To be or Not to be
“At the temple there is a poem called “Loss” carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read loss, only feel it.” ― Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha
The word ‘lament’ means ‘a passionate expression of grief or sorrow’ or ‘a song or poem that expresses sorrow for someone who has died or something that is gone’. People talk a lot about what they are ‘lamenting’, their families, friends, haircuts, pubs, shopping etc. I am not immune to a ‘Lament’ now and again. I miss a ‘cwtch’, being able to jump in my car, drive to the Brecon Beacons and immerse myself in the breathtaking landscape of our beautiful country. I miss going to the gym, I miss going to the coast, I miss going for a walk and having a coffee and a spot of lunch. I’m sure I could write a comprehensive list of things I miss, which may evoke feelings of loss, sadness, joy, reflection and happiness.
I’m willing to bet a million pounds that everyone has been affected by Covid-19, I’m so confident that I’ll promise to do your ironing for a year!! We have all lost something during lockdown, if we all acknowledge this it may help us weather the storm. This acknowledgement can bring about a sense of connection, which can have a profound effect on our lives.
In some twisted ironic way, the lockdown has shone a light on the best of us. We don’t want loss or change, but we are willing to accept it, we are unified by this shared experience. Connection during these unprecedented times is a very powerful elixir for the soul; we take for granted the things we share. A common bond that unites us is our breath. As a practitioner of mindfulness, I place my attention on the breath which gives me life, billions of people across the world breathe, this is a profound truth.
We also share our contradictions, as humans we are a paradox perhaps a walking puzzle; we like to change lots of things – our hair, cars, jobs, wallpaper, carpets and gardens. Yet, when change means a loss of something such as finance, status and certainty we resist. Your daily habits, routines, rituals and behaviours that you relied on have changed, this will take time to adjust to and adapting does bring with it a sense of discomfort or fear.
The fear of the unknown is something to test the strongest of wills. When we are in the dark we cant see, we have to use our hearing, smell and touch as we fumble around. Our ancestors would sit in caves, listening intently for any threat as it could be the difference between life or death. The dark for us humans was filled with unknowns. There are many metaphors around the experience of fear and darkness, it is possibly the place that our dreams, nightmares and imagination unfolds.
In the dark we can turn a light on, shine a light on something or have a lightbulb moment. For many of us, not being able to see something can cause us anxiety, our future is one of those things. But ask yourself, what can I see now, what am I holding, what is the sky like, what am I sitting on, what is really real – something I can feel with my hands? This is a technique to ground you in the moment, to connect with what is here now, to anchor to the present. When we resist what we are experiencing, we trigger the brain into a stress reaction.
Uncertainty can be mysterious, a place of adventure and exploration. It can also be a place fraught with worry, most of us don’t like the ‘unknown’, we prefer a predictable world which is safe. You may have thoughts that are filled with fear about the future – what’s going to happen, will we ever be safe again, will I be able to see my friends, what is going to happen?!? These thoughts can be fearful, threatening and often pessimistic. But what can we do about this?
Use your imagination as if you are a film director, set the scene, think about being on a beach, use all of your senses, sand between your toes, smell of the sea, sounds, tastes etc. You may wish you were having a coffee on the coast in your favourite cafe, or enjoying an evening walk at dusk and feel pleasure, joy or warmth. Imagine you are going to a place you enjoy, a place you have had fun, a place that you smile about. Use all your senses to immerse yourself and absorb the sensations – make it your natural retreat.
Take some time to think about the following questions; If you had the option of watching a film that you had seen 100’s of times before or a film that you had never seen before, what would you choose? What if you lived your life doing the same thing over and over again? Yes it would be safe, predictable, but over time would you get bored? In the film Groundhog Day, he knew what was coming, he had choices, he finally got the outcome he wanted by making small changes, but the biggest change he made was to himself to get what he wanted!! Perhaps this pause has given you the opportunity to ask yourself ‘what do I want in life? What do I value? What changes would I like to make?’ Sometimes, not changing can bring us more discomfort than taking the leap of faith.
By Paul Griffiths