Living through CoVid lockdowns in Melbourne during 2020 & 2021 has been a rollercoaster, or as it is often called….a corona-coaster, of emotions.
During this time, I have had the privilege of supporting leaders and staff in a couple of primary schools here in Melbourne. With one in particular we had done some work, what seemed like only days before, on welcoming students back to school after one lockdown and we were into another.
As we returned to school, it was easy to discuss the difficulties and challenges of lockdown, as well as the gifts this time had given us. Staff identified the ‘gifts’ of strong collegiate support and bonds, greater skill development in moving things online, increased planning time, a slower-paced curriculum, and creating new and fun interactions with students. Strangely there were lots of gifts to discuss and to celebrate.
Another year of lockdowns
This second year of lockdowns has brought different distress along with quiet confidence. More skill development as they shifted from twice a day check-ins, to more face-to-face teaching time and running specialist groups online. There was a sense of competence, having survived before, we can do this again, but people have become fatigued. It’s not that they can’t do this – they don’t want to do this. People were fighting their own lack of willingness to force themselves to keep going.
Small group discussions on how they were coping, what were they feeling about another adjustment and an unknown future, revealed that some were grateful for the space, the experience, and the support. Others expressed feeling punished, trapped, and a sense of loss. Lockdown fatigue was really settling in (and for me too).
Throughout these past 18months my own mindfulness practice has struggled and has also been my saviour. Here are some of the key learnings I have gleaned through my own introspection as well as the wisdom of listening to others:
Nothing is predictable
Accepting the constant change of life is the basic tenet of mindfulness. We come to this moment with a Beginner’s Mind because we have never been here before. If we hold on to only what we want to happen, this clinging to expectations will be our own undoing. Adapting to constant changes in restrictions and adjusting to a roadmap out, it is palpably clear that nothing is predictable. I have marveled at how our community leaders including politicians, hospitals, and educational leaders have had to be flexible and adaptable on a minute’s notice.
Nothing is permanent
Things change. The more present we are, the more we see this. This awareness helps us to develop confidence in dealing with change, whether it is good or challenging, we expect change of some sort and we’re ready for it. While we can mourn for our loss of life as we knew it, when we accept the impermanence of life, we adapt more easily. Sometimes holding on to how we think things should be, we are creating our own suffering.
Connect with compassion
Bringing a compassionate view to this moment helps us look with a wider perspective. Letting go of feelings of deprivation, isolation, and persecution, we can see that we are more alike than different. This is also a form of self-care. When I take time to realise we all feel this way at some time, I know that I am human and can get through this. My mindfulness practice has stolen time-out of the focus on lockdowns and what I am being deprived of, and brought me back to the gratitude of this very moment – the new blossom or sound of Spring rain, a rainbow, my health, a warm bed, a safe house, those who love me.
Value what is in front of you
If CoVid lockdowns have taught me/us anything, it has helped us value what we have. Through mindfulness we see the beauty in our CoVid situation – last year it was people singing on balconies, food drops to those who can’t get to the supermarket, online family catch-ups or trivia with friends. This year we have continued to find novel ways to truly connect like bringing humour to how we take out the garbage or street concerts. We appreciate our ability to walk in our communities safe and secure, and the pleasure our furry friends can bring us when we are feeling down.
The ultimate similarity between what CoVid is teaching us and practicing mindfulness though has to be, to value this moment as if your life depends on it – because it literally does!
Living life as best you can, to feel a sense of satisfaction that you brought your best self to this moment, because life can easily be torn away from you.
A mindful life allows us to bend with the pressures, not to break. To accept and ‘lean-in’ and to shine, no matter what the circumstance. Humans are resilient when we band together, support, and connect with each other. We are social beings and we are all waiting to be able to reconnect and be social once more, not with a screen, but in the flesh. For the time being, I am focusing on being present, being grateful, being here.