Navigating the murky waters of life is a job with tenure. All the money and station in the world won’t reprieve us from the task. Below are 9 simple practices that can mean the difference between the grind of life (or even the blunt interruption of that grind) and truly living. Costs nothing. Big Pharma has no equity in THIS medicine.
- Turn away from the anxiety-fueling news programs that litter television and the Internet.
Just refuse them. They are designed for one agenda only —— to whip us into a distracted frenzy, and by virtue weaken us and our pocketbooks at the seams, because having an entire culture in panic mode is profitable, and is never about being in the public’s interest. Find your news through more legitimate sources. Do the homework needed to figure out who and what those are. Information is valuable and crucial; hysteria never is.
- Read for pleasure.
As a writer I want to encourage books. I want to encourage good books. I want to encourage literature. But hey, read a magazine, just read —— for pure enjoyment and expansion. And try as often as possible to do it outside the digital and electronic universe. Kindle and iBooks are both fun and convenient, but don’t let them be your exclusive source for reading. The brain needs a good chunk of quality time every day to be removed from electromagnetic energy and social media, and to be reminded of the world of imagination and connection that does exist beyond our digital screens.
- Meditate. OR . . .
…at the very least find a way to simply be in silence and stillness for a few minutes every day. The more minutes a day you can find in that quiet, the better able you will be to heed the inner voice, and the better everything will be. Guaranteed! Consider a wonderful memoir by Sara Maitland on her experiment of withdrawing from the world in pursuit of silence. There is a whole world of discussion to be had on the topic and its impact on a society, and which is utterly fascinating. For now, for this, simply allow yourself a few minutes each day to power everything down. And listen.
- Connect with Higher Power.
This term has as wide a berth as the ocean, so even the most ardent atheist can find his or hers. Something that is greater than your pedestrian self and has something to teach you, offer you, feed you. Maybe it’s the Collective Unconscious. Maybe it’s your own higher consciousness, which exists in every human, usually buried beneath all the traumas and dysfunctions, but there, just ripe and ready to guide us, if we’re keen to do some unearthing. Maybe it’s nature. Maybe it’s the source within. Or a source out there. Maybe it’s simply goodness. It will show up differently for every individual on the planet yet is that unquantifiable something that maneuvers us around the land mines and connects us to each other. There is no need to affix a label; simply be with it. Find yours, and plug in regularly.
- Create, even if you’re not an artist.
“Artist” is merely a label. We all have creativity and imagination within us, and it can show up in the most unexpected cloak, which is usually how it works anyway. Feed it. Allow it to feed you. Have fun with it. The benefits to soul are untold. In this time of quarantine, and out.
- Be a child again (closely linked to the above, and which is not the same as being child-ISH).
There has been so much obligation, commitment, management, planning, and fortune-making that has governed our adult lives that we can easily allow it to collapse our spirits. Easy to get so caught up in building the life of our dreams that we forget to actually live the life of our dreams. These mandated lockdowns and Stay at Home orders have forced us to slow down, whether we’ve wanted to or not. As a result, some truly profound epiphanies have been had from the many about the lives they’d been living before this pandemic. So, every once in a while let it all go, and do what children do. Precisely because we are presently in the state of severance, throw Zoom parties. Live-stream living room performances for friends. Stage social distancing drive-by parades. Play dress-up to come to the dinner table. The ideas are endless. The point, to play fiercely and with release and abandon.
The flipside of that same spirit … do nothing. The Italians have a delicious term for it —— dolce far niente —— literally translated as the “sweetness of doing nothing.” They have raised it to an art, but in our ambition-worship culture we have stamped the label of shame onto it. We do not need to be in the constant state of planning, producing, and consuming. Precisely because of this pandemic, we are in trauma. We are in grief. You are okay to not be okay. So, take the pressure off. Smile at nothing. Sit and gaze. Daydream. Decompress. It is the crucial yin to our Everest-conquering yang.
- Be in nature.
Communing with creatures beyond our pets and other humans, moving among the wise old trees, strolling along a shore, recognizing the cruciality of taking care of the earth, this is what it means to be in nature. For the time being, but not forever, our access to beaches and nature trails has been limited by the necessity for flattening the curve of this virus. Even so, it is possible to snag ourselves a little bit of nature every day. Put on your protective mask, walk outside your door, and you are in it. Even in the city. Just walk, and marvel at the sky (cleaner these days than ever before with fewer cars on the roads). Equal parts meditation and exercise, being in the nature right outside our door can open the heart chakra and shift our receptor paradigm to receiving or, perhaps and more pointedly, feeling worthy of blessings. It increases our ability to see that blessings are flying all around us like gnats. And it’s not only the stuff that feels like blessings. It’s even the stuff (or people) we consider the opposite, because every encounter serves as a teacher —— and may actually be where the real gold lies. Wait, what? All this from observing flowers and trees? Oh, yes. Until our beautiful beaches and glorious canyon trails can safely reopen, even the smallest patch of garden or that duck pond in the neighborhood can be that salve and conduit. Nature is quite remarkable at showing up anywhere and opening the vessel within for our daily access.
- Create a daily gratitude ritual . . .
…particularly during this coronaspell of death, sickness, fear, and the loss of “normal,” when it’s harder to see blessings. It can be a prayer, a journal log, a mantra, a meditation. Even in the various periods of my life of not feeling especially grateful, I, for example, always found such beauty in the tradition of blessing one’s food. What a lovely idea to express out loud our thankfulness for the bounty on our plates, and for not taking a meal for granted but cherishing it for what it gives us, especially considering how many don’t have this luxury. Now, imagine employing that gratitude practice with everything. Just imagine.
And finally . . .
- Be of service.
From sewing and dispensing face masks, to surprise drop-offs of groceries at someone’s door, to making food for the homeless, to outreach calls, this Age of Pandemic has shown what people are made of, and that it isn’t only the front-liners who are able to be of service to the community. We all have the ability to be there for others, whether an individual or our community at large. Service is the most restorative unguent there is for self-absorption or for trying to find meaning in a world that often seems senseless and cruel, especially in these strange days. Maybe you aren’t struggling with that. Many are. Pandemic or no, this might just be the single most potent go-to for establishing or recovering ourselves as persons of value on the planet…
Angela Carole Brown is the author of Bones, Aleatory on the Radio, Viscera, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and the 2018 North Street Book Prize-winner for Literary Fiction, Trading Fours. She has also produced several albums of music and meditation. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Goodreads, Amazon Author, & Bandcamp.