I feel in a lighter mood this weekend, as we mark one hundred days in lockdown since the pandemic first began. Perhaps it is because one hundred days ago, I could not have imagined how I would be, or rather who I would be, today.
The health crisis, economic crisis and social crisis remain very much alive and present in our world, impacting hundreds of millions in unfortunate and undesirable ways. These tidal waves hitting our world are enormous and will require an appropriately enormous response from each of us. This is why I feel a desire to rest up and fuel up now, mentally and emotionally, to be ready to bring the best of what I can be to our world over the next one hundred days.
To rest up and fuel up begins with a simple reflection. What have I learned about myself in the past one hundred days?
Crisis leads to clarity. In an ocean of crises, a lot has become clearer for me. When I take a moment to step back and reflect, I can see now that how I have showed up and responded to life in the past one hundred days is a clear reflection of my values and beliefs.
When the world hit the pause button, one that we did not even know existed, I had no choice but to look in the mirror and see myself, with fewer labels and distractions of my previous lifestyle. My identity has evolved, or at least my awareness and understanding of it has. I identify as a leader, as a writer, as a son and most of all, as an active participant in this world, that it itself is in the process of rediscovering its own identity.
For years in meditation practice, an essential teaching that I have leaned on to help me navigate times of confusion, uncertainty and stress has been that “Everything Changes”. Now I have witnessed what happens to me when “Everything Changes At The Same Time”. In the face of sudden and drastic change, how I responded was to lean into it versus to shy away from it. I appreciate that my instinct has been to be hopeful, instead of fearful, that we do not return to normal.
Without much information and little foresight, I chose to leave New York in early March, to be at home in Toronto with my parents. Although I identify and connect with being someone that lives in New York, with the independence and convenience that comes with the city, I identify and connect more so with being a son and the comfort of being close to loved ones.
“If you think you are enlightened, then go live with your parents for a week” is the famous quote that is referenced in mindfulness circles. Living with my parents has been a wonderful lesson in acceptance. I feel truly grateful for how my connection with my parents has matured, evolved and grown in the past one hundred days. This morning I wrote a letter to my dad, for Father’s Day, and shared how much I appreciate his presence in my life. I continue to learn about myself by observing him, up close as of late. He is a mirror for me.
While the thought of going into retreat mode at the beginning of the pandemic piqued my curiosity, like the many meditation and yoga retreats that I've enjoyed over the years, I chose instead to be present with the world and with all of its chaos, confusion and suffering. To withdraw from the world at the start of the pandemic would have been to withdraw from myself.
I have started to become more aware of how unconscious and subtle discrimination exists everywhere. Were it not for the protests that have entered our headlines and streets, I would not have paused to reflect on this. Although I have not personally felt that I have been a victim of discrimination, I understand that my experience is unique. I somehow slipped through the cracks in the system that discriminates against so many.
A TV personality in Canada, who was behind a three decade long public service campaign promoting physical activity, shared this past week that the reason he started it was to fight racism. He had been hired as a sports broadcaster over 30 years ago, only to be fired the same day, when an executive said “we already have one Black host, we do not need another”. The broadcaster’s leadership issued a public apology to him this week. They took responsibility for something that their predecessors did and acknowledged that racism continues to exist in sports media today. I was encouraged by their humble and thoughtful response, which could have easily gone in many other directions.
When governments began rolling out economic relief packages to help the newly unemployed, and thus increasing deficits and debt levels, I found myself immediately in agreement. I want my hard-earned tax dollars from the past decade, and likely over the next decade, to help people in need. I now see that I want to live in a world where everyone has the financial security to look after their basic needs.
The business headlines in the past few weeks in Canada have included a very public critique of the largest grocery chains.They had temporarily increased staff pay by a mere $2/hour at the start of the pandemic, referring to their staff as heroes. They recently removed the pay increases, despite generating record profits in the billions. How one feels in light of this news makes it very clear how one feels about the level of corporate greed that our capitalistic culture has cultivated. It is shameful.
This is a marathon and not a sprint. A new appreciation for what balance looks like in my life has grown during this time. I can see clearly that before I had a fairly one-dimensional attitude, optimizing a single aspect of my life, at the expense of other aspects. In the past one hundred days, I have learned how to shift towards a multi-dimensional attitude, choosing to optimize for several aspects of life instead of only one.
Although I have kept a blog for the past few years and often wrote opinion pieces for the digital advertising industry on behalf of my business, over the past one hundred days I have discovered a new depth of my passion for writing. Thank you to all of you who have shared your comments on my reflections, which I will continue to share each week. I have also included below a list of the reflections from the past one hundred days, with a favourite line from each.
I am grateful to the many friends who have given me the encouragement to teach meditation. The weekday live meditations with friends continue, each day at 9:30am EST (which you are more than welcome to join, sign-up at findfocus.live). There have been over 1,200 individual meditations and 25,000 cumulative minutes of practice together. I have also been inspired to start writing a book about the applications of mindfulness principles in everyday moments.
The past one hundred days have given me awareness about what I truly value and believe to be true.
This is a Year Zero moment, not only for the world, but for each of us individually. We have been given the space to make different choices. I believe this process starts with connecting more deeply with ourselves.
What have you learned about yourself in the past one hundred days? I invite you to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and share a few words or sentences with me. I would love to hear from you.
Fear In The Face Of A Global Pandemic “To take action right now is a response to fear. To not take action is also a response to fear.” (March 15, 2020)
Hope For The Future Of Humanity “In the face of crisis, there is clarity. Choices that we previously feared are now easy.” (March 22, 2020)
Making Difficult Decisions “The sometimes useful, sometimes inconvenient ability we have to project and predict how we may feel after a decision hinders our ability to make the decision.” (March 29, 2020)
The Two Valleys “Once I became aware of my own suffering, everything changed.” (April 5, 2020)
The Desire To Be Productive “It literally feels good to be productive and no surprise, it becomes addictive. It has for me.” (April 12, 2020)
The Many Layers Of Our Identity “We are more than what we do, where we are, how we appear and how we play.” (April 19, 2020)
The Art Of Crying “I cried yesterday. The day before that. A few days before that. And I cried last week.” (April 26, 2020)
The Search For Unconditional Balance “Balance is not an intellectual concept. Balance is a feeling. I can’t think balanced. I can only feel balanced.” (May 3, 2020)
Less Is More “This is a philosophy that cuts through the noise of my mind and brings me to a place of peace. I feel less stress and pressure to have more, do more or be more.” (May 10, 2020)
Our Future Is Limited Only By Our Imagination “Our imagination may just be the most powerful tool we have to create a better life for ourselves and a better world for the future of humanity.” (May 17, 2020)
Unconscious Expression “The idea that I am not responsible for how I am received by others. I love this idea.” (May 24, 2020)
A Desire For Change “While not all lethal, the social inequalities are plenty and all around.” (May 31, 2020)
The Destruction Of Discrimination “Teachers can be our bridge from discrimination to discernment.” (June 7, 2020)
Slipping Through The Cracks “All things considered, if I had not slipped through the cracks, there is a good chance that my life would not be as great as it is today.” (June 14, 2020)