As we cautiously re-emerge from the pandemic, after a year of social distancing and associated dramatic shifts in our everyday patterns of living, we are being given an unusual perspective on how our lives are constructed. Things that we didn’t even think about pre-pandemic—like going out to eat inside a restaurant, or going to the movies—now are seen as great adventures. And other “normal” things—like going to school or attending a wedding or funeral—are now seen as astonishing privileges. A year ago, who could have imagined just how much our consensus reality would have changed?
Yet it did. We are living now in a different world—a new normal, to use the prevalent language of the day—in which many of the basic tenets of our waking dream (our everyday lives) of 15 months ago have changed forever. And while this time of relative isolation has been a challenge, it has also brought about some new tenets and practices that we may want to hang onto or remember as important to living a balanced life.
When the period of social distancing began last March, in that remarkable moment of transition, I had the sense that the Earth was taking a giant gasp of fresh air. The phrase, “I can’t breathe” seemed to be everywhere, whether it was in reference to a man’s powerless gasping under the knee of a policeman, or the desperate pleas of someone with Covid 19 trying to get sufficient oxygen into their blood stream, but prevented from doing so by the overzealous efforts of their immune system.
Our Earth has an equivalent system to the human body’s breathing apparatus in its forests and oceans. And in recent decades, as we’ve developed ever more of the planet’s surface for agriculture and other apparently more productive forms of commerce than a slow growing forest, the Earth, too, has been having a harder time trying to breathe. Our oceans are swirling with plastic, and other species struggle to differentiate food from human detritus. There are just so many of us humans generating all manner of biproducts from our collective efforts to be productive, that it makes it difficult for other parts of the cycle of life to function properly.
There are exact parallels to these obstacles in our individual lives as well. Under the weight of all our activities and busyness, many of us haven’t been able to breathe fully either, metaphorically speaking. We’ve somehow forgotten about what really matters, and this period of shift has been reminding us, in not-so-subtle ways, where things have been, or continue to be, out of whack.
We are indeed an enormously successful species, in terms of making things happen, generating more of what we already have, and inventing new things that just days later we absolutely have to have. But what about our place in the whole fabric of individual and planetary health? We haven’t fully recognized that we are only a tiny part of a whole, and must fit into the entire picture as collaborative partners, rather than greedy over-consumers. We really have no concept of the cost of our species’ overzealous efforts to meet its desires for more of everything.
This year has given us a glimpse, if we are willing to look, into a world in which humans play a less dominant, though still hugely important and valuable role. We are very much needed, in fact, but what’s needed from us most of all is our capacity for awareness of the needs of the whole of which we are a part, as we begin to move to a perspective of we together, rather than me alone. As all who’ve read the Not So Big Life will know, this can only happen by working with our own inner worlds, to find the places where we divide and separate, instead of enjoin with, as One.
So I don’t intend for this to become a political discussion about the good or bad effects of humanity’s presence on the Earth. Like every duality, that argument will continue in perpetuity, I suspect. Instead, I want to look at what the mirror is showing us about ourselves and our own lives, when our activities are curtailed for a few months. How does your life shift? How do the lives of your friends and loved ones shift? How do the lives of your business associates shift? How do your relationships shift? How do the rituals of everyday life shift? And what are some of the unexpected behavior changes that have provided a completely different way of proceeding than you would ever have come to without this past year’s pattern breaks?
Whatever your experience of this past year, we’ve all been given a remarkable window into the assumptions we have about what constitutes a normal life. For some, this period has been unbelievably difficult, while for others it has been a respite from the normal craziness of overly packed schedules and rushing from thing to thing. By sharing our individual experiences, and looking for the insights that have helped to bring light to those aspects of our lives that were out of balance, we can collectively envision the world that is waiting in potentia for us, if we care to engage the processes of observation and inquiry with awareness.
The upcoming summer Continuing the Not So Big Life Journey Workshop will provide an opportunity to look not only at what lessons we have learned that we want to keep with us henceforth, but also at what patterns of behavior no longer serve us well, that can now be let go of. And in so doing, a new version of our collective waking dream will reveal itself, pointing to the ways in which we can help it to take shape, by living our own lives with more awareness.
In short, if we look with wisdom and discernment at the lessons just taught us, we have the opportunity to seed a much more sustaining dream of a ‘New Normal’—a world that can support and help not only our own species to thrive, but that casts us in a more harmonious relationship with the entire spectrum of life on this planet. We are not separate from, but an integral part of, this astonishingly beautiful ball we call home, and learning how to be in our own lives with a new sense of integrity and balance will allow the whole to shift right along with us.
I very much hope you’ll be able to join me, and look forward to seeing you there.
“Seeding the Dream of the ‘New Normal'”
This workshop is open only to those who have previously attended an introductory Not So Big Life Workshop. If you’re interested in attending an introductory workshop, the next one will take place September 2-4, 2021, online via Zoom, hosted by Duke Integrative Medicine. Read more about the Not So Big Life Workshop here.
Beginning Friday, July 9, 2021 at 4:30 pm Eastern and
Ending Sunday, July 11, 2021 at 1:30 pm Eastern
Online via Zoom
Space is limited, so register now to save your spot on the screen …………………………………………………………………………….
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