by Sarah Tolmie
With the bush fires all calmed by March it seemed like finally we could exhale with relief and rebuild and resume lives and then the Coronavirus pandemic arrived.
As I write this now in mid-March, by the time you read this in April, who knows whether the escalation has happened or subsided or remains. Did the community tip into corrective action in time or not? Did we ‘flatten’ the infection curve?
All the information so far suggests we will be ‘in this’ on high alert for months, requiring significant behaviour modifications and changes to our lives, and the aftermath will be a long recovery back to another ‘new normal’.
This new decade is sure bringing uncertainty and challenge. None of us really know what this ‘new normal’ future might look like. For now, it really does feel like we are deep into survival times and the stress and anxiety is real. All families are being affected – mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, relationally and spiritually.
It’s hard not to slide into a bit of fatalistic thinking sometimes and wonder if Mother Nature is resorting to her own cosmic correction. It’s hard not to be pulled into the beast of panic and mob thinking. And in these times of extreme we are seeing both the best and worst in human behaviour.
How do we stay calm? How do we reassure our family and children when we don’t know ourselves what’s around the corner? The challenge is to maintain informed awareness and hold steady.
Information is knowledge but only the right information will save lives. Just like with the bushfires, we need one trusted source of correct and timely advice that everyone has access to follow. Get updated regularly but don’t saturate yourself in the media circus.
My advice for what it is worth is to tune into the ABC. It is the first place that the Government go also to distribute necessary public information. Now is not the time to rabbit hole into a bizarre Facebook group or follow a small localised group of friends for your information.
Holding steady? Well that is a holistic task of deeper and more personal reflection.
Being in a prolonged ‘survival’ mode can place us in a chronic state of ‘fight, flight and freeze’ response where our sympathetic nervous system goes into flood. What will be asked of us as we face months of ongoing developments is to bring far greater regulation and care to our nervous system and our holistic wellbeing. We need to become masterful at soothing our stress and tilting back into a parasympathetic rhythm which is our natural healing and whole state of wellbeing.
Some of the things that might usually be our ‘go to’ de-stressors might not be available to us – travel, parties, holidays to name just a few. Instead, with the isolation and distancing I think one of the most important skills and necessities in the coming months will be for people to learn how to still their mind and create inner peace.
This is not to be confused with ‘positive thinking’, far from it. In fact, trying to force positive thinking when you feel insecure and unsafe or scared is in and of itself an unsettling and stressful thing to try to do. It is more important to have a quiet mind than a positive mind.
This is where I have what I think might be an unusual but powerfully successful suggestion. It is a technique I utilise regularly with my coaching and therapy clients with great results. It is…drumroll…ritual and prayer!
Stay with me. It is not really that weird and it doesn’t have to be something of religious origins, although great if you bring that to it too. There is science behind this.
Ritual and prayer help to bring soothing and silence to the mind. Ritual is the art of creating meaning. Ritual is about bringing symbols, actions and intention to something that is bigger than you can personally solve and it can help release excess energy wrapped up in that narrative. It is something you can engage your family and loved ones to share with you too, either in person, and/or in spirit!
I find prayer, in particular, a far quicker and easier way for me to reach a meditative state (particularly if my mind is prone to stress or worry). It is easier than trying to empty your mind and focus on the breath!
Prayer helps to find words that create intention and focus designed to express your feelings, and find a soothing antidote thought to the feelings. Saying the words out loud too is extra helpful but not required. It makes it similar to the power of chanting, in that healing words can resonate in the body and bring soothing.
Deepak Chopra says that with prayer, or healing mantras, chanting or even spiritual song, we can bring silence to our biology or in other words, flick the switch from sympathetic nervous system (our stress response) back into parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and repair response). This is the kind of healing, self-regulation and return to healthy homeostasis we need.
Finally, prayer is something we don’t need to do alone, we can share it as a practice with others, and in fact, when we do it, we don’t feel alone. Prayer creates connection. That feeling of connection might be just the most important essential antidote to these times. Through prayer we can engage our connection with and to others. It is actually something we CAN do for our loved ones, the community and the world. You may never know for sure an ‘outcome’ of a prayer, but you are achieving something beyond a result, by simply relinquishing the power of the “I” and the “ME” as the most important priority and returning your focus to a sense of shared community, a “WE”. Prayer connects us heart, mind and spirit to a greater collective entity and intelligence. In times like now, that may be our true saving, returning to the power of community and collaboration as our pathway back to strength.
I wouldn’t mind that being our ‘new normal’!
Here’s one to get you started. Light a candle. Find a peaceful and beautiful place to sit. Invite others to join you in person, virtually or even spiritually. Turn your phone off. Centre your breath and focus into your heart.
Now let us pray:
A Prayer for Calm in Uncertain Times.
Today I am feeling the swirl of fear and uncertainty. I feel anxious and helpless.
I pray to life and love and ask for Divine help to soothe these feelings.
I know I am not alone in feeling this way.
I pray for all those who feel this with me, for their soothing too.
Even though these feelings are real and I honour them,
help me to remember I am more than these feelings.
If anything, these feelings are simply here to remind me to remember
what I can be sure about; what I can find safety in;
what I can trust and what I can do to make a difference.
Spirit, help me to focus now on all I have to be grateful for and can trust in –I give thanks for the sun and moon; air, water and earth; day and night
I give thanks for the love of my family, the life in my body;
the desires still alive in my soul, the memories still strong in my heart.
Spirit, help me to remember I am not alone.
Help me to trust in the safety of community.
Help me to recognise the care I feel for others is universal
and I can trust in others to care for me too.
Right now Spirit, soothe my body, heart, mind and soul.
Send a light beam of love into my heart…
…help me to imagine the light pulsing through my heart and my entire body, sending healing…
…as I now send an energetic beam of light radiance out into the world…
…connecting me with the spirit of humanity…
…sending the world love and blessings.
Spirit of light, of love, hold US all strong and steady.
Steady us into hope and renewal; into restoration and repair.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Please let it be done.
Sarah Tolmie assists people to celebrate, navigate, grow and heal through all their life & love transitions. Her practice focuses on love & relationships, families & children; life success & fulfilment, illness, death & grief. As an Holistic Celebrant Sarah creates profound and meaningful ceremonies for all life & love events. Sarah is also a Marriage Therapist, Bespoke Funeral Director and End-of-Life Consultant. You can visit her website www.sarahtolmie.com.au and Facebook page at Sarah Tolmie – Life & Love.