I hope things are going well in your world. Here, at Sunset Beach, Alberta, Canada, we have experienced an unusually vibrant spring and an early heat-wave to kick off summer. Here, nothing seems normal. Nature is busy displaying its beauty and brilliance. I can’t recall a year with as many birds and bird song as we experienced this spring.
I find my observation of the brilliance interesting, and I question if it’s truly any different or if each year I say and feel the same way. But upon further reflection, we have never had more than one pair or Northern Orioles around, and we usually only see 1 pair of goldfinches at the feeder. This year we have many orioles and goldfinches! Any many other species that seem to be in greater abundance than ever before. In fact, last week I had two of my live outdoor qigong practices interrupted by bears!
This brings me to the topic of this blog post. As things begin to open up again and people start resuming many of the activities that have been on hold for over a year, I wonder about how you feel about ‘returning to normal’.
During the pandemic, many of us experienced a forced pause.
A pause from busy-ness, travel, going to the office, commuting, seeing friends and family, in-person classes, retreats, workshops, and trainings, dining out, and social events. Many of us experienced loss and isolation. Many of us used this pause to go inward and look inside of ourselves; and for some of us this was intentional, for others it just happened. And for those of us who looked inside, some were challenged by what they found and others were surprised at how much they enjoyed self-reflection. But I think all of us re-evaluated our priorities.
Mountain Man and I have chosen a fairly secluded life.
We live in the country and we both work remotely. In all honestly, other than travel, our lives did not change much during lockdown. In fact, my business grew and I felt more connected to my on-line community than ever before. I was (am) also healing from an injury and surgery to my knee, which was some sweet divine timing (i.e., the kids were home to help and I didn’t miss out on anything).
But now as freedom slowly returns, I find myself a bit hesitant. During this past year, life was simple, and surprisingly, richer than it was before. Life slowed down and it felt like time did too.
My daily routine involves coffee, meditation/qigong, work, walking/gardening, physiotherapy, preparing a nice meal, reading or watching a show, and then bed. I am more focused on my health and wellness than I was pre-pandemic. I don’t worry about my house being clean all the time, or not being invited to things (=no FOMO), or getting too busy. I have more healthful rituals, I’m more aware of my emotions, I’m more mindful in my activities, I feel more present, more grounded, and more connected than ever before.
So as the world around me gets busier, I want to bask in the slowness and savor the simplicity.
I want to enjoy more being and less doing. One thing that resonated with many of my students during a recent in-class discussion was the topic of relationships. Pre-COVID, many of us did things with others—or participated in activities—out of habit or because it was better than doing nothing or we liked to be busy. But now that we’ve been away from these activities (and people), many of us are questioning whether or not we want to return to them; we are questioning if we want to go back to the old ‘normal’. I know for me, the old normal is no longer acceptable.
The practices of spending time, killing time, or wasting time don’t interest me; nor does being busy.
I was feeling uncomfortable and unsettled, and it took me a while to figure out why. You see, I strive to have a peaceful life. I’ve worked hard over the past five years to develop and grow my online business. I was used to being busy all the time trying to make it work. Then after a few years, it started to work. Now it is working! Which means I don’t have to work long hours. How amazing!! But I’m used to working long hours. So when I found myself with more time in recent months, I felt like something was missing. I felt like I should be working. So I would create new projects, ideas, or offers. Then I would be busy again, working long hours. See the cycle?
I had an epiphany a few weeks ago. I didn’t need to work more, I needed to live more! I felt guilty that I wasn’t working more. And due to our current social restrictions, I noticed I had more time to myself. It didn’t feel familiar. And then I realized, this is what peace and spaciousness feel like! I don’t need to be busy working or filling time, I need to be enjoying time…enJOYing! This was a big one!
So off I went and I found myself in the garden, on bike rides and forest walks, reading more books (even fiction!), mowing the grass, clearing out clutter, meditating longer, and feeling lighter. I am still not used to this way of enjoying time, but I am getting better at it, and better at not feeling like I should be working. Which brings me to the new normal.
I don’t know what normal is, but I do know that I don’t want to go back to the way things were before.
I want to be more intentional, with both my time and my energy, and the people who I chose to spend them with. Social media is not the best place to hang out. Outside in nature, doing the things I love with the people I love and who love me (or alone if I chose), is the best place for me. I will be teaching a new Level 1 class, but aside from that and my weekly classes, I am pausing.
I’m sure you’ve discovered some silver linings to this pandemic in your own life. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories from my online community. I feel like I’m coming off a cleanse of sorts and now I want to be very particular and discerning about what I want to put into my body, or my life in this case, so I don’t ruin all my hard work. I want to protect my spaciousness and maintain this conscious awareness. I want to be with like-minds. I want meaningful conversations and experiences. I want to experience more meaning in the things I do. And, I want to travel again. I am more aware of the energetic and environmental costs of flying around and between countries for meetings, trainings, conferences, etc. So much can be done online and done well (like teaching qigong and meeting with clients!). But seeing the beauty of this world and connecting to other lands has become even more of a priority to me. Not just yet however.
For now, I am going to savor what I’ve created given the circumstances of this year.
Even my daughter Claire recently commented that this past year was one of her best. At 22, she experienced a healthful and more mindful year. There were no bars or raves to keep her up late, her anxiety dissolved because she wasn’t worried about what she was missing or if she was invited or what was happening without her, she focused on her university studies and achieved near-perfect grades, she secured a great job, she spent more time at home here with us, she moved into her first apartment (solo), she started exercising and learned to meal plan, cook, and enjoy good food.
It’s amazing to me that when you slow down enough and look, you see amazing things that have been there all along.
When I think of the vibrant spring filled with bird song, I believe this year I was more connected to nature; more observant and engaged. So perhaps the birds and vibrancy weren’t any different than in previous years, but I was different. I am the one who has changed. By slowing down, simplifying, and staying put for a year (and a half), I observed, loved, and appreciated my surroundings (and those close to me) more than ever before. What a gift to feel this connected to a place, to land, to sounds, to sunrises, to green leaves and blue skies, to the deer and their fawns, to the fox and her kits, to flower blossoms, peas germinating, and even to the bears who’ve passed through (keep it moving, nothing to see here!).
This year-long pause has led to a deeper connection to myself and to the universe.
My wish is that you are also more aware of the deeper meaning life holds; how important love and loved ones are; how simple it is to help and support one another; and how anger and judgement have no place in health, peace, and healing. I hope you too have learned more about yourself and brought in some healthful practices to help you maintain your energy and sense of peace as life resumes. But I don’t see it as a resuming or returning to normal. We are entering a new normal. It can be up to us to decide how we want to feel, what we are going to experience, if we want to keep it simple and go slow, and who we are going to share our lives with. Life is precious, so is time, so is nature, and so are you.
I hope your new normal is everything you want it to be.
I’d love to hear in the comments what’s changed for you. I know you are feeling this too.
Sue Crites MSc, NCP Holistic Healing & Qigong
Spring Forest Qigong Instructor & Energy Coach