Global Retreat Time

There’s a peculiar sense of humour developing on social media in this time of global crisis. Most good humour not only causes belly laughs but can also carry important messages. That’s what I thought when I read the one where we sputter and complain to Mother Nature (or God) by saying that we cannot possibly stop the economy and share our wealth, reduce our carbon footprint and scale back our rampant consuming and exploiting of the world’s resources. To which Mother Nature (or God) responds: Here is a virus — practice.

Covid-19 has halted the entire world in its tracks. If we are among those who feel legislated to home-confinement, the first thing to realize is that we are among the fortunate few. For millions around the world, this is far from a home-based retreat with solitary walks in the park and surfing the net on the couch. As a doctor from India said recently: If you have a home to retreat to, you are privileged. If you have running water to wash your hands frequently, you are privileged. If you can work from home and be paid, you are privileged. If you can buy hand sanitizer, you are privileged. (FB post, date unknown).

The numbers of the sick and the dead are staggering and continue to rise. Families can’t even be with their loved ones as they suffer and die. Funerals are suspended. Millions are laid off due to the economic collapse caused by Covid-19. Health care workers are stressed beyond their emotional and professional capacity. Essential services personnel is panicking — they have to keep working, exposing themselves to transmission of Covid-19. People in refugee camps and homeless shelters can’t even consider the recommended social distancing or self-isolation. A mass-choir of weeping and wailing is circling the globe — cries of pain and loss, of anxiety and despair, cries of losing hope and courage.

So if we feel inconvenienced because Covid-19 has grounded our lives to a brutal halt, we need a serious reality check. If we are house-bound with or without kids, and if we still have a job, complaining would really sound like the whining of spoiled brats. House-bound and on retreat from the rat race, we can decide to make this a constructive time to learn important lessons about right living and loving.

There are those among us, often unnoticed in a frenzied, materialistic-driven culture, who have lots of experience with social distancing and self-isolation. Every religious tradition has monastic communities who practice silence and meditation on a daily basis; their guidance and advice is invaluable now and it is there for the taking. We all count persons in our circle of love who have undergone cancer treatments or other medical procedures which necessitated self-isolation for certain lengths of time. I think of a friend with cerebral palsy who spends most days in social isolation, because she has physical difficulty communicating even while her mental capacity is as sharp as any politician (well, a professor maybe). Part of the current upside down turmoil is that those who are not usually noticed and valued by society now have the most to teach us.

An elementary school teacher, Jenna has already seen way more health challenges in her young life than most of us will undergo in a lifetime. Social distancing and self-isolation became a way of life for her long before it was enforced by law. Jenna lives and breathes social isolation simply in order to keep herself safe and less sick than she needs to be. Jenna gave permission to share her story and her tips as a way to help others to live well in self-isolation, provided her identity remained concealed. So I changed her name. Jenna inspires me to living this legislated retreat in the best way I can so that it will bear fruit for the rest of my life. I hope you will join me in following in her footsteps:

A few years ago, because of some health issues, I was at home for the better part of a year. I saw people occasionally, but for the most part, I was social distancing like we are now with the exception of grocery shopping, church and a couple events with small groups of people. I was reacting to most people’s shampoo, deodorant, hairspray and other products, and would often have skin reactions if people touched me and were wearing a product or if they walked by too close and the scents came near me or my skin. Whenever my body had several severe reactions in a row I would need to self-isolate to be able to help my body’s reactions subside. Sometimes this would take a couple of weeks, or longer.

As someone who has spent a significant amount of time social distancing for various periods of time, I thought it might be helpful in this global health crisis to share some things that I have learned. This time around, I feel less anxious about social distancing. I am at home with myself, and I hope that you are too.

* VARY YOUR SCHEDULE – Do many different things to keep life full.

* LEARN SOMETHING NEW – I started watching gardening videos on YouTube and reading gardening books. I currently have 9 trays of seeds started in my basement. From a time of isolation came beauty, life, gift and a new found hobby. Five years ago, I knew nothing about gardening and now my yard is a beautiful oasis. It would not be this way without the gift of this time spent alone.

* LIMIT SCREEN TIME – Looking at a screen most of the day will make you feel tired and affect your mood. By all means, watch things but also take breaks. There can be too much of a good thing.

* GET SOME FRESH AIR – Get outside if you can. If you can’t, open a window and sit beside it for a while.

* TRY NEW RECIPES – Now is the time to find some new recipes that you love. 🙂 Yum.

* MAKE SOMETHING – If you have markers, draw. If you have paints, paint. If you have toothpicks, build. If you have a pen, write. If you have an instrument, play music. If you have seeds, plant. If you have clay, sculpt. Enjoy this time for creativity.

* DEAL WITH YOUR STUFF – Silence can bring up difficult things we didn’t know were within ourselves. Take the time to sit with things that come up. Reflect on them. Acknowledge your struggles, fears and joys. This isn’t being negative. It is being honest. Don’t dig for more things to work through, but as something comes up, give it your time and attention. Be gentle with yourself because this is a difficult time. You are going through a lot and a lot of things are coming up. Be gentle with others too.

* DO THINGS YOU NEVER HAVE TIME TO DO – Clean “that” cupboard. Catch up on chores. Read a book. Deep clean things. Organize. Declutter. Do some yard work. Clean out the shed. Have a nap. Journal. Pray. Listen to podcasts. Trim a tree (in your yard). Call a friend. Wash your hands 534 times a day. 🙂

* STAY IN TOUCH – Call a friend or two. FaceTime or Zoom if you can.
Check in with others, especially those who live alone.

* RATION YOUR SNACKS – A little treat everyday can be so uplifting.
Spread it out over time.

* PRAY – Bring things to God. He sees everything.

* WHEN YOU FEEL LOW OR DEPRESSED – Call a friend and talk to them.
Listen to music that calms you or makes you happy.

* JOURNAL – If you feel anxious or worried, write out your thoughts. If you are angry, type your thoughts. It helps to get things out faster and the motion of typing can be helpful if you feel angry. I like to write down three things a day that I am thankful for. It can be as small as … being able to walk, or popcorn.

* SPEND TIME IN NATURE – Nature helps us to feel calm. Open a window and listen to the birds. (I am right now ! 🙂 ) Put your hands in some dirt. Repot a plant or two. Spend time sitting and looking at plants or flowers or gently touch a couple leaves. (Only if the plant likes to be touched. Some plants prefer social distancing. 🙂 )

* EAT HEALTHY – You will feel better if you eat more whole foods.
Avoid eating tons of prepackaged food with preservatives.

* MAINTAIN PROPER HYGIENE – Take a relaxing bath or shower and take your time. Put on candles and soft music. Enjoy the experience.

* STICK TO DAILY ROUTINES – Yes. Even if you are not leaving the house. Wash your face. Do basic makeup. Wash your face and brush your teeth before bed. It will feel more like a regular day if you treat it like a regular day. Set a bed time and wake-up time and stick to it to the best of your ability.

* GET EXERCISE – Do something active — help your body to feel well.
Move, walk, stretch.

* WATCH or DO SOMETHING FUNNY – Get yourself in a good mood.

* HANG OUT WITH YOUR PET – What’s that, you say? You don’t have a pet? Me neither. I hang out with my plants. All 76 of them. (Yes, I actually have that many plants.) What is your pet?

* LIGHT CANDLES AND RELAX – Turn on those twinkle lights or that candle and just chill.

* OLD TUNES AND MOVIES – Listen to all your old CDs. Watch all your old favourite VHS or DVDs. Introduce your kids to classic Disney movies. If you don’t have kids… watch them anyway.


* POST UPLIFTING THINGS ON SOCIAL MEDIA – Help fill those feeds with other things than the crisis at hand.

Here is a virus — practice.

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