Take a moment before reading this post and try to bring yourself back in time about a month ago.
Remember life in early March 2020?
Do you need an old Delorean and plutonium to help make that journey?
Remember a time before social distancing and hoarding toilet paper became our daily reality?
Remember when things felt…normal?
March wasn’t that long ago and yet life changed instantly for every single human being living on Earth due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
This sudden, unplanned jolt makes it easy for anyone to become overwhelmed or slip toward despair.
As silly as it sounds, in this crazy time I’ve found comfort in a lyric from my favorite band, Phish. (Yeah, I know.) It comes from a song called “The Lizards” and goes, “the trick was to surrender to the flow.”
In reality, that’s all we can ever do in life — no matter how Type A — is surrender to its flow. A global pandemic with no definite endpoint only heightens this awareness. In a yogic sense, the niyama of Ishvarapranidhana comes into mind as right now all we can do is surrender to the universal spirit (or nature), while practicing social distancing and washing our hands.
An extreme example like the coronavirus pandemic can provide useful insights. It reminds us no matter how hard we try, an individual cannot control the way of the world. We cannot control the rising or setting sun. All we really can do is be present, witness and go along for the ride. There is, oddly, comfort in this.
Consider the alternative — trying to butt our heads against the reality of life in Spring 2020 wishing for things to “go back to normal” — and creating even more stress.
Instead of looking at what you’ve lost due to the pandemic, look at what you’ve potentially gained.
This period of isolation also affords us all time to pause and reflect. Perhaps this means devoting more time to self-study (Svadhyaya) or finding contentment in a Netflix marathon (Santosha). The time away from modern life’s busyness affords us an opportunity to practice or examine the purity (Saucha) of our body and mind. In a time we’re not supposed to do very much outside the house, a strong discipline of Tapas is important.
On a more personal level, isolation gives yogis (and teachers) a little more time to focus on their own practice. For me, that’s meant a lot more time devoted toward meditation and pranayama — elements of yoga I often don’t have time to explore when I’m seemingly doing eight things at once or leading a faster-paced workout type yoga class.
There’s time to go deep into poses and not worry about the clock. If I want to hang out in child’s pose for five minutes — who’s going to stop me? If I’m taking a class on Zoom, why not use a block when my ego might keep me from doing that in a studio class? If I want to sit, close my eyes and breath, why not? If I want to let out a loud sigh or an indescribable sound during the practice, there’s no-one on the mat next to me to give a cross look.
Surrender to the flow.