A nod of gratitude to NPR.org for this image.
Will your life go back to its usual rapid pace after the pandemic?
There isn’t anything good we can say about COVID-19. We’ve surpassed 330,000 deaths in this country. We’re the worst place on Earth to be when it comes to the virus. Total cases around the world have surged past 75 million. And while it’s good news that a vaccine is coming, the virus doesn’t care. Cases and deaths are on the rise. Even as we wait our turn to get vaccinated, we know that many more people will die, and the cost of those lives is incalculable. In short, it ain’t over yet.
Setting aside the human tragedy for a moment, maybe we can point to at least one positive outcome: We slowed down. Think about how the speed of life changed for us this past year. Suddenly there were no more parties or picnics. We couldn’t run out and meet our friends for a drink at the pub. Gyms and shopping malls closed. No more football, baseball, or soccer games to attend. People avoided restaurants, movie theaters, crowds, churches, and family gatherings. We cancelled trips and put off doctor visits and haircuts. Even the holidays were very different this year. Slower, smaller, quieter, online. During 2020, many of us rediscovered home life, whatever that means or looks like to each of us.
And maybe, for some people, home life needed to be rediscovered. Perhaps it was okay to dial back the commitments and spend our most valuable resource — our time — with the people who mean the most to us, doing things like cooking, talking, watching TV, or just puttering around the house attending to long overdue chores. There’s an old Zen saying, “What you’re chasing is already inside you.” This phrase always makes me think of a cat chasing its tail. Isn’t that the way we feel sometimes? Why did it take a pandemic to force us to slow down and pay attention to what’s right in front of us, to take notice of the things happening in our own homes, in our hearts, and in our minds?
At some point in 2021, the vaccine will arrive and become available to most of us, and the number of cases will begin to turn around. Schools and businesses will reopen. We’ll go out again to parties and restaurants and theaters. Life will return to the way it was. All good things, to be sure. People need to work and socialize, and the economy can’t stand still forever. Also, let’s be honest, many of us have struggled emotionally with the isolation. But maybe we’ll remember a little something of what we gained during all the distancing, and we won’t be in such a hurry to get back to exactly the way life was before.
Western culture often defines freedom as the ability to do whatever we want, whenever we want. We equate liberty with movement. The Buddhists have a slightly different take on it. They believe true freedom is freedom from want. A new perspective worth pondering. As our lives return to the old normal, whether it’s next spring, summer or fall, let’s try to remember what it felt like to simply rest.
In that spirit, I offer you one recommendation in my last blog of the year. If you have 16 minutes to spare, sit back and enjoy this Ted Talk by Bec Heinrich called “Redefining Rest: Slowing Down to Speed Up.” Considering all we’ve been through in 2020, it will be time well spent.
“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”Mahatma Gandhi