It’s been a funny time recently. To say the least.
Currently, here in the U.K., like most of the countries across the globe, we have quite a lot going on.
Namely Covid, Brexit and Christmas. But also climate change, economic hardships and inequality issues that are more visible on our planet as we all try to climb out of the black hole that has been 2020.
Personally, I’ve been trying to stay grounded, As I do every festive season. But with the soundtrack of coronavirus adding a particularly wearing element to the usual proceedings.
I just feel so grateful to have my children home from school for the holiday and to have a warm home to keep them safe within.
Largely, my overarching feeling throughout the year has been one of gratitude. It’s gratitude that sees me through the tough days and it is gratitude that enables me to fall asleep at night.
As a practitioner of yoga and meditation, it’s breathing and gratitude that fuel my movements, both on and off the mat.
But I know there’s been something else bubbling away under the surface.
And, I think, the combination of having a break from the treadmill of the school term, and, also, the recent high-octane announcement after announcement here in U.K. (including last-minute Christmas changes and news of new virus strains) has enabled me to get in touch with it a bit more.
All mainly because, after a week of particularly hard nights nursing a sick child, I too started experiencing symptoms, and was forced to stop and face fear.
I had forgotten the worry that accompanies the sensation of ‘coming down with something’ in this age. It last happened back in March when my children both fell ill. On both occasions, hoping it wasn’t you know what.
At Christmas, especially.
Although we all know that the virus, nor the leagues of all the other issues and challenges that so many of face, know (nor care) that it is Christmas.
Feelings of anger at how and why others seems to be so dismissive and complacent about working to control the virus, and anger towards the way this has all panned out, were clearly there too.
Feeling fatigued and fragile, I stumbled across a song made by children in Leeds. It broke my heart open, and it allowed me to cry.
Afterwards, I realised how what I had done, was an example of utilising Tara Brach’s (someone who I listen to a lot) method of R.A.I.N.
After all, feeling emotions at an emotional time; a time of not knowing how best to honour Christmas safely, responsibly and compassionately is a tricky one.
I know I’m not alone when I say it isn’t clearcut. I have aged grandparents, one of which is probably very close to dying and highly unlikely to be here next year. I have parents who work incredibly hard to care for them, and who I can’t see too often because of the chain of vulnerability. As well as that, I feel for a friend of mine who works in the NHS on the frontline, so I hear firsthand what’s really happening. These issues frustrate me because there isn’t anything I can do to aid the unease felt by of these people who I care for.
And then I myself, now, am displaying symptoms – so I’m feeling the fragility of life, and thinking of the thousands who have lost theirs during this pandemic.
So, fearing that my head would explode if I tried to research the ‘progression of covid symptoms’ again or watch the news, I instead found a quiet space and went through R.A.I.N. with Tara.
And here is what I deduced.
Recognise: This involves noticing the feelings. So, for me, it was primarily fear, anger and sadness.
Allow: To allow is to give it a name and a place, and apply understanding as to why it is there. As Tara Brach says ‘this belongs’. Clearly, this is a time when we are all feeling strong emotions, such as: the restraint of living with covid restrictions; a fear of illness; anxiety about brexit and how this may affect the economy; realising the reality of climate change; usual Christmas triggers; anticipating the new year; seeing more and more desperate people, across the globe living in all sorts of horrendous situations, needing help.
It would be a bit strange if this didn’t affect us. Tara often talks about the ‘limbic hijack’ that we are all experiencing.
So, in a nutshell, it’s okay not to feel okay.
Investigate – This one took a little more time, but I had to see what was underneath the emotions of fear, sadness and anger – and when I did, I began to feel it all, in my heart and in my head, and I cried.
And I realised, I am just so sad about the way things are. Echoing Tara Brach herself when she described herself as feeling “a deep grief” for the world.
Nurture – By holding space for myself, compassionately, to work through these feelings was an act of nurturing myself.
As usually happens after practice, I felt a lightness and a better ability to live with it all.
And it reminded me of how important regular practice is.
Especially when the world appears to be speeding out of control and when I’m at a loss of what to do.
Then, as I made my way around my home, I was reminded by the loving Christmas cards and sentimental messages of best wishes that we’ve received this Christmas, of just how much love there is around me.
The waves of fear and separation will always continue to happen. It’s the human condition. But by staying inquisitive, honest and open, over time, we can get used to the feeling of pausing, and by doing so, we won’t get so swept away by our feelings.
I share this in the hope that this technique could offer help to others who may also have complex feelings this festive season.
In the words of someone I saw on TV recently (and if I’m lucky to get well and stay safe) I am ‘calling it a day on 2020’.
Merry Christmas. Stay healthy. Love to all. X