(Note – this is a second attempt to post this, as the first went out with my rough draft included unintentionally!)
These are stormy times. So many storms have swept through this country over the last few weeks; full-on wild winds, endless rain and floods. And as we feel directly the effects of our changing climate, so we are weathering Brexit, Boris, and now the sweeping through of this virus.
I keep seeing how local happenings reflect big world happenings. I keep sitting with people as they meet their fears. Huge survival fears; most people I know- including myself – are already directly and powerfully being hit by the effect of this epidemic on their capacity to earn enough to live on now and in the months to come. Fears of illness, deprivation and death fuelled by an endlessly catastrophizing media machine. Fears which render us incapable of sane interactions and decisions. Again and again over the past few days I have explored what it is to give space to these fears in a way which feels safe enough and connected enough for small miracles to happen.
I keep watching my own fears and worries for my family – about all kinds of things – give way to a sense of surrender and expansive openness – often through allowing a kind of grief at my own inability to control reality to protect them. And I have seen how that has brought me into closer contact with them and myself. And surprisingly, brought me to a deeper sense of trust in life. It continues to surprise me, even though I see how this happens every time we meet what we have been fearing and avoiding. When fear gives way to love, the effect is powerful, visceral and palpable not just for whoever makes that shift but for those around them.
A few days ago, I was on skype with a dear friend in Milan. Quarantined in her house, as everyone is. Everything has come to a standstill. Supermarkets empty as people panic-buy. Schools, churches, bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres locked down. Only medical emergencies attended to. Supermarkets are open, but only for one family member at a time and never to get closer than a metre from any other person. Standstill…
I sat with my friend. She was terrified. And in the midst of her fears for her survival physically – being already at risk with a very compromised immune system – and the loss of income for herself and her husband as they cannot work – every other neurosis seemed to be coming to the surface. Her self-hatred, her loneliness, her sense of separation from the rest of humanity, her sense of being a fraud… We explored together. We met her resistance to feeling anything deeper than her crazy mind flitting from one catastrophic scenario to another, and slowly slowly she gave up fighting and allowed me to support her to meet a very very young part of herself who was terrified of the world. As she dropped into this place there was grief, fear, loneliness; but she could also appreciate that she was feeling this whilst simultaneously feeling a deep loving connection with me, and that she was actually, in this moment safe, warm, held. The combination of meeting these young, buried, intense and apparently overwhelming feelings – whilst feeling supported, loved, held and called to the simplicity of the present moment in body – allowed her to land deeply into her being. From this place, everything which was happening in the world could be seen from a different perspective; it was ok. Yes – disconcerting, disorientating, uncertain – but not overwhelming: relatable with. There was a basis from which all of it could be perceived in a more grounded, mature way. She told me today that since that happened everything has felt different without anything needing to have changed on the outside; I felt a strength in her, and a capacity to face all kinds of situations, and she seemed to glow.
In the last days I have had similar experiences to this with a number of people. There is something about the intensity of what is happening on a world level which is bringing to the fore the deepest fears, and – for those who are ready – allowing them to be transformed.
I find myself awed by the power of love. Of giving space. Of being willing to not know what to do, but to stay and love and keep realising that we are not separate from each other. What you are feeling becomes what I am feeling. And I can recognise that, without becoming identified with your emotional states and meet you there. And the result of this simple being together and being willing to allow things to reveal themselves when they are ready, is transforming us.
I am beginning to have tastes, increasingly, of what it is to be here, alive, knowing the certainty of my own death and the death of everyone I love – and not be in the grip of a backdrop of fear and a compulsion to try and control reality so as to protect against the inevitable. I see how we search for anchors of sanity, of peace and calm. We seek those who can stand in the storm, feel it, be battered by it of course, but not become it.
I remember when my children had tantrums, at times I would join them and have a tantrum too. I was so overwhelmed that it was easier to shout and scream myself, than stand in the midst of their emotional tsunamis and be that anchor in the storm.
Yesterday morning my daughter and her husband and young child left our home to return to the Canaries where they live. When I saw her in the morning she looked exhausted after a night of little sleep, assailed by fears. Isn’t it amazing how our minds do this? There may be very real fears, and yet – especially at night with nothing to distract us – they can go rampant, and one fear leads to another until we are consumed? I say we because most people I speak with seem to know this experience well. As she and I spoke about the night and their travel plans for the next 24 hours, she suddenly remembered what had happened in the night. Ohhh, she said, something wonderful happened! I was suddenly afraid that I might have something badly wrong with me, as I often do when I am contracted and in pain – and then I remembered my grandmother saying that the cells of our body hear our thoughts. So I asked the cells of my body if I was seriously ill, and I was told ‘No, we are really fine… but we are FED UP with having your negative thoughts dumped on us!’ Suddenly her whole body was filled with a sense of well being and she felt safe in her body, really safe and protected. So she asked about the Corona Virus, and she was told, the virus feeds on fear; step out of the fear and you will be protected. She told me, her eyes alight, I don’t know if it was just my mind trying to reassure me, but it feels like good guidance anyway – and I had to agree. This is excellent guidance! I have her permission to tell you this.
I feel that we need to be mindful in these times. To not get swept up in an obsession with Corona Virus news, to make sure we are not speaking about it all the time, and that when we do, we keep feeling our hearts, our breath, getting where we are coming from as we speak. Fear breeds fear, love breeds love; We go under when we are consumed by negative mind, when we cut off, obsess and isolate even as we speak – it literally makes us sick; and I have no doubt whatsoever that our immune systems, and the immune system of the planet itself, thrive on love, connection, warmth and humour. One of my Italian friends tells me that in her housing estate they have a 6pm appointment to sing a different popular song each day with their doors and windows open… and these people hardly spoke to each other before this! It is bringing people together in new ways and this needs to be celebrated and spoken about more.
Love and fear are not opposites. Fear separates when we identify with it, and we lose all perspective; it becomes a breeding ground for all that is not love. But love can include and embrace fear, it is bigger than it, and is not afraid to include it and transform it. Fear itself is not a problem, it just needs to be invited in by the heart (which is big enough to embrace everything). And we need to find ways to come back into our bodies and out of the downward spiral of negative thinking, whatever it takes. I am thankful for the fact that we can connect up with each other on-line, meet each other’s eyes, even if it becomes harder to meet face to face as things heat up. I am thankful for the birds and the emerging flowers and spring shows her face despite the relentless rain. I am thankful for the freshness which can come – and needs to come – when Business As Usual simply cannot continue. I am curious to see what arises in creative responses to this extraordinary time.
Perhaps I will find more time, space and inclination to start writing this blog again on a regular basis!