It's been a little while since I last posted anything, and yet look how much the world has changed in that time. It's unbelievable.
It's the start of April and the UK has been forced into a lockdown for just over a week now. We've actually been self-isolating as a family for a week longer than that as my eldest daughter had a fever and although we didn't know what it was that she had, we nevertheless took the decision to stay at home and not encourage the spread of whatever it was to other people.
For many years I have tried to avoid the mainstream news and to keep negative newsfeeds from the timelines of my social media platforms, but recently it has been difficult to avoid the news, and on many occasions, I have actively sought the news out to gather some understanding of what is going on in the world. It never makes me feel good, but the mind seems to relish knowledge and staying informed and it feeds desperately on various sources in an attempt to make sense of things.
Inevitably, I find it stressful and exhausting taking in the mass hysteria, fear and panic that is being spread across the mainstream media and indeed social media. It also leaves me feeling not just angry and scared but also helpless.
Avoiding the out and out conspiracy theorists who equally peddle a brand of mass hysteria and fear, only at the other side of the spectrum, I try to seek out the independent media pages and blogs, who provide a calmer and more balanced approach to the current world situation. There are some valuable resources out there that can provide a balanced perspective and context to the situation, and you can find some calm in the eye of the storm.
Still, there will always be unanswered questions - the mind needs everything tied up in neat little boxes with no loose ends. You will never be able to do enough research to satisfy the mind, and the mind tends to search for resources that backup it's own agenda anyway - even if in doing so that agenda makes us feel fearful.
So what can we do? Where can we make a difference?
In my experience the only thing we can do, and simultaneously the most powerful thing that we can do is to deal with only what is directly in front of us, regardless of what that is. If it's a crying baby, deal with it. If it's stacking the dishwasher, stack it. Writing a blog post, write.
Everything else is just a story. The facts that you've just read in an article that made you feel better - they are just words, numbers and symbols on a page written by somebody that you likely don't know, will probably never meet, and you can't know for sure whether these facts are 100% accurate. So in a way you are kind of making an assumption in trusting them without having experienced them for yourself, regardless of how they made you feel.
The terrifying story that one of your friends tells you about a friend of theirs who works in the hospitals and is shocked at how horrific the current situation is. That's still a third hand story that you've taken on board and treated as fact. You can't know for sure whether it is 100% accurate. Even if you trust your friend unequivocally. It's not YOUR reality.
We just have to be careful what symbols, facts and statements we take on board as 100% truth. The only truth you can really know is based on your own experience and what is directly in front of you. Even then, if you were completely honest with yourself, you can't totally trust yourself all of the time - every one of us is riddled with insecurities, quirks and past experiences that take the reality of the world and twist it into a shape that best fits our internal worldview. So even our own thoughts and words aren't to be believed.
And that is where we can make a huge difference. We need to have the courage right now to become aware of our own unquestioned thoughts. Where we allow thoughts, facts, stories and ideas to play out in our minds without questioning their validity or their source then we are asking for trouble. And that trouble manifests itself in the form of stress, anxiety, anger and fear. But, we must look to ourselves with love and compassion and not with judgement and condemnation. It's easy to curse ourselves for having fearful or angry thoughts and wish we could be stronger or more balanced, like other people seem to be. We don't know what other people are actually feeling, and people are very good at putting on brave faces or putting on a show to appear other than they truly are.
The best book to read to learn how to investigate our unquestioned thoughts is Loving What Is by Byron Katie. Byron Katie has a very simple but powerful method of teaching how to do this, by simply answering four questions, and it really works.
With all the current uncertainty about the virus, the economy, our civil liberties and the future in general, all we are left with is our feelings and thoughts right here and now. That's all we can deal with - whatever comes up now we can deal with now. Worrying about a future now that hasn't yet arisen is unnecessarily scary and exhausting, dwelling on a past moment that has been and gone is depressing. Accept whatever presents itself in each moment, anger, uncertainty, fear, joy, fatigue, love. It's all part of the process of life. It can't all be joy and happiness and enlightenment. There will be moments of that, but there will be moments of fear too. Everything must have it's moment and be accepted if we are to be whole. Whole means everything, not just the parts we like.
Dan Millman, one of my favourite writers and spiritual teachers hosted a brief but wonderful live chat the other day, where he touched upon this, it's well worth a watch.
So be kind to yourself. The world needs a lot of love and compassion right now and that starts with every single one of us nurturing that within ourselves first before we can ever possibly send it out there into the world.