Sometimes breathing deeply is not enough, and neither is being quiet and stopping the noise. Sometimes things get so tough that the noise in our heads just won't stop no matter what. Right now is one of those times and the going is getting seriously tough. And furthermore, it's going to get tougher. So yes - we can breathe deeply (especially for that fraction of the day that we are allowed to foray out), we can stop looking at all the constant bombardment of info, we can bake sourdough and clean our houses. We can and should do all those things.

But is no longer enough to stop the noise in our heads.

When The Going gets Tough, the Tough get Going

I have made a decision not to get drawn into the increasingly negative conversations going on around me. Everyone is dealing with severe fall-out on some level or another, and lockdown is starting to test our tempers no matter how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads and food on the table. The current group-think and speak is bouncing between anger and frustration, hopelessness and despair, health and wealth anxiety and flat-out fear of this unknown future that we have to live after being pared down to the bone.

And yet there are other conversations happening, some that I have been privileged to be a part of. The tough are truly starting to get going. People are becoming wildly creative, turning out ideas and new revenue streams that I could never have imagined. The profile of how we do things is changing and may never look the same again. I am seeing chefs and restaurants turn around with astounding agility, creating meals that can be delivered instead of consumed on premises. I read today that one restaurant is trying to put together virtual dinner parties by dropping ingredients and then arranging a session with the chef, so you and your guests can all prepare together. I have spoken to teachers who have come up with novel ideas to teach their students. We need new ways of learning so badly! Now is the time to not get bogged down by despair - rather it is time to be part of the solution and the future. Let's join up and become big think tanks. Let's push back hard on things we don't agree with, create platforms that make accessing food and relief easier, turn businesses around to face new challenges rather than trying to do the same as we used to. Many voices make a big noise. We need to stand together now more than ever. Take charge of what you can - get credit or rental reprieves, look at costs you can cut or cull, support SME's, think like an entrepreneur by anticipating needs that will arise when we get through this. Start marketing these ideas now. Make new ideas real.

But still the viral wave continues to roll in towards our shore. We are already so over this whole thing, and yet the worst of the curve is still coming. So look after your health - if you are of sound health the overwhelming chance is even if you get this virus you will survive it well. Stand strong, don't be afraid but be very responsible and careful.

It is no longer about me. It is about us - an us we all need to take responsibility for, teach our children about, and make them a part of. We now live in a world of us - all survivors of one of the worst human crisis in living history. Let's all take up the challenge to be the very best version of ourselves, to make up an extraordinary us.

In the words of Joseph Campbell - It is time to let go of the life you had planned, and step into the one waiting for you.

This is such a journey - in spite of the fact that we can hardly step outside at the moment, we are managing to step into a completely new reality! We are slowly coming to a point of realisation that everything has changed and most likely will never look quite like it did before. The changes are so fundamental that by proxy it changes most of our lived experience, from if and how we work all the way down to our perspective and sense of security. I know for sure that I will never look at life in quite the same way. The biggest shift for me is a lessened sense of me and an increased sense of us.

Kindly does it.

I have been reading some profound journalism lately as well as some valuable articles on social media. The observations and perspectives that I am exposed to are revealing an aspect of human nature that we are often too distracted to pay attention to - our intrinsic and abundant ability for kindness. Going through what we are as a collective is making us so much more aware of others and their suffering. And so many people out there are doing incredible work, not for themselves but for us.

We have gone from denial, to panic, to hyper connectivity and then to quiet. Perhaps it all just became too exhausting and being quiet became a refuge. In this quiet space thoughts, feelings and awareness arise without distraction. Much of what arises now is around uncertainty, and fear of an unknown future. But we are imagining the future from where we were, separate and isolated from people around us. Not only separate but also often in competition with those around us. As I look at photographs and stories from around the world I think the future may look different. We have no choice but to stand together to cope with the rigors of a new beginning.

When life conspires to strip you of all the old securities, you have to search for something new to fill the vacuum. We are experiencing a paring down so seismic and spectacular that our internal reference points and narratives may be completely redundant soon. Our sense of who we are is dissolving. And just like our caterpillar dissolved, there came a moment when something new had to start taking shape. Something completely different. It is time for us to start thinking of new narratives and reference points that are inclusive, that acknowledge what is true rather than what we choose to believe, and that brings us into close support with all other human beings in order to create the one big heart you see above.

I love Naomi Shahib Nye's poem on Kindness.

"Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

Feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness..."

I won't quote it all but do yourselves a favor and read it. In a discussion on the poem it is said she sees kindness not as a bland act but as a deeply felt communion. Kindness born out of the toughness of life.

I have had experiences in my life that temporarily felt like a terrible kind of death, and at those points the only thing that soothed my hurt soul was kindness - of being and receiving. Kindness stood in stark relief to the pain of loss I felt. Anyone who has been through true grief will attest to that.

So if you want to start filling the pockets of loss, remember this:

Kindly does it.

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

I am acutely aware of two things at the moment. Firstly, a continuous deep and penetrating silence around me. It is strange, beautiful and slightly disconcerting. Secondly, in direct proportion to the silence that has grown around me over the last 10 days has been an increase in the noise on my devices, to the point that my brain simply could not cope. I became aware of this noise dragging me in and along, as I became part of a collective angst attack. I woke one night with a startling realisation that my life had been hijacked. Not by Corona virus, but by collective anxiety and fear.

And so I breathed deeply again, surrendered into my now and chose to stop the relentless inflow of info in order to appreciate the silence. And to purposefully and intentionally continue to choose my own responses rather than to be swept along in a tide of heightened emotions.

This is the essential next step -

Stop the Noise.

Hopefully by now you are regularly taking a deep breath, and simply surrendering to what is unfolding. It is what it is. Then, choose your response. Just for now, just for today, choose to be quiet in the space of what is. If you are barraged by social media, virtual connecting, news reports and googling you will be overwhelmed and unable to make choices for yourself. You will be unable to row your boat as you choose, and you will be spat out somewhere downriver with no idea of your state of mental health, where you are or what is most needed in your life.

What we are going through will not be a sprint, it will be a marathon that will require our presence, courage and ingenuity. We can't run after what we have lost, and we also can't imagine the future. Remember, chaotic times are not linear. Small changes make massive differences. Right now we are best off guarding our energy, filtering the loop of input into our brains, and being quiet enough to choose our next step. Make simple goals for yourself each day. Don't worry now about the bigger picture - we will all create that together. Just make sure you are allowing yourself to be silent for long enough to think for yourself. What are you putting into the atmosphere around yourself today? Choose a healthy ritual that you can stick to daily and organise your day into a routine. Routines are very calming in turbulent times.

Do not sit and read whatsapp, FB and other media all day! It is turning your brain into an anxious fuddle that may settle into some form of PTSD.

And when you go to bed tonight and have that moment of vertigo when you think this is all too much and you don't know how you're going to get through this crisis please just once again breathe, surrender, and choose a thought that calms you down. Crisis leads to change. We are all changing and so are our values. We will hug our friends again and relish those moments like the best sweetest Lindt. We will get through this together, but whilst en route just take the one huge opportunity this situation offers that may not come again - the chance to be truly quiet.

In the words of one of my favorite Irish poets:

"...Become inclined to watch the way of rain When it falls slow and free. Imitate the habit of twilight, Taking time to open the well of color That fostered the brightness of day. Draw alongside the silence of stone Until its calmness can claim you.”

John O'Donohue