Inside Yoga 305 (13/7/2020)
Last a week on of my yoga students said: “I hadn’t realised how wonderful normality was until I didn’t have it.”
Spot on I thought. For so many of us, living with lockdown due to the current pandemic, this comment sums up our situation so well, because with our life’s patterns having changed so much we are now looking at back at what our lives were like with a distant longing for the good old days. Normality used to be a word which we used as a criticism of our life, because it implied a sense of boredom, tedium, and sameness, but it has now become something we liked and want back, because back then life was normal, predictable and yes, safe!
It also says a lot about how we approach our lives. We do like certainty (see blog https://www.yogabristol.co.uk/2020/04/07/not-knowing-conspiracy-theories-beliefs-certainty/ ) and predictability even if we say we don’t, and that we want adventure and excitement. We like the latter in small doses (adrenaline junkies are excluded from this generalisation) but most of the time we like to know what each day brings.
At the start of the lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic many of us probably felt the excitement of a new adventure because with our daily life being changed so much it was just like a new journey. For example, in the first few weeks I noticed how much we would stop and chat to neighbours about our experiences as if it were a holiday we were on. Novelty encourages this. Then tedium creeped into our llives!
Fast forward to recent weeks – and a time check for those who have lost track, this week we are in week 17 of lockdown – there are not so many chats about our experiences, the novelty has worn off, and we are clearly in the long haul. Is this the new normal as we are told?
This relationship with what we expect and what we are used to happening plays tricks with how we feel, but there is a another way of approaching these strange times.
In meditational advice the emphasis is on understanding the nature of change, and appreciating that we do not really know what is coming next, because we can plan, we can expect, but we do not know for sure, so we need to be ready to respond. We learn to see each new moment as fresh and new, not a repeat of the past. Even if what we do is routine.
One of the Buddha’s lessons focussed on something called, “appropriate response” as opposed to using a reactive mind state which acts without thought – lashing out with angry actions for example instead of showing self-restraint. So in this case, an appropriate response to our new normal is to neutralise the negative thoughts about what was and what could be and instead respond to what is our present.
In other words, get rid of the idea of normal.
It asks us to see each moment as an opportunity to find the most appropriate response, and this is more likely to happen if we approach each new moment as if it is the first ever, instead of assuming it is just a normal moment.
It requires training and practice to stop our own mind from racing ahead with its reactive tendencies or its desire for everything to be normal! In many ways, normality was wonderful, especially looking back via lockdown eyes, but this also implies something which was fixed and certain, and meditation teaches everything is changing, nothing is fixed, so although I understand and appreciate the comment, the advice is seeing each new moment as fresh and new helps to approach our life without this feeling of certainty and expecting it to be normal.
It is similar to the chaos theory which says be prepared to be surprised!
Normality was wonderful, and is wonderful, but perhaps it is not the same yet it is because, normality implies something fixed yet time is not, every moment is new, it is unique, so probably we can say normality does not exist! Every moment can be wonderful if we allow it.
Of course, we will say it is all very well for me to theorise our daily existence down to a philosophical viewpoint, because we do need a template to follow. Normality is and was our template to draw our lives around, and as my student pointed out, it is wonderful now that we don’t have it at present!
A thought for the week?
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