Copyright 2020 Constance B. Yost. All rights reserved.