Freedom in Confinement (Covid March 27th 2020)
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Freedom from and freedom to
For so long now, I have been writing in my diaries about freedom. I half started a blog on it. I wrote notes.
I doodled about how I wanted freedom from time constraints, responsibility, business, expectation, pressure, monitoring, unnecessary process and haste. I wanted to be free to write, and do yoga, to catch up with friends, be outside and think, be quiet and walk.
The only time I have had that kind of freedom from and to, is when I have traveled, when the clock has stopped and the plane has taken off and I am nothing but this person, with this bag and these kids.
Then these weeks have happened and we are locked in and I am so conflicted about saying how much freedom I have felt.
I feel conflicted because I know so many people, especially in the NHS and essential services, including my sister, are out there every day, busier than ever, under more pressure, with old rule book burning and the new one not written. I know people are worried about incomes, about jobs, about rent. I also know there will be people experiencing increased domestic violence and child abuse (free resouces here). And I do not want to diminish those realities.
But my reality, which is all I can live, is that this strange time has given me freedom and more appreciation than ever.
I am so lucky to have a garden and outside space and I know so many people are shut in small, confined flats and blocks. I know I am lucky to be able to work from home and to have kids who are old enough to allow me to do so. One of the reasons I went into teaching was so I could fit around the children I wouldn’t have for another 14 years and could work from anywhere. I never expected to be working from the kitchen table.
I know I am lucky to live in a small, rural village, not the cities where shops are busier and contact is harder to avoid; I’m so glad my younger self was brave enough to move out of the South East. I am lucky to have good friends and close family and am so grateful that we have the technology to keep in touch.
We are lucky to be in a country with the health service we have. It saved my life and probably my son’s in childbirth and saved my son’s life so many times when he was having asthma attacks. A friend shared with me a link to a small charity in Sierra Leone, where instead of our newly ordered ventilators, they have just one ventilator in the entire country. The charity is doing something really practical with young people to help that country protect itself against the virus. If you’d like to know more or donate just follow this link.
It has (ironically) given me freedom of movement. Of course I am still teaching online lessons, but there is no commute, no need to make a packed lunch, to look more polished, to rush out of the house. The pupils I have been teaching have been in the garden, in their bedroom, at the kitchen table with drinks and snacks and dogs and family member pottering about. We have missed each other but I can sit cross legged on the chair or the floor and no one is any the wiser (until now).
My body feels freer. I am eating when I am hungry and not when a bell goes. I can sit, rest, lie down when I need to. It has been a joy to be in the sun, to be outside, to have my hands in soil and my hair tangled with leaves. I am walking and doing yoga and meditating (see links above). I feel well. My junk food teenage child has even eaten salad!
Because all non-essential journeys are cancelled, I have so much more free time. I am loving not having to be in a car. I normally rush from work, to tea, to clubs and all that has gone, there is just all one long now.
I need less money. No take out coffees, no quickly bought meals. I was never a one for facials and nails but now we can see, what is essential and what is froth and how little we need to spend to live a simpler life.
Since I started meditating in India (of course) when I was in my early twenties, I have known about being in the present, in the NOW. I have read the books, practiced the meditation and yoga and sometimes found that ephemeral present moment. Only on holidays has it been present for more than short moments, but now each day is rich and slow. Not knowing has been forced upon us and surrendering to uncertainty has meant a letting go of control and instead an inhalation of each moment, each to each.
The order to lock down has freed me from responsibilities. All I have to do is stay home, work, create, stay healthy and look after my kids. I have fewer decision to make, less white noise. We eat what is in the fridge and if something isn’t there, we go without. I were brought up as the waste-not, want-not post war generation and I can feel my mum at my side as I boil the roast chicken carcass to make stew.
There is less choice so fewer decisions to make. One walk a day. Stay home. Stay well. All I have to decide is what to cook for tea. My lessons have a schedule so I turn up for them and any other decision is made from pleasure and desire rather than expectation and pressure. I want to write blogs. I want to run the online meditation. I want to do yoga. I want to phone a friend. Desires not pressure points.
Controlling my controllables
I think it has helped that I have mentally closed down as well. Now all the edicts have sent us home, I am no longer watching or listening to the news in detail. I don’t want to hear about deaths and shortages because there is nothing I can do to make a difference or help, and I know if I did, I would be too stressed to do what I can.
So I am controlling my controllables and there is freedom in that. I can’t control who has it or if I will get it, I can control what I do to keep well. I can’t control the future and so staying in the moment where at the moment things are fine. If that changes, I will deal with that then, but no amount of worrying is going to protect me or the people I love from what might be.
Freedom to innovate
Out of this freedom has come innovation. The letter from abroad blogs, the meditation sessions and now I’m working out how to podcast so watch this space, because I want to share this inner freedom and ease. I know people are worrying, I have talked to some of those people in the last few weeks and I want to ease that through connection with each other through the blogs and with our self and the natural world through the online sessions.
With the old forms falling away we have room to innovate. I wrote about the need for a new paradigm in June 2019 and now we are having to restructure and reform in hours and days. And look how we are managing. 2 weeks ago I was teaching in class, now I am teaching online for 2 schools. A levels and GCSEs and dropped, Ofsted stood down. The world has changed.
People have been talking to me about when things ‘go back’ to how they were. We can’t go back. That has gone.
Nature has really put us back in our place this year, with floods and fires, plagues and now pestilence. We humans are smaller than we like to think. Weaker than we allow ourselves to believe. More dependent on each other than we were brought up to be.
Yet we are resilient and adaptable as we have seen so clearly in these last few weeks. Now we all have the time and freedom to make changes to the world, to play our part in rebuilding what comes next in a more ethical, compassionate and less consumerist way.
Freedom to grow something new
I don’t see this as lock-down, but as hibernation or the chrysalis stage of a butterfly. We are dormant but fecund, growing and changing in ways we can’t yet see. One day we will come out of hibernation but not into the world we left or as the people we were. We cannot help but be changed. My wish for us all would be that we come out of this wiser, healthier and able to create a world where there is more freedom for all.
Freedom from violence, from war, from bullying, from stress, from performance pressure, from mindless monitoring, from poverty, from ecological disaster, from corruption, loneliness, judgement, from exam pressure, from debt, from underfunded health services, from extremism, from hate.
Freedom to grow, trust and express ourselves, freedom to find a way of education which does not teach to the test but allows young people to fall in love with learning and with themselves. Freedom to innovate cures and systems and health care and housing and economics which serve the interests of everyone rather. Freedom to do nothing, to relax to connect with our friends and kids. Freedom to imagine and question and think. Freedom to be all of who we are.
I am in the cocoon with you. I can’t yet see what will be, but I am hopeful that this confinement is the womb for a new world.