It’s coming to a close. 2020 has rocked our foundations, causing destruction (of life as we knew it) and is presenting a new way of being, if we are open to new possibilities.
I’m calling 2020 The Year Of Profound Thinking.
Why? Well, most of us had plenty of time to think...right? In fact more time than ever before. And I feel like we had a lot to think about. In summer, Australians watched as our country was burning and by February we found ourselves witnessing, then experiencing a global pandemic.
It’s been tiring for many. As we draw to the end of 2020, I can see it and feel it when I teach yoga. It feels so different compared to every other year since I started teaching. There is a sense of hope for a brighter year ahead and an overwhelming need to put this year behind us.
The word unprecedented has been a constant. For me, 2020 has created ‘unprecedented’ fear and that is what we need to heal. Of course it has been normal to feel fear at some stage whether it is for ourselves, our loved ones, our community or for the whole planet.
Around the middle of the year, after a period in lockdown many people talked about what had changed for them or what they intended to change. The tree change and sea change numbers are (I’m going to say it again) ‘unprecedented’. People were growing vegetables for the first time (the demand for vegetable gardens and seedlings went crazy when we went into lockdown). Many people didn’t race back to the same existence as they led prior March and they have modified or changed their lives in some way. For many it has been very difficult and some have moved towards a new way of living including a new approach to work.
There is the tangible and somewhat intangible change that is going on for many of us.
I credit this to ‘The Year Of Profound Thinking’.
So, what have I been thinking?
In March I became aware of the almost palpable atmosphere of fear and panic. I wanted to acknowledge this in my yoga teaching by supporting students even though initially it was all via Zoom. I know that the opposite or remedy for fear is love. In the end, I realised that this is what I needed to embrace and provide in holding the space for a yoga class.
I also became aware of how difficult it was to have little physical contact. No hugs. (Maybe just a couple of sneaky ones with my son who doesn’t live with me!) It reminded me that as humans we are by nature very social beings. Lockdown, despite strong rational arguments to keep us safe, was and is a very emotionally and mentally harmful experience for many people.
The upside of lockdown was the time in nature for me as I fell in love with my rainforest garden. I can feel that my time in nature is healing and uplifting. It is grounding to put our hands in dirt (even a pot plant) and to listen and see birds, butterflies, lizards and even rowdy possums!
I came to love my dog Baxter even more. I’ve become more and more aware of his unconditional love and loyalty along with his playfulness and appreciation for my repetitive ball chucking and walks each day. Our pets are a constant, particularly in challenging times. They’re so pleased to see us from the moment they wake up and they provide beautiful companionship until they close their eyes each night.
I’m aware of how my appreciation for my yoga practice has deepened and evolved. This year I took up more regular chanting and taught myself the traditional Surya Namaskar chant which I sometimes inflict on my students (despite the shortfall in my singing ability!). Even when I’m tired or a bit down, the mat is my refuge and I am truly grateful as it feels as though my yoga knowledge and experience is a gift from the universe that helps soothe and support me. I have realised that I am so fortunate to have a broad local and international yoga teacher community. And I have been constantly reminded by them of the power of yoga as they all appear to have managed and mostly, enjoyed their time in lockdown regardless of whether they are in Sydney on the Northern Beaches or in a big city in Europe.
But it’s not all positive. I’ve become increasingly worried and sad about the effects of the individualist culture. The United States is probably the leader in this type of culture. On top of a value system geared toward individual wealth and achievements, I have observed their responses to the management of the pandemic including rioting for freedom and ignoring health advice and I see this as purely evidence of the individualist culture. Back home, we can not ignore the signs and similarities and I live in hope that we learn by example so that we take care of the collective in the future.
For the purposes of being clear on the difference between ‘individualist’ and ‘collective’ cultures I looked up the Wikipedia definition of an individualistic culture:
An ‘Individualistic culture is a society which is characterized by individualism, which is the prioritization or emphasis of the individual over the entire group. Individualistic cultures are oriented around the self, being independent instead of identifying with a group mentality. They see each other as only loosely linked, and value personal goals over group interests. Individualistic cultures tend to have a more diverse population and are characterized with emphasis on personal achievements, and a rational assessment of both the beneficial and detrimental aspects of relationships with others.’
That doesn’t sit well with me at all!
Actually, the pandemic has highlighted to me the value of the collective good. The communities or countries that have a greater focus on the collective appear to have navigated the pandemic in a more humanistic and supportive way. Even if we look at this simplistically, for example developed countries that have good public health; witnessing the support groups providing free meals to students in Sydney or those just taking a small pack of toilet paper rather than hoarding etc, etc. One of my worst memories was the image of a couple armed in their front garden, protecting their mansion during a peaceful Black Lives Matter march in Missouri.
For me it is inherently a value - the individual or the collective?
And aside from my family and friends, the collective or community during lockdown for me was neighbours who I barely knew, arranging coffee together whilst socially distancing on our driveways.
I feel that if our society was more about the ‘Collective’ we would do a much better job of taking care of the elderly, people on social support and those with disabilities. The trend in ‘Individualist’ societies is to be less generous towards supporting the elderly or disadvantaged.
I also found that the interconnectedness of the world became apparent during the pandemic. There were so many beautiful examples of interconnection in the arts and entertainment world but one of my favourites became ‘View from my window’ a facebook page with 2.2m members and posts being just that, an image and a few words from individuals in lockdown across the world. Heartfelt and interconnected with big doses of kindness!
We cheered for other societies when they came out of lockdown and we celebrated the freedoms that brought people back together. And it continues.
Close to home, at our yoga studio, I learned that people crave fun, joy and community. A mention of a Bollywood course initiated an eager and excited response from so many in our community. What a relief to do something that puts a smile on your face and makes you feel joyful!
Finally, if I bring all of my thinking back to my yoga, I’m left with some last simple thoughts:
We all want a healthy, happy and peaceful life.
Our existence is impermanent.
How a dramatic world problem opened the door to a recalibration of our priorities.
Liz is a partner and teacher at Dee Why Yoga and teaches Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin, Pranayama and Meditation in studio, privately and online. Her formal qualifications include a Diploma in Hatha Yoga, Yin Yoga training and a Diploma in Energetic Healing as well as a Meditation Facilitator’s certificate.