As the end of the year approaches, I am reminded of some of the innermost thoughts I had shared with a few people, specifically my impression that the year 2020 was going to be an auspiciously significant one: a year that I was very much looking forward to welcoming in. As I reflect upon those impressions, one year later, there is a part of me that screams: what on earth were you thinking?! And, there is another part that is curious about how those past musings might (at all) fit into the enormity of what actually transpired during this year of 2020. More on this inquisition later.
There seems little doubt that many of us feel like we are living in one of the most seemingly disconcerting, terrifying and life-in-suspension periods of our lifetime. While we are trying to navigate our way through a pandemic of unfathomable proportions, we are also bearing witness to the legacy of human injustice based on “race” and other illusions, bleeding profusely.
In my role as a holistic therapist, I have been routinely hearing descriptive words like “surreal”, “unprecedented” and “overwhelmed” abound in their usage, as people search for ways to describe their observations and experiences. What seems to be an overarching theme of unusual, and extremely hard-to-deal with emotions rising to the surface is undeniably real. People are struggling, severely. Those with addiction issues are having an especially hard time due to the intensification of already existing mental health struggles, in conjunction with a steep decline in opportunities to distract the self with various forms of in person social contact.
My own senses implore me to recognize the 2020 covid-19 era as the heralding of a grueling yet magnanimous call to action, perhaps like no other I have been aware of in my lifetime. This particular call pertains to a relative “coming back to the self”. Coming back to the self requires a slowing down of sorts; a redirection of energetic resources; a vital shift in awareness. In slowing down, we usually find that we automatically allow ourselves greater room to expand our perspectives, and with a wider perspective we permit ourselves to recognize more clearly where our internal resources of power and freedom lie – as opposed to dwelling in feelings of powerless, fear and restriction – even in the face of increasing uncompromising physical parameters surrounding this covid-19 crisis.
During this confounding year I have learned more than ever that the first and foremost important step in the process of coming back to myself is remembering to breathe! Indeed, I have been realizing so much appreciation for the simple but profound ability to utilize my breathing system as an anchor; a guide; a powerful life force and essentially for having the good fortune to be able to breathe as a living human being in the world.
If it’s hard for you to relate to the process of breathing mindfully, I invite you to just take a moment – right now – to engage in a very quick and basic breathing protocol:
First make sure things are fairly quiet, and you are comfortable wherever you are sitting. Second, place your feet firmly on the ground and allow your hands to rest loosely, in some way on top of your upper thighs. Third, take a deep breath in through your nose and another breath out through your mouth. Repeat. Take care to allow the breaths you take to be as deep and as noisy as you need them to be (the deeper and the noisier the better!). If, after breathing in you are able to hold the breath for a moment, this will enhance the relaxation you feel as you exhale from your mouth. Notice your energy and focus shifting. That’s it!
Just one minute of steady, focused breathing can begin to relax frenzied, rigid and myopic mind states. Breathing allows the space and perspective for us to remain still…calm, and to be okay with our own inner company; to be less interested in the finessing of any performance of who we think we should be in the eyes of others; what we need to achieve or what we think we should be doing, and more interested in nurturing how we desire to exist in the world. Thus, moving away from any lofty preoccupation with the need to be a success in the eyes of the world towards a more grounded interest in showing up as our embodied selves. In essence showing up versus showing off!
When we start to prioritize, commit and eventually surrender to being in the harmonious flow of our natural selves, opportunities which grant us the space to feel, relax and BREATHE into the how we are, in the here and now, naturally begin to show up - without a whole lot of effort and force - in the material form of people, places and things.
Breathing mindfully lends itself beautifully to the exploration of a number of different potentially contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, Reiki, visual art creation, music composition, voice exploration and dance movement (just to name a few). There is something for everyone! Such contemplative practices can further assist us in moving towards an enhanced ability to tap into our inner resources (our own personal power) and away from the old, unsustainable cycles of endless, frantic searching outside of ourselves for comfort.
While for many 2020 has been a year which has been about blatant heartache; loss, fear, chaos and outrage, it has also been a year steeped in revelation; self-empowerment, resilience, unity, survival, triumph, surrender and personal transformation. Amidst the unfurling of a crumbling and unequal health care system, myself and many of the people I converse with have been recognizing the importance of taking power back through the exercising of more intentional choices around lifestyle practices such as nutrition, exercise, contemplative practices and substance use, all of which can offset health and wellness outcomes as these pertain to communicable and non-communicable illnesses.
An increased awareness of the importance of setting boundaries, bolstered by different opinions and levels of awareness surrounding covid-19 protocol has been clearly in effect, as people navigate how to keep themselves safe via social distancing. Additionally, many people I have been talking to have been describing a new found awareness of the importance of practicing patience with others as their ability to empathize increases in conjunction with their exploration of their own suffering.
When I return to the initial musings on 2020 articulated in the first paragraph of this piece of writing, the idea of the “healing crisis” is one that seems to fit. In many healing communities, the "healing crisis" is understood to be a period of time during which things feel unusually hard for an individual who is authentically engaged in healing work. Such hardship might show up on spiritual, mental, emotional and physical levels in the form of confusing transpersonal experiences, disturbing thoughts, intense emotions and even medical situations as the individual is invited, through the healing process, to “wake up” enough to identify, heal, release and ultimately transform patterns which have outlived their usefulness, with a view to moving forward on their (divine) life path. While this is not always the most comfortable experience, moving through is necessary in order to come out on the other side.
In the here and now, the healing crisis paradigm fits well into my idea of what 2020 has been all about on a global level. With all its pain, sorrow and darkness, I take some solace in recognizing the intensity of this year as a collective growth period –indeed, a period of soul expansion for the whole world – and I look forward to welcoming in the light.