How can we re-enter the world post-lockdown in a way that is chosen, powerful and reflective of our growth in the last year?
This is the question I have been inviting supervisees, clients and most of all my Nourish & Nurture (online women’s wintering) group as we approach loosening lockdown restrictions in the UK.
We were swept into lockdown without choice or time to prepare and plan. Exiting lockdown need not repeat this pattern. We have time to reflect and to consider, “what do I want to return to?“, which aspects of so-called ‘real life’ we no longer wish to engage in, and maybe more importantly, “which aspects of lockdown do I wish to retain, what has nurtured me?”
As I sit here with the windows open and the birdsong seemingly louder than it has ever been, the buds on the tree that has been my companion for the last four springs are small and closed, yet the bark on the branches has a gentle green tinge.
In some ways the last 18 months have been like a prolonged Winter, a time in the “creative void” to go inward and reflect, to feel, to pause, to learn. As Spring arrives I have been urging myself as well as my clients to own their power, to be proactive in this process. When we go into Winter, or lockdown, it is a process that we do not choose. Emerging however is largely in our hands.
Yesterday, I said in encouragement to a friend (who was feeling somewhat diminished by organisational dynamics), “What is the point of menopause, if we can’t come out of it owning our knowledge, wisdom, strength and power?”
Similarly what is the point of enforced Wintering if we can’t be clearer about our identity, our desires and needs, our strengths and vulnerabilities?
The Gestalt Cycle of Awareness
For the second year running I have run my coaching group, Nourish & Nurture, which borrows from the ideas of Gestalt therapy, the pause, five element acupuncture and nature.
Using the model of the Gestalt Cycle, above, I’ve encouraged the group to embrace Wintering in The Creative Void (the space between withdrawal and mobilisation). For more information about the Gestalt Cycle, see here. Using my experience from my psychosynthesis training, participants spend the Winter visiting a Wise Woman in the Woods, exploring the rooms of her house, sitting by the fireside and discussing their lives with her in various guided meditations. I also incorporate journalling exercises, reflections, thought for the day type posts and the paradoxical theory of change to support them to follow the Winter’s pull to go inward, in order that their flourishing and productivity in the spring is deeply anchored.
To be honest running Nourish & Nurture is hugely beneficial to me as I have to practice what I preach, and it leads me down many wonderful exploratory paths. This year, because of coronavirus, there have definitely been more experiences of fear and expressions of loneliness and need for connection with others. Participants found solace in the weekly “Campfire Meetings” via Zoom (Do contact me if you’d like to join the group in October.)
Mobilisation equates with the Spring and the seasonal prompt is to move forward and to blossom. You might also notice how inconsistent Spring is, how some flowers have their early blooming shortened, how the sunshine turns to hail. This exciting energy is unpredictable and includes set backs. What is the message to you about your own emerging as you notice this characteristic?
More than any other Spring, I’m inviting anyone who has read this far to use the experience of a prolonged pause, a prolonged Winter, a prolonged Creative Void, to empower yourself; to choose your engagement selectively and with awareness. We are not obliged to return to anything that no longer serves our well-being.
The spectrum of movement between stuckness / stagnation <—> fluidity / ebb & flow <— > immersion / leaping before we look, is pertinent to us all as we re-enter the world this Spring. We need some element of risk to harness excitement, and an element of stillness from which to emerge, yet fluidity and flexibility of attitude as well as movement in the body tend to indicate a healthy middle ground. May we all keep returning to the pause, the emptiness, the solitude of our long Winter, and find there what we need for our leaps into Spring.
We are in a powerful position. Make sure you don’t let this pass you by.
If you’re self-employed the decisions about how you work from now on are clearly and obviously yours, but if you work for an employer remember that they too are making up / devising / planning a ‘new normal’ and that if you want to influence how this might look for you, now is a very good time. No longer is the organisational belief, “this is how we’ve always done it“ valid. We have spent a year doing it how we’ve never done it before. What if your life choices were centred around you? What if how you work from now on is based, even partially, on your learning from lockdown? I know not everyone has the same degree of choice and voice, but invite all to consider this. If we are privileged enough to either be self-employed or to feel able to feedback to our employer what we would like for future conditions, how can we extend our privilege in compassionate ways to those who either don’t have employment or who have poor working conditions / zero hours contracts? If employers trust employees’ desire to be productive, and now have evidence of this productivity, maybe we can enter a new world. A world that has greater access for the disabled or people with childcare needs.
It’s not all about work either. How do we want to socialise? Who do we want to socialise with? Has a reduced social life been a relief, maybe? I want to invite all of us to be very honest with ourselves because this moment of pause before we return to a world without lockdown is crucial. In this moment of pause we can own our power, assess with intelligence, be brutally transparent to ourselves. We need not be swept out of lockdown the way we were swept into it. So if this is a new world, maybe we are the new people in this world.
I’d love to hear your comments, your hopes and fears about 2021 and onward, and your own view of power and powerlessness, as we return, … no not return, there is no going back, … as we resume.
For those returning to more contact with the outside world, I would recommend following a similar process to that of someone with social anxiety:
• Connect with the desire to go out. What is beckoning you?
• Begin with small trips out with a view to increasing your connection with nature, rather than people.
You’re likely to come across people en route – just smiling and saying hello without any obligation to stop and have a conversation is a good start to social interaction. You can gradually build this up over the weeks to short conversations, going in a small shop etc.
• Each time you return from ventures out, integrate the experience and let yourself know it was good and you managed well (this will be hard if you set your goals too high).
May we all keep returning to the pause, the emptiness, the solitude of our long Winter,
and find there what we need for our leaps into Spring
Flowering this spring I have two related projects that you may be interested in:
1 Niceolation: A Thousand Beautiful Things
I’m excited that my FREE Facebook group now has over 300 members and is open to anyone.
Once lockdown is over I intend to run occasional FREE Zoom meetings which are for all members of Niceolation who wish to come. The meetings will be about sharing resources, research, reflections and strategies for and about the experience of re-entry. If you’re interested in focussing on every day mindfulness during lockdown or on being conscious about the process of stepping back into the world, then do consider joining the Niceolation community where daily prompts are posted and where notices of the Zoom meetings will be given once lockdown has ended.
2 Imogen and I are running our 4th International Body – Mind Workshop in June. Due to the wonders of Zoom we no longer have to cram this CPD into one day, one country, one venue. We are spreading it over four weeks with 90 minute sessions. The 90 minutes will be experiential, interesting and fun. There will be resources in the week with theoretical support for the workshop exercises and reflections. There is plenty in this series of 4 x 90 min workshops to support you and to take back to your clients. All details and booking link here.
On the same theme we are having FREE ten minute talks every Monday in April via Facebook with catch up links on Youtube. These talks are an opportunity to drop into the conversation we began 9 years ago when we began to explore the similarities in our discipline. Last week we spoke about the Gestalt Cycle and the Alexander concept of pausing. Today we will discuss the question, “Is feeling safe found in the body or the mind?”