‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’
Reflections on a year of living in a global pandemic
A year ago we went into our first lockdown and the world became much smaller; borders closed, people stayed at home (if they could) and we all stopped doing all the normal activities that we were used to.
So why on earth have titled this blog ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ (a quote from my favourite Dickens novel).
It’s so easy to get caught up in the negative… we all have a negativity bias and you only need to put on the news to see how our mainstream media compounds that.
We have all had a very challenging and exhausting 12 months.
This is just my story of the 'best of times and the worst of times' you will have your own story!
So the worst of times....
This time last year I had never taught online and if you told me then I’d still be teaching my classes via zoom 12 months later I wouldn’t have believed you. Last March, I was supposed to be going to India to do a Reiki healing course with my yoga teacher and a sound healing course. The borders closed, my visa got revoked and as I write this in March 2021 I have no idea when I will be able to travel to India to do this training. It could be some time.
That was only the start, in April in the middle of the isolation of the first lockdown, my husband announced he wanted to be with someone else and we separated. I couldn’t see my friends or family, no one could offer a hug and although virtual words of comfort were (and still are) so helpful you can’t beat being with your loved ones in person especially for moments like that. I’d never even lived on my own before, as I met my husband when I was very young and for the last 9 months I have been living on my own through lockdowns/restrictions.
Close friends lost parents and were made redundant during this time as well. Life seemed to be throwing many curveballs. In August ,the wonderful yoga studio I had been teaching at closed due to financial difficulties which is such a shame for the community of Ashford. My grandmother was in hospital for nearly a month (not covid related) and then my brother and I helped clear her house out as she has been moved to a nursing home in New Forest. I was clearing her house just weeks after I cleared mine… and then my first ever yoga teacher died of pancreatic cancer, she was the same age as me. That was a dreadful month and it was as much as I could to show up on my meditation cushion and yoga mat when I did. BUT I kept showing up even if often my practice was just to sit with the myriad of emotions.
I have moved house twice now, in less than six months, by myself in lockdown both times. Not the way I would have chosen to do it…
So if over the last 12 months my friends and family have been the RNLI for me, my yoga mat has been my lift-raft and mantra and chanting has been my lifejacket. One of the key things that has changed for me in the last year is the impact of mantra on my life, so much so I have now just started a 6 month mantra and meditation course. The Gayatri mantra kept me calm on many many occasions.
So that’s the worst of times but what about the best.
Well for one, I’ve had to overcome my fear of teaching online, get over myself being on screen which I have always hated. I’ve learnt how to edit videos, upload to You tube and although I miss teaching in person, I also enjoy teaching online. It offers a different practice but it has its advantages for both teacher and student.
In the last 12 months, I have been able to take live yoga classes with my teacher in India and my favourite teacher in the States thanks to the power of the internet. I have listened to countless webinars/seminars on yoga, meditation, spiritual development, Ayurveda, and learnt about other Vedic wisdoms - Jyotish and vastu… it’s all so fascinating.
I’ve had more time, for a start I have an extra 6 - 7 hours a week when I am not commuting so I have been able to commit to a 45 mins meditation practice every morning, plus chanting, followed by yoga, dance or weights all during the time I’d normally be on a train! I’ve found the Plum Village (Thich Nhat Hanh’s) Sangha online and I’ve been soaking up all their great teachings.
I’ve had time to do an Ayurvedic cooking course and further yoga/meditation learning.
I’ve had time to rediscover my love for music, I’ve learnt how to play the harmonium and introduced a few chants to my classes/workshops. I have been playing the piano again and I have even had time to be creative with my writing and I’ve written two meditations.
I’ve been to places in Kent I’d never seen before, I have rediscovered much loved old walks and haunts. My national trust membership and walking boots have been my sturdy companion this last year.
I’ve reconnected with friends across the world via zoom and social media, and many friends whom I had lost touch with have come back into my life which has been wonderful. Is it just me or has the pandemic made everyone a little more loving and caring?
Maybe our shared experience has softened some of us which has got to be a good thing.
Everyone will have their pandemic stories - the good, the bad, the tragic, the joyful as I said this is just my story.
Fundamentally for me I miss hugs, I miss social interaction, I miss the cinema and theatre, going out for dinner, being able to go on a plane and go abroad, just being able to cook dinner for friends and even going to the gym - all those things I took so for granted. I won’t again and perhaps that’s the biggest lesson for me, a lesson in impermanence and having patience and trust (I am still working on those!!)
Nothing is guaranteed, we live in a fluid ever changing world and by riding the waves instead of fighting against them we can find that inner peace despite the external circumstances.
Thats what this year living through the pandemic has taught me, life is so precious, it hangs by a thread and I hope that by remembering that, it means I live my life with intention, attention, true to myself and with less fear.
It truly has been the best of times and the worst of times.