[You can listen to this reflection here if you would rather hear than read]
The state of lockdown that we are in would have been completely unimaginable and absurd to talk about, even 100 days ago.
If you were to describe lockdown to me 100 days ago, you may say something along the lines of: “we will take all of the planes out of the sky, stop the trains and busses, keep everyone in their homes, close all of the schools, close every bar and restaurant, close every office, cancel every sports game, postpone the Olympics, cancel every concert and conference, and ask people to wear a mask when leaving their home.”
I would not understand you. I would not believe you. I might show some concern for the world. I would show more concern for your mental and emotional well-being, for having these thoughts.
What the past two months of lockdown have shown me is that a reality beyond our imagination is completely possible.
As our conversations now focus on unwinding the lockdown, a bigger question needs to be asked about the type of future that we want to create.
Our future is limited only by our imagination.
This is Year Zero. There was life Before Coronavirus (B.C.) and there will be life After Coronavirus (A.C.). We have been given the space, an opportunity even, to make different choices for the future of humanity. Some fear that we do not return to normal. I hope that we do not return to normal. We can do better for each other and it starts with our imagination.
In the book Sapiens, the author challenges our framing of the purpose of history. He says that the purpose of history is not to predict the future but to free ourselves from the past and to imagine alternative destinies. I love this.
I can find countless observations from my own life, like the current lockdown, that were unimaginable to me before yet became part of my reality and story. This again shows me that my journey through life, like the future of humanity, is limited only by imagination.
My Unimaginable Realities
In many mindfulness courses, a common journaling or reflection prompt offered is “what would you tell your 8 year old self”. It is an opportunity to bring into awareness what we now know but could not have imagined previously.
New York is a city that captured my attention, from when I was a child, as pictured above. I remember my first solo trip to New York. I was 22 years old, a few weeks before graduating university, and had flown down for a publishing conference as I was trying to start my business. It was exciting yet intimidating. I do not think I spoke to a single person at the conference. If you told me then that 10 years later, I would live in New York, and enjoy the lifestyle of a New Yorker, I would not have believed you.
Advertising is an industry I knew nothing about and now I get to run a global business that works with hundreds of publishers and agencies in dozens of countries. I speak, write and reflect often about the future of advertising and continue to learn so much from the industry. The important role that trusted news, especially in this time, offers society and democracy. The understanding that without effective marketing, the best product, policy or perspective will not be accessible or available to those that may benefit from it. The continuous reminder and countless examples of the potential and power of human creativity.
Yoga is a practice, like most Indians born and brought up in the West, that I would have never imagined myself interested in. The first yoga class I did was a decade ago and I remember dismissing it immediately. It was foreign, uncomfortable and painful. This is why last fall, late one night after I had taught my first yoga class, I found myself in tears. I realized in that moment just how much I had grown in a practice that was once so uninteresting to me.
Divide And Conquer
At times during lockdown, I have felt guilt about reflecting on my life and dreaming about our collective future in the midst of tremendous suffering in the world from a global health pandemic, a deep economic recession and growing mental health crisis.
I have found inspiration with the idea that we are all on the same team. Team humanity.
Health care professionals, essential businesses, governments and more are focused on the immediate term needs that we have - which we are so appreciative of and grateful for. Education professionals, banks, industry leaders, public transit and more are focused on the short-to-medium term needs that we will have - not an easy task to navigate the unknown. And some need to be thinking and talking about the longer-term needs that we may have - to help inform a better and more resilient future.
We each have a role to play, based on our strengths, skills and interests. This may be a more inviting interpretation of our present day mantra, “We Are In This Together”.
Impermanence helps inspire our imagination. If things were static and fixed, we would slowly stop imagining new possibilities.
Thankfully, everything does change. Find me one thing that does not appear to change and I will show you how it does change. Either the thing changes or our relationship to the thing changes.
Impermanence is an invitation for us to imagine.
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.
What we are experiencing now in lockdown was unimaginable to us only a few months ago. Life After Coronavirus is likely unimaginable to us at this moment. This is why we describe life in the terms of what was. However, it is only once we let go of what was, that we can make space for what can be.
I invite you to bring the child-like qualities of curiosity and openness to the new possibilities that will continue to emerge for each of us, and for all of us, in the months and years ahead.
Our future is limited only by our imagination.
A bit more to share:
Year Zero is a project to document conversations with friends about the future of humanity.
Here are a few that I’m excited to highlight for you:
*Experiment And Explore: I reflect with my friend Adrian about lifestyle experiments we are both curious about and the future of therapy.
*The Future Of Work: Zack and I debate a variety of topics about purpose in work, corporate structures and the role of mindfulness.
*Perspective On Connection: Erica and I discuss the state of our respective global communities, the intention of connection and the difference between a sprint and marathon.
FindFocus.live is a series of guided meditations from the daily live gatherings I continue to host each weekday morning at 930am. Listen to our meditations themed on Impermanence, Morning Pages, Curiosity About Thoughts, Partial Responsibility and more here.
Subscribe to my newsletter here.