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In my previous communications, I very briefly touched on topics such as choice, acceptance, pausing, reactivity versus responsiveness, opening to new possibilities, cultivating awareness and attention, riding the uncertainty wave, mindfulness, using the breath as an anchor, reconnecting with our being mode and returning to our senses in a kind, compassionate, non-judgemental way. I am aware that for some people even the thought of turning towards and/or changing the way we relate to the COVID-19 challenges may be easier said than done.

I am conscious of the fact that some of us are already in the teeth of the devastation, having suffered great losses i.e., personal, family, financial, professional, occupational, whilst others are fearing and anxiously anticipating these realities. I am also mindful that all our contexts and experiences are different. Some of us are still in lockdown, others have just entered lockdown whilst others are yet to experience lockdown when some are coming out of lockdown. Some people are more fortunate than others in terms of their environments, resources and support structures. For some, the pain associated with the COVID-19 challenges may be physical or emotional or both. Whichever scenario we find ourselves in, there we are, and for each one of us our coping will be different, shaped by our previous life experiences (environment/nurture) and who we are as individuals (innate being/nature). Some may experience the ‘pain’ as suffering whilst others may not. Pain and suffering are different, pain (physical and mental) is unavoidable, it is what it is, whilst suffering is our response to pain, the meaning we attribute to is. Suffering, more so than the pain, is the thing that really gets us down and leaves us feeling miserable.

None of us is exempt from experiencing pain but we can avoid suffering. Whether we experience the mental or physical pain of the effects of the COVID-19 crisis as suffering will depend on our relationship to the pain. Some people get caught up in their own story and thoughts around the pain, by ruminating about the specific incident or manifestation or circumstances and eventually they become victims of their own reactions. Our reactions to the pain itself, is our biggest challenge.

By practicing mindfulness, we learn to notice how our reactions affect our emotional well-being and we also learn ways in which we can avoid being caught up in the stories we build around pain which further compounds our suffering.

So, when I set out to put us in touch with ourselves, through suggesting we pause and bring awareness to our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and senses and how we relate to ourselves, I did so intentionally. I wanted us to notice our reactivity to things and people around us, the busyness of our minds, the busyness of our lives, our lack of truly knowing and understanding ourselves and the impact thereof on ourselves and others.

If we are not able to reduce our reactivity in situations and respond in an informed, intentional manner with kindness and compassion towards ourselves, we will struggle to extend this way of being in the world to others, and right now the world needs kindness and compassion more than ever. Cultivating kindness and compassion starts with each one of us. It starts by bringing awareness to our thoughts and actions and awareness to our tendency to react rather than respond.

If you have not yet tried being kind and compassionate to yourself, this is an invitation to return and ponder on my previous messages.

On that note of extending an invitation, I would like to leave you with this beautiful, thought provoking poem by David Whyte.

Be safe, Be healthy,

Be kind, Be compassionate,

Be mindful.