Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.Proverb
We find ourselves in a metamorphosis of sorts. Every crisis provides the culture for one. A lot of us are feeling isolated, cut off from our loved ones, and terribly uncomfortable with the uncertainty of what is to come. A darkness of fear and anxiety closes in on us periodically or incessantly. We might be mourning the loss of a job or worse, someone we love. Life as we knew it before this pandemic is over. We ask the leaders, how long is this going to last? How is the economy going to recover? When will there be a cure? What is the real mortality rate? Why weren’t we better prepared? Why don’t we have more testing available? And their answer continues to be “We don’t know”.
The unknown can be absolutely terrifying. Until we remember that we have never known. Nobody knows for certain what is going to happen in the next moment. But our brains are hardwired for survival, so we constantly look around our environment for threats to avoid or fight so we, individually and as a species, can survive. We look for ways we can control and feel safe. That we can control is the great delusion. So what if we learn to trust a little more. We’ve made it this far haven’t we? What if we let go of the need to know. Let go of the need to control. Let go of imagining the worst-case scenario over and over in our heads, and realize there are many other possibilities, including the best-case scenario. Let go of looking “out there” and using this time to cocoon ourselves and look within.
What if Divine Intelligence, God, Source, the Universe, Life, Allah, Mother Nature, whatever name you give it is forcing us, er, giving us an opportunity to reconnect to ourselves. The first responders, health care workers, the leaders, the scientists and researchers, the ones under the most pressure to save lives and stop the spread of the novel coronavirus don’t have the down time to go within and self-reflect like most of us do right now. But they are still being given an opportunity to re-connect to themselves. They are witnessing their inner heroism and altruism rise to the surface. They are seeing their selflessness and capacity for love naturally driving their actions. Race, gender, and economic status all dissolve in the face of a crisis and in the emergency room. The virus is the great equalizer that is showing us who we really are.
I feel as a society we have an underlying epidemic of disconnection, isolation, and loneliness. Although social media, technology, and a global economy give us the illusion that we are more connected than ever, the busyness that business has created has left us dis-connected from ourselves and our families. In all the research I’ve done on the human body’s capacity to heal, I have learned that without a doubt, community and connection are essential parts of healing. We simply cannot heal or be healthy alone. We are designed to live and thrive in community. Social support, feeling loved, and giving love, all dramatically increase health, wellbeing, and likelihood of healing. Science shows us that loneliness and isolation might be the biggest pre-cursor to disease and dying. Cancer patients who attend support groups survive 50% longer than those who don’t. The Blue Zones where people live the longest and healthiest lives are all founded on strong community culture. The statistics and studies go on and on.
But we can only connect to others in the capacity which we are connected to our self. We can only truly love others, as much as we truly love and accept ourselves. What a gift this time is for us to re-connect to ourselves. To turn within, self-reflect, and heal the past. What gifts of ours have we been denying because we have put them aside to raise children or work in a stable career? What callings have we ignored because they seemed impossible or way too scary? What aspects and behaviors of others trigger me, or rather, reflect back to me the aspect of myself that I have rejected and am not accepting? How can I forgive myself so that I have the capacity and heart to forgive others? What kind of language have I been speaking to myself with on a daily basis? ”You are too this, not enough this”… negative, negative, negative. What relationships or habits do I have that are no longer aligned with how I want to feel or who I want to become? What feelings am I escaping, suppressing, or repressing that are causing me to be exhausted, depressed, hungover, overweight, or sick?
This is our cocoon time. Let us not say “I am bored”. Let us not escape our feelings by scrolling, online shopping, or anesthetizing ourselves with food, drugs, or sex. Let us not get sucked into a cycle of fear constantly watching the news, or drown in overwhelm trying to sift through all of the conflicting information and conspiracy theories about Covid-19. Let us take this opportunity to turn within, connect to our breath, quiet our minds, meditate, journal, make music, art, cook, dance, pray, garden or whatever it is that reconnects us with ourselves. Let us feel all the feelings. As Brené Brown, a researcher who spent 20+ years studying shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy, says, “If you don’t name what you are feeling, if you don’t own the feelings and feel them, they will eat you alive.” And this pressure cooker of a pandemic is making it near impossible to escape the feelings.
When we slow down and practice the habit of just being with ourselves and our feelings, we begin to become self-aware. When we allow ourselves to feel the feelings, we can release and move energy that may have been trapped or stagnant for decades. We can begin to look within to see which past traumas we have been distracting ourselves or escaping from. We can pull out of the regrets and resentments of the past, or the worries and anxieties of the future , and come back to living in the present moment. It is then that we begin to collapse our true self with the one we show the world and begin to live with more integrity and authenticity. And it is then that we can TRULY connect to others. When we live with more individual integrity we can come together as a powerful community and a more integrated society. When we treat ourselves and our bodies with more reverence and respect, we can treat others and our planet with more reverence and respect. This is the paradigm of the butterfly.
We are in a metamorphosis. It is not fun, easy, or comfortable but the reward is great. The goal is integration and connection with ourselves so that we can re-integrate as one human family with one beautiful home called planet Earth. Do the inner work, look for opportunities to serve, hang out in gratitude instead of fear, and let go of trying to figure it out. We don’t need to heal it all, we don’t need to know or understand it all, we just need to become aware. We need to become aware that we are all in process and this crisis is rich with opportunity to re-connect to ourselves. Be gentle, be courageous, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. As more and more of us get our wings, the faster the old paradigm of the caterpillar will die and a beautiful new world will emerge.