Our body lying on a sofa, slouching in an armchair, on a computer chair, or car seat doesn’t feel the same for long, so it prompts us to shift position.
The awareness of the stiffness in our neck or back comes and goes.
The sensations in our head, the contractions or rumbling in our tummy are never precisely the same.
The keys we click in that nano moment are different as we type different words.
So are the words we read on-screen or on paper.
Whether we glance at our watch, phone, or screen clock, it’s confirmed: seconds, even minutes, have moved on unnoticed.
If we think back to January 2020, we’ll see that from one nano moment to the next came news of a Novel coronavirus. Yet, from one moment to the next and from moment to moment within these moments, nothing was – or is – truly the same, no matter how familiar a string of moments might seem. Each of the eleven of our bodies’ systems is always in movement, and so are we.
Since I began this paragraph a couple of minutes ago, several moments in real-time have already passed through my eyes to my brain and down through my entire body, which will never again ‘feel’ them in the exact same way.
Stress, like toxins, seems unavoidable in today’s world.
We experience feelings of vulnerability, anger or disappointment with our lives.
And we sometimes experience a here and now disconnect between relationships in our homes.
And with some relatives and friends.
And or with colleagues and sports mates.
And with some neighbours.
And with some strangers.
Our moments of un-ease and doubt amount to churning over reflections of a past that no longer is.
Though thoughts and emotions experienced may vary in intensity, isn’t reacting to life through amalgamated moments of the past somewhat like gazing at stars and forgetting that we are seeing the starlight as it was some 10,000 years ago?
Reality check: life is not what happened decades, years, days, or even a moment ago.
Life is what is in us, under us, and in front of us right here, right now, in the time it takes to inhale and exhale slowly.
By the time we inhale again, pfff … that moment is gone the way of the previous 10080 minutes that made up our week and the way of the 525600 minutes that move us from one calendar year to the next.
Those moments are no more current than are the stars in the sky.
No more current than the sunlight on our skin that was the light of the sun … some eight minutes earlier.
Bottom line #1: no matter how familiar the emotions, thoughts and actions in which we engage moment to moment and day after day, the inner-outer content of every nanosecond is different from the previous one.
Bottom line #2: as humans, we never-ever experience duplicates of any string of breaths, of thoughts or of micro movement. The moment between inhale and exhale is always unique.
In our cities, as in our lives, as in our homes, we aspire to avoid worsening scenarios. We do not want any surge of stress or any spike of anxiety. Yet, strangely, the risk of emotion-based reinfection is always very real. The contamination spreads from our memories to our thoughts. And from the memories of our thoughts, too. It’s true.
Before the Covid pandemic hit, world-wide end-of-year celebrations kicking off with Diwali, in India, and Thanksgiving in America were generally considered a period of stress for many. So was Christmas and New Year.
For many, it was not necessarily an anticipated season of happy times to look forward to, though culturally, these are meant to be periods of celebrations and togetherness.
Heads up: ‘If you think you’re enlightened… spend a week with your family,’ said Baba Ram Dass.
Months before Hanukkah, Christmas and the New Year celebration, every newspaper, magazine and website that had a lifestyle/wellness section weighed in with tips on retaining resilience and coherence before and during these celebrations intended to warm the cockles of our hearts.
Deep down, we want to honour each one with much gusto and fervour, but emotions run high.
Trust and a genuine acceptance of the other, the foundations of all connections, were often absent.
Already then, it was near impossible to remain light, bright and breezy when stirred up by the anticipation of stress.
It was often challenging to tap into our personal power, let alone lift up everyone around us.
We all have toxic family members whom we allow to suck the joy and excitement right out of our coming together.
It seems there is always someone who’s got something critical to say about our appearance, that of our partner or children.
Or about our rainbow and the way we stir our raft.
Or about the way we choose to do life.
Family gatherings are famously known to be some of the most challenging of all during the festive period.
Obviously, then, something is seriously awry in the state of our affairs of the heart.
And what’s awry is that separately and collectively, we have forgotten that the most important gifts we can give anyone are our love, our care, i.e., our presence and our energy.
If we’re past the age of 5, we already know that no amount of material gifts, smiles and pats on the head can replace that.
So, dear Reader, don’t wait until it’s too late. Whether you are reading this mind-meander before or after a moment considered festive in your family, be sure to let those who matter to you know how much you really care for them.
Show up in a way that confirms all that they mean to you.
And I’ll do the same, of course. 😊
Then, by this time next year, when the festive season rolls up once again, we will get on with it with a much more festive heart.
Surely, true fondness for all those in our clan would be one aspect of the rainbow we desire to sail through.
For now, at the time of writing, 2020 is winding to a close, and it’s again with mixed feelings that we envisage the new year ahead.
At the moment, millions of people are rethinking how to celebrate ‘family togetherness’.
The mandate to wear masks and to social distance will provide some with a too-easy reason to decline attending gatherings they used to attend with mixed feeling or under downright duress.
For others, the default challenge is not only about how to politely decline an invitation or how to manage the moment reasonably sanely.
Now, it’s also about how do we convince a stubborn family member that cancelling or rethinking that time together is the right thing to do.
It’s also about the divisive views on the mask mandate and social distancing, which precludes hugs, lips-on-cheeks and air kisses.
What if our friends won’t distance?
While we should feel proud that we have the fortitude to do what we feel is right, accusations of mistrust can be hurtful and create unpleasant ripples in all corners.
That said, though the conundrum presented by the current COVID-19 situation is ‘unprecedented’, there is always a potential for a conflagration underfoot.
Sometimes, it involves those who have decided to abstain from any alcohol at social gatherings for reasons of their own.
The same pressure is felt by parents who choose to not ‘cultivate’ the feminisation or the masculinisation of their toddlers.
Their decision to not ‘girlify’ or ‘boyify’ their babies and toddlers, too young to express a fashion sense of their own when it comes to hairstyle and clothes, generates the same pressure exerted by well-meaning others.
But then again, something as common these days, like the wish to favour a plant-based diet instead of eating animal flesh, can create the same friction between ‘loved ones & co’.
So can one’s decision to refuse chemotherapy.
Or one’s decision to branch out from what society has branded normative and align themselves with either a sexual or a gender identity independent of culture and religious dogma.
Life happens, it’s true, and there will always be something to test our resilience and our love, care, and respect for each other.
The refusal to accept someone’s wholesome decision is pricked by avoidance tendencies – the desire to spare ourselves the rethinking of anything ‘unfamiliar’ to us.
We attempt sparing ourselves by forcing the other to step back from their decision and conform to the expected behaviours of ‘the clan’.
We tend to do that because of the ‘insecurity syndrome’ that is even more present in the air we breathe than the Covid virus can ever be.
That insecurity contamination began spreading through the population many-many centuries ago. It’s doubled down in more recent times.
At the moment, like Covid, it, too, is at its apex.
By the way, as at the time of writing, 2020 is only three weeks away from slipping off our calendars, how should we look back on it?
As the worst year ever or as the most challenging year ever?
Serious question: faced with someone who opposes pandemic-safe practices or any heartfelt decisions, how to insist without inflaming the situation that, if we do attend one or more of these social events, we shall push on with our civil duty to others – and/or to our self?
Put simply, whether it’s about a Covid-safe practice or whether it’s about ‘simply’ expressing an earnest need or setting a boundary, the best tip during potentially confrontational conversations is to avoid the often-accusatory ring of the word ‘You’.
Instead, we fall back on the “I” language to express the expectations we have of ourselves and others.
We could state outright the things we need like, ‘I really would like to feel that my feelings/needs in this situation are being understood.’
Setting healthy boundaries is notoriously challenging. It requires patience and understanding from all parties. And, yes, it will take time before some family, friends, and colleagues get our message, but it’s important to keep repeating the same thing.
We keep the communication open with something like, ‘I’m not feeling heard, and that’s really hard for me. Can we talk about that?’
Or ‘I sense you are unhappy with this or that’. How about we share our thoughts on that.’
Bottom line: regardless the topic, when our intentions are coherent and congruent with our best intentions (and ultimately beneficial to those around us), it’s always important to honour them by staying true to them – true to our selves.
‘Unprecedented’ concerns are increasing ‘unprecedented’ stress levels near and far.
Our challenge here, now, and always is to power up what science calls out’ good stress’.
That’s what happens when coherence and resilience work together as one.
That’s when blended together, they enable us to take small but definite steps towards a higher purpose of our choosing.
Seriously, even jealousy or envy can be reshaped as good stressors in long-term relationships.
That’s what occurs once we dare ourselves to shift out of the same-old/same-old patterns.
That happens when we see value in stretching ourselves to be and do ‘better’ than we have been.
Heads up: we know the difference between liberty and selfishness.
And, so, if, by the time our celebrations are over, we’ve gathered and mixed it up, at time unprotected, at times up close and personal, among our various social groups, our civil duty is to get tested …a.s.a.p.
And, if necessary, to self-quarantine – and to do it correctly.
As if we truly believed that one or more persons’ lives, known or unknown, depended on us.
Similarly, if we’ve had toxic conversations with anyone, if we keep ruminating toxic thoughts and are planning a payback … now is the time to break the spell – to hit the Stop button and quarantine those thoughts to prevent further poisonous contamination.
We leverage our inner power for the good of all.
And, yes! We’ll want to go on doing that well after the holiday period is over.
By then, 2021 will have begun issuing its always personalised, always updated lists of duties and responsibilities befitting our ‘expedition’ into a real coming of age – the awakening to our purpose.
Of course, be it a micro or a macro test or mission, we’ll do our best to honour each item on that list by recasting it as an opportunity to build up our ‘good stress’.
We’ll do that because, deep down, we know that a heart at peace is a balm for our psyche. And for our holistic wellness.
It’s also music for our soul.
We know that every time we double down on radically caring about each other, our little raft drifts us closer to our rainbow.
We remember past failures as a learning strategy.
They become essential tools in our evolutionary kit.
We bring forth a willingness to deal with the near-insurmountable barriers that made it so long to get where we wanted to get from the inside-out.
We agree that the sum of all of that activates the sort of stress that is holistically beneficial.
Yes, by now, our little raft has gotten more seaworthy.
More resilient in stormy weather.
More comfortable, too.
And the hand on the tiller more experienced.
Suggested strategy: we stick to the plan.
We stay the course.
We keep Faith in the system that is the “universe”.
Argh … here’s a scary thing.
Science tells us that, beyond the popular 21 or 27-day challenges intended to prompt us to adopt a new, healthy habit of thought, it usually requires more than 200 repetitions of the desired mindset to uproot the old one.
That makes sense, really, and goes a long way in explaining why habit-changing resolutions are so,so,so hard to keep.
Serious questions: here and now, do we know what we want to feel and achieve within the plot beats of any new life cycle?
Do we know what we need to feel, think and do to achieve our most important goal?
Do we know how we could best enjoy the process?
Do we know how we will celebrate our step-by-step success?
Reality check #1: the vast majority of us do not really know what we want beyond the vague concepts of ‘health, wealth and happiness.’
Reality check #2: when we know what we would like to shift permanently or gain and sustain, we don’t really know how to secure the outcome we desire.
Reality check #3: once we’ve successfully passed the benchmark we had dreamed of passing, beyond a few days or months of euphoria or elation, most of us cannot sustain the happiness we thought we would derive from our achievement.
Contentment remains elusive while stress and anxiety are forever present in our emotions and thoughts.
So, we set another benchmark for ourselves.
And another and another.
And most of us die with a long list of regrets tattooed on our psyche.
So, it would seem that a four-pronged formula for sustainable happiness might begin with knowing what we want, enjoying what we do manage well and not letting that enjoyment wither away like a dry plant left too long in the sun.
Then, we energise our Hope.
Then, we have Faith.
Here’s the sting: the expression ‘Seeing is believing’ is not far off the mark. Unfortunately for us, science tells us that about 90% of our judgment is derived from what our eyes perceive, whether directly or indirectly.
Science also tells us that our attention is influenced by our breath.
Then, sadly for us, too often, our eyes perceive something or someone that pricks our insecurities in one way or another, and our breath becomes shallow and constricted.
Our veiled sense of lack yields the energy of non-specific fear.
Our brain instantly processes the stimuli and transmits its conclusion throughout our entire body – from muscles to glands and cells.
Too often and for too long, that energy floods our system.
Even in the absence of ‘energy vampires’, relationships that deplete us, our thoughts are continually revving randomly from one minor or major focus to another.
Never has it been more vital for us, separately and collectively, to find our … selves.
Then, we could own our truth and find coherent ways in which to express it.
Or to express it better.
Easier said than done, I know.
Big sigh 🙂