Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Thanks to Barrie Risman for the reminder of this parable.
Image from Pink Concussions Blog
Let's begin here. As humans, we are unique and are experiencing this 'COVID-19 pause' in our own unique way.
Just like the parable 'The Blind Men and Elephant', we all have a variety of things influencing how we are interpreting and responding to the fast changing stream of information (i.e. biases, beliefs, social and family conditioning, personality and body-mind types). Thus, we all have different opinions, thoughts, voices and actions going on these days. Some are in action mode (my tendency), some are in suspicion/rebellion, some are frozen in fear, numbing out with denial and distractions. And we might be cycling in and out of these various stances, and how we are each coping and managing day to day can really vary based on so many factors.
And I think it's less about what we are experiencing or doing (or not doing), and more about being aware of it.
Regardless of how you are interpreting the elephant, what are you doing to manage and cope with the stress (be it felt as large or small for you)? Whether you are conscious of it or not, this situation is having an effect on your nervous system. Are you in action or paused reflection, are you in flight, fight (i.e. panic buying, arguing your point), freeze (i.e. numbing out, avoiding reality, terrified) or faun (agreeing to avoid conflict). Pause and check in right now with curiosity.... how did you spend your day or even the last couple of hours?
I've honestly been a yo-yo this past week.
I sprang into action mode on Sunday (creating free on-line video resources for others to provide 'accessible wellness' and set up a facebook support page in our area to 'ask for what we need and offer what we can'). I've been quite busy setting up my classes on-line to support my community (which takes me into technology). I've been falling out of routine and feeling scattered. I've been calm, clear and focused. And re-scattered. I've felt love. I've been angry. I've responded. I've reacted. I'm having to find my own reset button multiple times a day. I'm resisting settling into this uncertainty and quieter time. And I know it. Because I feel it in my nervous system.
Here is what I know to be true about managing my own nervous system and taking care of myself (and as you can tell from previous paragraph, I'm imperfect at it, but here goes);
1. It's OK to not be Ok. We are in uncertain, liminal space. It's normal to feel 'off' right now. I've had some really good days and I can acknowledge a bad one, reach out if I need to talk, and offer myself some compassion.
2. It's OK if others are not OK.
I don't need to fix things for people (See point #1). I'm practicing listening when someone says 'I'm not OK' and respond with 'Hey, I see you. I hear you. If there anything you need from me, let me know. I'll offer what I can.'
3. If I pay attention to my attention, and notice sensations in my body, my inner response shifts.
When I pause and become quiet, I can check in to notice how I'm feeling. Am I breathing and what is the quality of it? Do I have tension in my body, and if so, where is it? How loud are things inside myself? How fast or slow? To use an analogy of water, do I feel a placid lake with an undisturbed surface, gentle rolling waves, huge storms swirling, crashing or undertows inside? Without over-analyzing and simply noticing my inner state with curiosity, my inner response shifts. I access space and ease by being the non-judgmental witness of myself. Use this free 30 min audio to get you started.
4. I personally notice calm, quiet waters when I;
Am in nature. The woods nearby my urban home are a nervous system reset for me.
Take a break from the noise - shutting off the news, social media and the voices of others.
Take in quiet through my senses (i.e. staying home, taking walks in my neighborhood or nearby woods, listening to my new 528 gHz playlist as I write and work).
Being in true presence and connection with others (private clients, on-line circles, and my family). Listening with compassion and curiosity.
Stick to a routine for the basics of eating, sleeping (including sleep hygiene) and quality, mindful movement.
Eat simple, nourishing and grounding meals made up of whole foods and limit caffeine and processed foods.
Stop rushing and do one thing at a time.
Stay curious about others' perspectives on the elephant.
Maintain my perspective, reminding myself of my own core belief systems and resiliency.
Finding silver linings (ie. My husband and I are enjoying discussions with my teens about current events, and I'm learning new skills).
5. I sense louder, rolling waves rise up when I;
Forget points 1-4.
Forget the moral of the elephant parable
We all have our own ways of self-monitoring and self-regulating. What are yours? More than ever, I believe we are being asked to pay attention and do our own work in order to show up as our best selves in our local and global communities. Could you use this time to study yourself and deepen your self-awareness in order to do that? Could you observe your own felt experience without judgement or needing to fix it but with curiosity and compassion instead? Can you observe others' with the same?
Leaving you with Matt and I's go to prayer...
May I be free, May I be well, May I be safe and at ease.
May you be free, May you be well, May you be safe and at ease.
May they be free, May they be well, May they be safe and at ease.
- Buddhist Metta (Loving Kindness) Prayer
Classes & Workshops
Joy Onyschak offers a variety of unique, trauma-informed, somatic practices in her St. Vital home studio, at Safe Harbour Therapy, in the community and on-line.