It’s been almost two weeks since the shelter in place order was given to those of us in the San Francisco Bay Area.
And my first response was to launch into a flurry of activity. Offering free Creative Courage webinars. Putting my weekly in-person classes on a digital platform. Even creating a new online weekend workshop experience called Into The Deep.
And it was all necessary and felt really good and right to do.
But in the back of my mind I was looking at this pandemic crisis as… well… a CRISIS. And it is. But most crises I have lived through have had an intense but relatively short trajectory. The adrenaline spikes. The crisis takes up all my attention and bandwidth. I’m mega tense and harried for awhile. But then the crisis ends and normal resumes itself. It might be a transformed normal that includes some serious experience of loss. But the white hot heat of fear and anxiety and simply being stressed calms down to a certain extent.
It’s slowly dawning on me that this is not the case with where we are now. The thing about being in crisis is that it throws everything known and familiar up in the air and brings an overwhelming sense of chaos in its wake. In chaos you don’t know where you are. It’s not clear what is happening. You are plunked down smack dab in the very center of the unknown. And the unknown is a very uncomfortable to be.
AND… the unknown is exactly where we are now and where we’re going to be for the foreseeable future. The thing that is so hard about this current situation is that we have no idea how long it’s going to last. And what the ramifications are going to be on so many levels in terms of our health, our loved ones, our work and our finances. All of the things that are basic to our survival and sense of well being.
So it’s no surprise that we’re feeling freaked and afraid, but our nervous systems can’t sustain that level of anxiety on an ongoing basis.
We’re also in what’s known as a liminal space. It’s that place between the past and the future, what has been and what’s to come, the known and the next.
We can sense on so many levels that things have changed… and some of them irrevocably. The old world is dissolving and the new one has not yet come into form. Liminal space is like a waiting room between two worlds. It can feel empty and disorienting and confusing. It’s what Pema Chodron refers to as the Groundlessness Of Being. And it can be very hard to navigate because there’s no signposts and no map.
So this is where the your creative and spiritual practices come in. One of the things that we try to learn to navigate through the intuitive painting process is being with the unknown. And we do that by listening to our intuition and allowing it to guide us step by step, brushstroke by brushstroke, through the fog of the in between.
Those creative and spiritual practices remind us to stop our focus on doing and bring our attention inside to that place of being. Our intuition requires that we LISTEN to ourselves. Because even when our outer world is chaotic and confusing we can always contact a place INSIDE our heart and soul that is connected to the source of our innate wisdom and that knows what we want, what we feel and the next step to take. And by making a commitment to listening to it, we communicate to our intuition that we value it and can begin to trust it on deeper and deeper levels.
Paying attention to our intuition means being willing to stop being in our heads, to feel EVERYTHING, and to be here and now in the present moment. The intuition thrives when we practice calming down our nervous systems through simply breathing, sensing our bodies, feeling our feelings, meditation, and connecting with the natural world however we can.
During times of upheaval and radical change what the panicked part of us wants us to believe is that it’s time to go on high alert and move FAST! And that can be the correct response when the crisis is short lived. But when you’re in the marathon crisis mode the exact opposite reaction is called for. Under these conditions we need to slow down. WAY down.
And from that slowed down place begin feeding ourselves with what will ground us, inspire us and bring us joy. So that means making art, writing, moving, dancing, creating, journaling, singing, chanting, painting, drumming, praying, napping, eating well, listening to music, playing with your pets, sharing love with family and friends, finding supportive creative, spiritual and emotional circles online, and staying away from of being glued to the computer or the television and swallowing whole scary stories and statistics about politics and the corona virus.
The other thing about being in liminal space is that it’s also a powerful place of creation because it’s connected to the dreamtime. Which means we have a pretty golden opportunity here to focus on dreaming a new life and a new world into being for ourselves, for each other and the planet by remembering what we love. Our imagination is an incredibly powerful force and we can certainly use it to imagine the very worst possibilities. BUT… we can also choose to imagine what the world could become now that there’s a crack opening up in reality-as-we’ve-known-it and … like Leonard Cohen said… a chance to allow the light to come in.