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Time is a strange thing in a pandemic

I’ve written several versions of this blog. The problem is that every time I sit down to write it, I feel different.

My blogs during the last lockdown were very much about trying to stop yourself from going crazy. I think a lot of us have to accept that this time, crazy is ok.

Yet again, @toripress drew some cards that just seem to perfectly describe how I feel right now. I keep using her wonderful creations for my blogs, but I also keep buying her book and giving it to people. I truly recommend it as a gift for anyone with anxiety or depression or for yourself. You can buy it here.

I did not expect to be sitting here writing yet another blog about lockdown in January 2021. I see that there are rumours of the school year being repeated again, maybe we should all just go back a year and pretend 2020 never happened.

But alas, that’s not how the chaos of experiencing life as a human being works, we cannot go back! In fact, the traces of our memories in our minds is what gives us the sensation of time passing. Maybe that’s why I feel like time has stood still. I don't feel like I'm making any new memories that are important enough to stay in my brain.

I admitted to my class the other that everything was feeling a bit rubbish – because I knew that other people are feeling that way right now. If you've read any of my other blogs, you'll know that I’m here to be human and to give you permission to be human too – not to pretend nothing affects me because I practice yoga. So, we all had a chat before class, and I asked everyone how they were and could sense that one person (the last person who came in) was actually quite chirpy. And when I asked her, she was. She said she had been down, but then she started listening to her favourite artist (David Bowie) live and danced around her living room as though she was at a concert with the sound of the audience in the background. Just hearing about it made me smile. I'm going to try this, but with one of my favourite bands. I always remember my dad's story about seeing David Bowie in the Grand Hall wearing a dress. I ended up listening to Queen live, because it's actually his version I heard first and that definitely cheered me up. The concert is here if you're a Bowie fan. This is a fab version of Under Pressure.

Another said she was going out a walk in the rain. She encouraged me to go out, which meant I listened to my book The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli, found the line “Time is suffering” so sad it was funny, and I had to send it to Carlo (not the writer, Carlo Rovelli, but my friend and fellow yoga and Buddhist enthusiast, Carlo Ferroni), then video called him by mistake and had a laugh walking along the beach.

If you have been living on your own, you might feel this line. I would argue that time is not suffering, like all other things that cause mental suffering, it is attachment or aversion to time that causes the suffering.

What this has made me realise though, is that what I need is to create a little more entropy (lack of order or predictability). Mix things up, get things moving and change the behaviour patterns that are getting me down.

So, I have decided whenever possible to do things a little differently. Here's what I've decided to do:

  • I tried a click and collect instead of going to the supermarket. I wrote a lot about this and decided it was completely uninteresting.

  • I walked to the different side of the beach and the sea looked completely different. I also met this wee swan that thought I was going to feed it.

  • I've been reacting differently to certain situations that usually get me down. I've unfollowed some people that I keep comparing myself to, I've decided to go ahead with some things when I might have given up.

  • I’m decided to have a spa day where I will learn how to self-massage, lie on my Shakti mat, have a foot bath, put a face mask on, have coffee and cake, and do a restorative yoga class. You can see my spa day playlist on Youtube (I’m not responsible for anything anyone tells you to do on there btw). I tried to do it yesterday, but started with a luxurious lunch that was too rich and put me in a coma for a couple of hours.

  • I’m going to try some different online classes, like dancing and barre and Shakti flow. I thought about trying laughter yoga, but I looked up some of the videos and it looks like my idea of a nightmare, but some people might enjoy it, you can have a look here. Instead while searching Youtube, I found this video of Lady Gaga and June Brown (Dot Cotton) on Graham Norton and found that funny.

  • I’m going to pretend I am on a yoga teacher training retreat next week and have made myself a schedule and saved some lectures on Youtube. I'm going to pretend I'm sitting in Satsang with Ram Dass, Alan Watts and Krishnamurti. I’m going to give up caffeine for a week (maybe) and try some new styles of yoga (if you know any different styles, send me the details).

I had been thinking back about my yoga teacher training and how I was completely content with so little outside stimulus for 4 weeks. It was because I had a purpose to be there, I was learning, and I had a schedule that was rigid. There was something really relaxing about not having to think up my own schedule. So, I've made myself a schedule.

I may not stick to all of this, but I'm ok with that. I'm not aiming for perfection and I have nothing to prove (another change of behaviour that I am determined to change). I thought some of you might too, so I am sharing with you my schedule and Youtube playlists and one that means you don’t have to get up at 5.30am. You can see them by clicking here.

I’m going to do a writer’s retreat and immerse myself in writing courses and exercises the following week. I have just about finished my third Miss Jane book (the spy trilogy I have been writing for the last few years) and I am determined to get it finished and published.

I may do some other immersion weeks, like a Buddhist meditation retreat and a personal development week, but we’ll see how the first two go. I figure if I do four retreats, we’ll be out of lockdown by the end of it.

Of course, this retreat is not going to be possible for those of you with kids, or with jobs. So why don’t you choose a day or an half a day or an hour and do something just for you. Tell your family you are taking a retreat. Pretend your yoga class is part of a retreat!

I can’t imagine how the kids must be if I’m bored and fed up looking at the inside of my flat. They must be going mental.

Someone came into yoga class the other night saying how her kids had just been screaming at each other before she joined the class. I spoke to a friend who is working from home with a toddler, therefore having to work till late at night and then also get up in the middle of the night for the child. She’s nearly at her wits end through lack of sleep and exhaustion.

It’s like two sides of the same coin – in moderation, being on your own and spending time with family is good. But being in the same house with the same people every day and having to try to keep young people from going nuts out of boredom or frustration is exhausting, and being lonely is not the same as enjoying solitude (as my lovely friend Lorna just pointed out in a post).

I bet that although children are missing spending time with friends, most of them are not missing school and deep down many of them will be happy to spend time with you. In between the madness, stop every now and then and treasure the moments you have with them. Lots of mums who are not with their children (even if they're adults) will be missing spending time with them.

And then there are those who are working in essential services, well I bet time is something that feels like is slipping through your fingers. I can’t imagine the stress that so many frontline staff will be experiencing right now. I just spoke to a friend who said she really hadn’t a minute to think about anything today. I think it’s also important to acknowledge and really hear when the people working on the frontline of the NHS talk about the trauma they are experiencing every day, seeing so many people dying alone without their families around them, colleagues dying, constantly afraid of catching the virus, feeling responsible for people’s lives. I would not wish that on anyone and I am so grateful that there are people out there willing to do that. So thank you, and hang in there.

I have been listening to a book called The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli – he is a physicist, and in this book, he is exploring time in terms of physics, but one of the things that spoke to me the most, was something Rovelli quoted from the 1911 comic opera by Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Der Rosenkavalier. It’s a line sung by the aristocratic Marschallin.

“Time is a strange thing. When we don’t need it is nothing, then suddenly there is nothing else. It is everywhere around us, also within us, it seeps into our faces, it seeps into the mirror, runs through my temples. Between you and I it runs silently like an hourglass.”

We are all in the same sea, but we’re in different boats looking at things from different perspectives. I just try to look at everything with compassion in my heart - not easy when people, including me, are not entirely rational.

I'm trying hard to be patient and let some things unfold as they will, and I'm trying to imagine that I chose to take this time to learn more, to develop more. The truth is, I probably wished for this time in my mind, in the past. I'm trying not to wish the time away, not to put things on hold until we can do this, or that. I'm trying to make the best of it - what else can we do, except be honest when you can't best of it and let a friend, or David Bowie, or Freddie Mercury make you feel better.

Marschallin here is lamenting I think, but she touches on what the Buddha said about all attachments -

“From the bottom of my heart, I feel we should cling to nothing. Everything slips through our fingers. All that we seek to hold onto dissolves, everything vanishes like mist and dreams.”

I've never watched an Opera before either, so Der Rosenkavalier is on the list for this weekend. It's over 3 hours long, so we'll see how that time passes.

Let me know if you're going to try the yoga immersion, I may just put some extra recordings on for anyone that wants to do it.

And you could start with the Fine Tune Your Practice Workshop tomorrow!

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