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Reflection from a distance

Friends, here is a reflection.

"The meditation room is within, groceries. Decorate that... You have to learn to select your thoughts the same way that you select your clothes everyday." - Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

This wisdom feels relevant during the Coronavirus. These words resonate beyond the religious context of Liz Gilbert's visit to India. I do not identify with that setting. Let's get a message from this tale anyway.

We all have a version of that meditation room. A physical place we thought we needed for peace and happiness. Chances are, it may have been away from home or not.

In my last home, I literally hoped to create a meditation room. It would be away from the world. But it wasn’t. I actually convinced myself I would find a great epiphany in an arbitrarily designated space. Needless to say, it did not happen. That room brought great physical challenges. It was teaching me life lessons because I wanted to get away from it, not because I ‘found myself’ or ‘found meaning’ there. We treat many external places with a similar expectation. ‘If I go there, I will be ok.’ Sure.

Now most people in the world have social distancing, some or many have "self isolation" or quarantine. We are gaining reassurance by connecting with humanity through the internet. ‘If I arrive at the right part of the internet with the right people, then I might feel ok.’ We are a social species. Community is important. Let’s just not forget the inner work.

Most of us will have a million thoughts about this changed life in the world. Thinking is good. Of course. Just like food, there can be too much. Also just like food, our thoughts can be healthy or unhealthy. I am not an expert in thinking (psychology, philosophy, whatever looks at thinking). I am just a person who thinks a lot.

Personally, this week reminded me to do the inner work. I am doing it now. Stop and slow down. Have some actual quiet alone time. We are tempted to fill this time ‘at home’ with entertainment, tasks, anything to fill that silence.

I am lucky because I had some previous practice in slowing down. A few years ago, I got a broken leg. I physically slowed down. Then when pregnant, I once again felt mostly immobile. These times led to reflection.

As cheesy as it sounds, there was a journey toward each reflection. I resisted the slowing. I wanted to continue that fast pace of life! Then there was a question of, ‘What now?’ I tried filling that gap with anything. Then finally, I accepted the quietness as an opportunity.

Now we are all slowing down. We have time to reflect. We can remind ourselves of our most important values, priorities, hopes and purpose. What really matters? Who am I without that busy routine? Who am I when I am not achieving a milestone? Am I me when I am just surviving at home?

This time is teaching me an uncomfortable lesson about myself. I am reminded that the act of ‘being busy’ is an addiction. Throughout my adulthood, I kept myself busy in many ways. I was busy creating, attending, speaking, going, doing.

I could let the quietness break me down or build me up. I could hold onto those externally defined forms of identity. I could feel pulled in all directions by the expectations from other people. Or I can stop, quietly reflect and then find purposeful direction.

We will find many things from the comfort of our homes. We could find survival instinct, humility, patience and meaning. Allow space for powerful thoughts that can make a difference. So much can be found if we sit still enough to find it.

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