Lockdowns are an Opportunity, Not a Punishment

“You have not much future [here]. It will happen this way. You may be walking. Maybe the first sunny day of the spring. And a car will slow beside you, and a door will open, and someone you know, maybe even trust, will get out of the car. And he will smile, a becoming smile. But he will leave open the door of the car and offer to give you a lift.” While this line is from the 1975 classic spy thriller, “Three Days of the Condor,” it also describes how many of us will now contract COVID-19.

A systemic failure of leadership and an abdication of personal responsibility mean COVID-19 is now coming for most of us. Like a slow fitting noose, unabated the virus circled states, then communities, followed by social circles and now friends and family. Christmas travel will lead to millions of positive tests and over one hundred thousand deaths in January alone. Meaning you will likely contract the terminal illness from “someone you know, maybe even trust.”

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Now that a stimulus has finally passed the high rates of community spread dictate further lockdowns. The spring closures were both unexpected and unfamiliar. Most people spent their time partying and then panicking. The impending doom hangover only left them mentally deficient to deal with the economic reshuffling, social unrest, and divisive election that followed. Even the thought of another lockdown has most people looking for the highest ledge.

However, a small minority of people have made the most of both the lockdowns and COVID in general. Either by choice or chance, this group’s existence has improved profoundly. Renowned spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle found his path to enlightenment by sitting on a park bench for two years. A select few realized COVID, and the accompanying restrictions were their park bench.

Before COVID, the world’s psyche was already torn and frayed. Forget trying to keep up with the Joneses; trying to keep up was hard enough. The combination of technology, instant gratification, and greed made even the thought of disconnection costly. “And the world don’t stop/there is no time for cracking up, believe me, friend.”

But the world did stop. And most people spent the time vacillating between hope and fear. Unable to hide in everyday distractions, many had to finally face their mental game of ping pong. This constant paralysis by analysis resulted in a missed opportunity during the spring closures.

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When Things Fall Apart” by American Buddhist Nun Pema Chödrön is a double entendre. The title references the present-day situation. But it also addresses what happens when a person’s thinking falls apart. The book is instructive on the mechanics of meditation. But meditation alone is not magic. To be successful, meditation requires a method. The book outlines how you can train your mind to overcome those thoughts of hope and fear: the thoughts that have unknowingly held you hostage your whole life.

To be effective, meditation requires consistent practice. Another problem is most people don’t know the difference between a routine and a practice. A routine is what you do; a practice is who you are. The problem with routines is they invariably get interrupted. COVID is a case in point. You can meditate in short intervals. Given the lack of time constraint, you’ll have plenty of time to develop a meditation practice.

Once your thinking clears, you can make better decisions around adopting other practices. While most people gained the ten COVID kilos, some saw an opportunity to address their diet. Again the pace of life pre-virus often dictated that people put sustenance over common sense. That will not be the case over the next few months. Start with a simple rule: if you don’t buy unhealthy food, you can’t eat it. Studies have long linked mental and physical health.

Once you start thinking clearer and feeling better physically, the final piece is exercise. Again an exercise routine will not last, but a practice will. Meaning as long as you commit to doing some physical activity every day, you are far more likely to continue. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy doing for some set time, even if it’s five minutes. As gyms remain superspreader locations, search youtube.com for home workouts. Yoga is a great low impact place to start.

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The above may sound like an oversimplification. In reality, it’s not, but getting started may prove difficult. If you can find the discipline to use the downtime long enough to start seeing and feeling the results, you will likely continue. The satisfaction of using instead of doing the lockdown time will be a reward in and of itself. However, you will likely find that developing these practices will motivate you to undertake other projects you had previously deluded yourself into thinking were actually possible. Knowing all the while, you never had the time or opportunity to undertake new challenges. At a minimum, you’ll have the confidence and ability to handle whatever comes next.

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