Friday, May 29th, 2020
Lockdown is easing, and for many of us there are mixed feelings. Yes, it’s been a time of loneliness, fear, boredom, overwhelm, and exhaustion. But there have been unexpected gifts in this strange time too. Simple living. Family time. Staying close to home, finding how little we need really.
Now, as we take our first tentative steps into an uncertain future, we may try to bring that good with us. Perhaps you’ve made a list of all the things you plan to keep hold of from lockdown life, all the new habits you want to keep up?
I want to offer you a different way to bring forwards the essence of lockdown. A simple way to reorient your life. So simple, it can be held in just one word.
It’s tempting to think about what you will ‘hold on to’ when you return from retreat or a transformational experience of some kind — a holiday, summer camp, meditation retreat, rite of passage, workshop, lockdown.
These moments of return are like a grand New Years Eve, where we feel compelled to set a resolution. I will start a daily meditation practice / have campfires in my back garden / switch off technology at weekends, we tell ourselves, hoping that these commitments will keep something alive. Something precious we rediscovered in this retreat time. Something that was always there, but got drowned out by the noise and haste of everyday living.
Sometimes these commitments hold. But often, as you re-enter ordinary life with its familiar relationships and environments, the habits, patterns and pace of that world slowly take hold again.
A few months from now, you may not be having family dinner each evening. You may find yourself shouting ‘hurry up!’ to your kids, as you scramble out the door for school or church or football practice. You may be pulled back into meetings you haven’t missed and don’t find productive. Getting on a plane for a work trip.
But don’t be disheartened.
You can’t always hold on to habits or practices. But you can hold onto something behind them. Something more essential.
Right from the start, I’ve viewed lockdown / sheltering-at-home as the heart of a rite of passage, the transformative potential of a silent meditation retreat. Now, as we begin our return, the parallel resurfaces.
In the wilderness rites of passage I’ve experienced with The School of Lost Borders, we spent 4 days and 4 nights alone in the wild, with no food, no company and no shelter. It’s a ‘solo’ time. Time to turn inwards, to listen to the stirrings of your heart, to engage with the natural world and let it teach you about who you are, who you are becoming, and what wants to come forth.
When I returned from these experiences, I did not continue to sleep in a tent under the stars. I did not sit in silence for days at a time. Yes, I brought back habits and practices in small ways — morning meditation, nature walks, council. But underneath these habits, I brought back a new way of being.
So, how do we ‘bring back the gold’ from our lockdown life?
Start by asking yourself questions. Perhaps take out a journal, and write – freely, without editing yourself – for a few minutes around each one.
For me, lockdown has been about EXPRESSION. Every day (at first) or couple of days (more recently), I’ve had a practice of checking-in with a close friend. For ten or fifteen minutes, I share the essence of how I’m feeling, what’s stirring in my life and inner world. She mirrors that back to me, picking up the patterns and deep currents. And then we swap: she shares and I mirror.
It’s a simple and profound practice that we both learned through our training in wilderness rites of passage with the School of Lost Borders. And it kept me sane. It kept me connected to my feelings, to the wider changes I was sensing in culture and the world around me, to the deep shifts of my own inner life. Connected to myself, to my friend, my family, and the world. And that has allowed me to write. To hear my own voice, and to offer it back to the world.
Will we continue this mirroring practice as the pace of our lives picks up again? As the intensity settles, and we find ourselves with paid-for childcare (imagine it!) and time to think, uninterrupted, at our desks? Maybe. But whether we bring the practice forward or not, I will stay rooted in my inner world, and keep expressing myself from there.
As you stand on the Threshold, ready to re-enter a new version of your life… take a moment to pause.
Turn in. Focus on a word that captures the essence of this time and its teaching. A single word. Listen for that word, without over-thinking. Hold on to it. And live it.
It’s a simple practice, but a powerful one. I have committed to ‘partnering’, and met my husband. To ‘creativity’, and written and published a book.
You don’t need a masterplan. You do not need a list of six / eight / ten lockdown habits you hope to keep up. You just need a word.
Let that word become a compass. Over the next year, at every decision point, ask yourself: will this bring me closer to (my word)? At each crossroad, take the path that leads deeper into that quality — the word — you committed to. And decision by decision, your life will reorientate around that quality.
That is how to bring back the true gold from your lockdown life.