Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer day, ends with a call to action,
‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’
This line has inspired me for a long time. When I read it, I think, ‘what is possible in my life’? As I begin to drop into imagination my energy rises and I begin to visualize being out in nature; amongst majestic trees, ancient mountains in the distance, with the sound of animals around me. As I breathe in, the smell of wild air becomes a part of me. I feel the sun on my face and I smile from my core…this feels like a home within me.
As this phenomenological phantasy makes its way from my unconscious to my conscious mind, I want to ask the question of you, the reader…
What are you inspired to keep doing as a result of your social withdrawal experience?
My desire to ask this question is driven by what I hear from the people I talk to about social withdrawal in our current context. Some say, ‘I can’t wait until this ends’, others say, ‘I am really enjoying…!’, and others say, ‘this is an opportunity to change things for the better’, and more…
Not only do these splits in opinion exist between people, but also within people. I am a psychotherapist who works with the supporting belief that people are a mixture of parts provoked by our experiences over time. From a wider ecological point of view, I wonder which parts will dominate in our push out of social withdrawal? How will these dominant drives shape our society stepping forward as a whole organism?
My cynical part says, ‘we will push to recreate the same sh*t as before’. Human greed will be the winner over a community of generosity and care for self, others, and the environment. I am not telling you that you should do anything, but I am saying – there is the possibility of change if you hold a passion within you.
The Paradoxical Theory of Change (Beisser, 1970) says, that change occurs when one becomes what s/he is, not when s/he tries to become what s/he is not.
Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what s/he is – to be fully invested in the current position(s).
My current position is that I am working from home – I accepted this early. Although I had a head start with partial work from home, I envisioned my freedom disappearing and this provoked my anxiety. However, I saw no point in fighting my ‘lockdown’ reality. I set up shop and planned my system around me. Now, I am ticking along and feel secure in this position. I have also embraced the idea of exercising alone – although I do quite enjoy this anyway, I have no option. It is ‘having the option’ that appeals to a man who values freedom of choice. But, in accepting and embracing this reality I have managed to make my choices and shaped good experience.
Through this period of social-withdrawal I have supported my own mental health through optimizing my physical health. Running along local farm tracks, HIIT workouts in the garden, cycling along country roads and mountain-biking in the woods, as well as a daily staple of Yoga with Morag from www.jyotiyoga.org
What power do I now have? What will I choose to continue to practice as we begin to move out from the tortoiseshell of withdrawal?
Choice and Control
With power comes responsibility. Focusing down on this concept with action in mind, we can flip the coin and rewrite the word as ‘response-ability’.
If we are aware of our internal responses to external stimuli, and vice versa, we can make conscious choices from this awareness.
Set up in your mind a triangle with thought-feeling-action at each point. In fact, grab a piece of paper and draw this. You will realize that each point affects each point. The action of cycling affects my endorphins, which affect my feelings of joy, which affect my thoughts that this experience is good. The result is that I see through bright and energetic lens. My fear of missing a deadline affects my body tension, which affects my thoughts of, ‘can I make it on time’, which, in turn, inreases my feeling of fear. I begin to view things through a darker shade.
So, let’s draw together the concepts of change, choice, and control.
The first part of change is simple – accept your reality. Easy for me to say I know – and, I acknowledge that change can often be challenging. For example, my own acceptance that I may not make the deadline, or your acceptance that social distance results in feelings of loneliness.
I am not suggesting that you make a stop in the pain tunnel, but instead, accept that your reality exists. What needs to be present are the resources to support the journey through.
This graphic from shows that we can make choices within a ’circle of influence’ in our lives, or you could view this as a tunnel of possibility.
Unless there is good reason to step outside the circle to consciously take direct action, we are better to hang out in our circle as we have more power in this place. As you will notice, I prefer the word ‘choice’ within my circle of influence
So, referring back to the start of the article, I want to ask you, what ‘one thing’ do you want to hold on to and make a consistent part of your life?
I think that I have now answered this question in me – and my nature has answered by connecting with nature. However, it is the process I want to focus on with my answer to this question.
I think about the many training courses I have attended and the multitude of information that I have lost over time. Human beings are creatures of habit and this goes against us when we are creating change. However, this can also be used to our advantage when integrating new stuff! The clue lies in just one word within that final line in Mary Oliver’s poem – plan!
If you are inspired by something you are doing in this phase of social withdrawal, then my question is this, ‘what is your plan to continue with this practice?’
To finish up, I would like to share an example from my own personal daily practice. This began when I was working as a social worker in a busy children’s area team in Edinburgh. I was faced with my desk and computer for 80% of my working day, and as a person who values movement, breathing fresh air, and connecting with nature, I need a consistent supply of these elements to maintain balance of good health. I mean both physical and mental health.
ROARS – Restoring Our Awareness and Reconnecting to Source
This simple graphic shows the plan that I have set out to ‘reconnect with source’ on a regular basis. My source is to drink water, breathe, move, and connect with nature. It goes like this – every hour I set an alarm and I stop for a few minutes to grab a drink of water, I move around whilst being aware of my need for breath (yoga or HIITS) and I connect my senses with nature (air on my skin, green things in my field of vision, the sound of animals) and then I return to my work. This reinvigorates me. What’s more, this gives me a structured plan with which to reconnect with source. If you want to read more about ROARS then please visit my website.
I hope you can connect with your passion and plan your way forward!
Thanks for reading – Douglas Sharp www.activemind.io