Beach in the morning
Soul food

Human frailty in a pandemic

We’ve just passed 200 days in lockdown in Melbourne. Lockdown six is current, and I couldn’t tell you when it ends. Maybe when we reach 70 per cent vaccination rates. Perhaps in spring, or even summer. Today, Australia reached 33 per cent of our eligible population being vaccinated. Victoria is 32.7 per cent. We are almost halfway there. I have been vaccinated for many weeks now. I was lucky to be suddenly eligible in Victoria.

We have all been transformed by this pandemic. Our external lives changed first, with restrictions on our personal freedoms and human interactions, and then our internal lives. As our working and living conditions changed, we all changed. As is above, so is below. Lockdown two, with 112 days of solitude, almost broke me. But routines I formed during that time have remained. And some little joys have been rekindled in lockdown six. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Meditation falls at the edge of your humanity

Before this pandemic, I believed spiritual practice would save me from the pain of being human. If I meditated enough, I would attain freedom from the human condition. I have meditated every morning for most days of the past 18 months. Guided self-compassion meditations, or metta or anapana. I know that all the love I need is inside of me. I can connect with the divine blue light in the heart of my heart. I have found blissful connection with nature. To God or the light (whatever you wish to call it) within me and without me.

But what is not inside me is external human connection. Meditation took me to the edge of my humanity, and all that was left was longing for another human being. To feel another heartbeat. Human connection is a fundamental need. There is no escaping it.

But the only heart in my home is my own. There is no partner, no dog, no child, no flatmate. And the ache for human connection can not be replaced by God, by meditation, by love. It can only be relieved by another human being. It can be softened by conversations on a screen or a phone. But complete relief only comes from real life connection. Face to face. Community. Human touch.

With discipline comes freedom

I was not a morning person before this pandemic. Ever. But I started getting up early and walking to the bay every morning before work. Day one of lockdown two in July 2020 is when it started. Initially for my mental health, but a few weeks in and I was fitter. I started running and I got fitter still. I have maintained that morning routine for all these months. I used to pound the pavement with music blaring in Balaclava. Now I run in sand to the sound of waves lapping.

Five days a week, rain or shine, I get up early and go for a run at the beach. My alarm goes off at 6.30am, by 7am I’m meditating and by 7.30am I’m out the door. I get coffee on the way home and I’m at my desk to work by 9am. I love it. In this routine, this discipline, I have found freedom.

The bay is different every single day. It is a joy to see what the new morning brings. It feels like a daily grand adventure. The bay could be wild and wavy or calm and crystal clear. You might see starfish or a stingray or dolphins, or people swimming. You meet locals who walk the same path as you every morning. The light changes every day too. Some mornings the sky is bright pink, the next the softest shade of purple. It is always beautiful. The flowers are blooming at the moment and the smell of spring is in the air. Even in our strictest lockdown, I can run for an hour by the bay. This routine has helped keep me stable and grounded all these months.

Gratitude is balm for human suffering

Practicing gratitude is a powerful tool. I do a mental gratitude list every morning as part of my daily prayers and meditation. I start with the basics that so many people do not have. I have clean water to drink, a roof over my head, food in my belly, a warm bed to sleep in. Then the absolute privileges… I am employed, I can work from home, I am healthy, I am safe, my son is safeā€¦ the list goes on. And before I have even listed five things, my whole being and mindset has shifted to one of gratefulness and humility. I’m also doing the #fms_gratitude challenge on Instagram this month. A visual reminder of one thing I’m grateful for every day.

The beauty of spiritual paradox and coming home

We are not alone in this experience, we are all living through a global pandemic. But our personal journeys and struggles are all unique. Every single one of us has walked a different path. I experienced the dark night of the soul at the end of lockdown two, as we were reopening. It was like successfully running a marathon only to collapse at the finishing line. I had reached my limit. It was shocking to witness my own human frailty. I was close to being medicated just to get through. There was nothing else I could do. Luckily a true friend saved me from drowning.

The single bubble was introduced and spring arrived and my internal world changed again. As did my external reality. My son came home from the US, against the odds, and ended up staying three months. What a delight. I spent Christmas with my family in Mornington. It is not surprising that I was drawn back here after my son flew back to his adopted home. We are alone and not alone, and both are equally true.

My heart always knew I was moving to Mornington Peninsula. And I’ve found home. It was a leap of faith to move here after lockdown three. How strange now to discover I had considered buying here six years ago. Oh, I wish I had! Your heart knows the path. Your deepest longing is where you’re headed. I contemplated the move for three years. You may not be able to see the path clearly, but you can feel it. You know it. And you will look back in wonder at how perfectly scripted the journey was to bring you home.

Loving kindness is the richest gift

I’ve had people show me incredible kindness during this pandemic. Friends, family, strangers. My best friend collecting me and taking me to her house to collapse. Her mum baking fresh granola and giving me a big jar to take home. A friend building a fence for me. A boyfriend lending me his dog. My work colleagues enabling space for authenticity, sadness and vulnerability. My son sending me a Facebook message within 30 minutes of lockdown being announced. Just to let me know he’s thinking of me. And if I want to move to weekly Skype sessions with him, I can.

I started putting fresh flowers on the coffee table in my loungeroom during lockdown two. I’ve regenerated this ritual, and my team can see them on my screen. Fresh flowers make people happy. A sweet note on a coffee cup lid. A phone call to check in. An ear, a smile, a laugh. Kindness is what is getting us through. These little random acts of thoughtfulness and compassion. They are saving all of us, one day at a time, one moment at a time. Until summer arrives again.

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