This ongoing COVID-19 situation is a prime example of something that can threaten or erode a person’s sense of comfort, safety, belonging, and fulfilment to varying degrees and at different times. In the last blog entry, awareness of one’s breath was addressed as a first step to regaining those valuable feelings. The difference between this first step and ‘step one’ of a true baked-in-the-kitchen recipe is that in the kitchen you don’t expect to come back to step one until the next time you decide to create your culinary masterpiece. In our process, it is not uncommon to return to step one every time we falter, or every time that we pull ourselves out of the present moment with worries about the future, distressing feelings about the past, or both. In that way, it is more like getting up after falling off a bike, and rebalancing ourselves so that we can continue on our way.
Bringing awareness to one’s breath is to bring awareness to the present moment, and the harsh truth is that the present moment is not always a pleasant one. Yet it is generally easier to deal with just that one moment than to deal with past or future concerns on top of that, or to exert our energy in efforts to deny or otherwise push away what we are experiencing.
Once in this present moment, we can ask ourselves what we need from a more secure place. At this point, we need to know that we are safe. If we don’t feel safe, we don’t venture out. Quite the opposite: we tend to shut down, like a turtle retreating into its shell. Because if we don’t feel safe, we will retreat to where we can feel safe. Feeling safe means being able to extend ourselves and explore our surroundings, including interacting with others, embracing with relative certainty while doing so with the idea that “I will be okay”. In other words, this (whatever you are doing) is not seen as a threat to you, either physically or mentally. With that safety, we can experience comfort, belonging, and fulfilment. Perhaps not all at once, but piece by piece, building it up and reinforcing that sense of safety for ourselves.
The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote of three questions that children’s author Jon Muth reinterpreted in a book for children—of all ages, we dare add—called, appropriately enough, The Three Questions. In that telling, the three questions were (minor spoiler alert ahead): When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? While Tolstoy offered those thoughtful questions, we would like to offer our own three questions for your consideration.
- What brings you comfort? Perhaps what brings you comfort is knowing that you are physically safe, knowing where your next meal is coming from, having the consistency of the roof under which you live, of routine, or of knowing that loved ones are safe.
- What helps you to have a sense of belonging? Some examples may be reaching out to family and friends via social media, posting online to larger communities you can connect with, and helping in your own physical communities to others who are in need.
- What helps you to feel a stronger sense of fulfilment? Many people have said that they will do something when they have the time. Could this be that time? What hobbies or interests can you explore for a little while? What can you do to be creative, which is to say: what can you do, what can you create, that you haven’t done or created before? What can you dare to do that is different from what you have done before and that fulfils you?
These things are not necessarily easy, and we are all adjusting to a new way of doing things. Both during this COVID-19 situation and when it passes, strip away the distractions of life and bring awareness back to those three pieces: What brings you comfort? What helps you to have a sense of belonging? What helps you to feel a stronger sense of fulfilment?