Eleven days ago, I left London and came to Romania to see my family without realising I was holding on to a reality that was already changing. I’m writing these words from my parents’ kitchen which has turned into my new work space, and I have no idea when I’ll be able to return to my old life and how different the world will be at that point.
A few days ago I noticed that on my phone screen, next to my phone operator, a new message appeared and it’s been there ever since. It says #stamacasa which translates to #wearestayinghome. All over the world people are urged to stay home to prevent getting sick or getting others sick.
Living indoors for long periods of time is not easy. It wasn’t easy when four years ago I began working from home as a freelancer. It’s even harder when we have to do it against our wish. It’s a change we didn’t ask for. It’s an unpleasant disruptor of our comfort, habits and routines or mental health.
Since all this began, I’ve been in touch with friends more than before. Some of them, just like other people around the world, have trouble coping with the isolation imposed by the virus. As a person who’s used to working from home and being by herself throughout the day, I want to share a couple of practices that help me stay grounded and give a certain quality to how I live my life. They can be done at any time of the day, yet for me it works best to do them after waking up.
Before anything else, the most important thing to understand is this: reminiscing about what our lives used to be like, or how they should be instead of accepting how they are, doesn’t help at all. Resisting the reality only brings useless suffering and a torment of pointless thoughts or harmful actions. Once we grasp this, we can direct our attention and energy towards better, more helpful things.
I. FINDING STILLNESS
I have a long history of failed meditation attempts. It was only when I realised that I needed to set aside any ideas or expectations of what meditation should be and what I should feel or think or not think, that it began to show me what it has to offer.
I see meditation as one of the biggest gifts we can offer ourselves, something that in our day and age we have almost completely forgotten: an opportunity to create for ourselves a space of quiet and stillness, to pause all the information and the noise that comes from outside and to listen and get to know what’s inside.
Despite the fact that meditation has become more popular in the western culture, it’s a challenging process for the new commer. Meditation is a constant practice and a journey of small steps. As I mentioned before, I had numerous attempts at it and the best thing I could do to not get discouraged was to start small. I began with ten minutes, but even that was hard. So if ten minutes are too much, try five. If that’s too much, start with just one minute and increase daily.
I start by sitting on a meditation stool or a regular chair, with my back upright and eyes closed. Then I feel each member of my body and try to relax the tensions I find (face, shoulders, back, etc.) I go through this a couple of times.
After that I focus on my breathing. In and out. In and out.
Whenever I catch myself following a thought I return my attention to the breathing or to sensing the, body if that’s where I was before.
A very important thing to do when the mind runs away is to observe and not to judge. If you begin judging and attributing descriptors of good and bad, your attention is taken away by another thought process.
If you’re completely new to this, in the beginning it’s a good idea to try guided meditation. I began with Headspace, but if you don’t like it search until you find something that fits you. Now I use this silent vipassana meditation video which is 30 minutes long and has a bell ringing every five minutes.
How meditation helps me
The first thing that meditation had taught me was to observe and understand that I am not my thoughts, nor my emotions. These come and go and I am still here. I am not my worries, nor my fears and I don’t have to give in or react to every thought or mood that I experience.
Practicing meditation for 20-30 minutes each morning gives me clarity and puts me in touch with a certain type of energy that guides my day.
In creating this space of silence and connection with myself, I begin my day from a place of calm and with a deeper awareness of what matters.
With this new sense of clarity I’m also more productive and focused and finish what I need to do faster and better than I would otherwise.
II. CARING FOR THE BODY THROUGH YOGA
I used to go for runs, then I got out of practice, came up with all sorts of excuses and didn’t manage to maintain it. For some, running outside may not even be an option now. I’ve also tried some indoor fitness, but what really stuck to me was Yoga.
I find Yoga to be another great way of listening and connecting to the body and the Self.
I’ve never really attended live Yoga classes, instead I use the good ol’ internet. Adriene and Benji are my favourite teachers.
An important thing I learnt is that in order to get the full benefits of Yoga is best to let go of whatever else is on my mind. Be in that moment. Since I’m already on the mat and have given myself this time, everything else can wait.
How Yoga helps me
What I love about Adriene is the fact that she creates sessions for different types of needs and levels.
Through Yoga I fixed my posture and learnt to listen to my body more.
Thanks to practicing Yoga I feel energised and more connected with the body.
It also helps with various body pains and releasing tensions. Have you ever noticed how tense our bodies are throughout the day? I made a point in observing my postures and shoulder tensions for a week and it was an eye opener.
Practicing meditation and Yoga helps me be more centered and awake. This means that every day I try to live my life with more attention and intention. Less on autopilot and with a little more control.
Some days the gain is not evident, but I know that everything adds up, like the pieces that make up the foundation of a building.