Yesterday during our “What has nature brought you during lockdown?” Zoom call, we shared interesting reflections around how a number of us sometimes feel a sense of guilt about noticing beauty, taking time out in nature, feeling more peaceful and joyful – in this period when so many are going through desperately challenging times. I just wanted to reflect a little further on this.
Firstly, I wrote a blog a while back which highlights some of the reasons we may be afraid of embracing joy at the best of times. It may be worth revisiting this and Brene Brown’s work on joy and gratitude which is fascinating – you can read this here.
But here’s another thought, what if our disconnection from joy, beauty, compassion, peace and paying attention to life actually got us into this crisis in the first place?
Could our panicked racing lives have led us to forget the undeniable interconnectedness of our world? And could a tiny virus be here to remind us of this? In this light, what if reconnecting with peace, joy, gratitude and beauty were not only “okay” and acceptable – but actually vital right now?
Have you ever noticed that when we feel stressed, fearful and anxious – our perspective narrows and we become more judgemental and less able to support others? This is because we move into a fearful “self-protection” mode. And have you noticed how when we feel more rested, peaceful and lighter, we naturally become more accepting, loving and compassionate? This is due to the fact that when there’s no perceived threat, we can open up.
And at this time of global crisis more than ever before, do we not need buckets of the latter?
The thing is, when we’re stressed, fearful and anxious, our physiology shifts into a fight/flight survival state and we naturally move into a “protect myself, run for my life and the lives of my relatives at all costs” mode. This is a panic state (and apparently we buy lots of toilet rolls – humanity never ceases to surprise!) . When this happens, we go into basic ‘autopilot’, our creativity narrows as does our capacity for love and compassion. We become less able to give and support others. We become more self-centred, judgemental and violent. And what’s more, over time, we usually burn out or break down.
However, when we’re well, rested, open, and lighter, our physiology shifts into a “resting state” and our creativity and compassion flow effortlessly. We can give so much more to others, and this comes naturally. Because believe it or not, we are hardwired for care and connection.
In my opinion, if we are to move out of this crisis with more compassion and wisdom and less panic and fear, we need to tap into these resources to nurture our strength to stay well, rested, hopeful and connected to joy and gratitude.
So on the days when we feel able to move beyond our anxieties and fears at this time (which is extremely challenging for most of us) , it feels not only permitted but imperative that we do. The world needs us to lean into hope, joy, kindness, compassion and creativity wherever possible.
So please, release the guilt a little. Dare to lean in to the joy of your encounters with nature, of your time with your loved ones online, of your spontaneous laughs amidst the madness and your glimpses of beauty and peace.
By doing so, you will not only be filling your own cup. You see, it turns out that just like viruses, joy, love, hope and laughter are highly contagious too.
Because, if we still haven’t got the message, we live in a deeply interconnected world.
Thanks to all those who took part in the call yesterday. Our discussion triggered these further reflections.
And I’d love to hear any comments or thoughts you have below!