Recently I have begun to wonder, what might happen next? The simplicity of the question doesn’t lead to an easy answer; there is no fairy-tale ending, the story is full of twists and turns. After navigating the strict lockdown period for about 2 months and finally being allowed a bit more freedom, I find myself confused. What is ‘normal’ anymore? How much is it socially acceptable to travel, browse shops and visit friends? It’s not that COVID-19 is a good thing, it’s a disaster and I wish it weren’t happening. But it is happening, and within that reality, we are being forced to reflect on the path we’re on and where it leads, both as individuals and as a society. So, I’m trying to manage the social media expectations to ‘do more’, ‘be more productive’, ‘see more people’ and instead acknowledge that there is still a global pandemic going on. The practice of being more mindful, self-aware and present is more significant than ever — but of course, that is easier said than done. As with many situations, a compromise is needed, trying to put yourself in control of your own narrative.
There are many benefits of practicing mindful meditation, it can reduce anxiety, improve concentration, aid sleep patterns, reduce the brain’s distractions and increase body satisfaction to name but a few. During the lockdown period I downloaded the Calm and Headspace apps that provide guided meditations, sleep stories and music. Using a combination of both, I have tried to invest at least 5-10mins a day (often before bed), to take some dedicated time for myself. I have to admit at first it does feel a little strange, listening to some person on your phone telling you to ‘breathe’, but 9 times out of 10 after I have tuned in, I feel more relaxed, calm and self-aware of my mind and body. The opposite state of busyness however, is not an evil to be completely avoided and there are many reasons why we feel the need to fill our schedules with such missionary zeal, why we busy ourselves with doing. Most people, myself included, enjoy the sense of achievement, productivity, and control doing gives us. I often find myself wanting to be doing rather than being, because let’s be honest – the present moment can be daunting. It can feel both empty and intimidating. If I can focus on the future or look at the past, I can momentarily side-step the present. The essence of being is difficult to describe, but ultimately, I think it’s about acknowledging what is without wanting or trying to change it.
As lockdown has forced us to remove ourselves from the busy culture of doing, it has given us a chance to become aware of the fullness and intricacies of our own lives. We become aware of what is truly important to us, what relationships we really value and what passions drive us to succeed. We can also learn valuable lessons from unexpected places and people, living with my own four-legged mindfulness coach – my dog, Muffin, has reminded me of 3 key things:
- The importance of a good routine
A good routine provides us with structure and discipline, which helps to not just let the time slip by – falling into a Netflix and snack oblivion. Muffin thrives off routine, such as his morning and evening walks and his pre bed-time sandwich (yes, that is an actual thing). His routine has become a part of the family routine, which helps to maintain some sense of ‘normal’.
2. There is a lot to be grateful for
Snacks. Walks. Playing fetch. Cuddles. All of these things are all met with such gratitude and joy, he acts as if these are the most excellent experiences of his life. That type of gratitude is contagious, he reminds me to appreciate what and who I have in my life.
3. It is okay to stop and rest.
Muffin might be old and therefore tire quickly, but the continued importance to stop and ‘do nothing’ for a few hours can not only can leave you feeling refreshed but is sometimes all you the energy for – and that’s ok.
These small, yet important lessons can help us during this strange period and in our everyday lives. By taking a mindful approach to what might happen next?, acknowledging the balance of doing and being, and learning from those around us – we are ready to face whatever might happen next, because frankly no one knows!