In the Native American tradition, Deer Medicine comes to us as a reminder to be gentle, kind and nurturing to ourselves. It symbolizes a return to innocence and the subtle messages of the heart.
During this crisis, we need to care for our bodies in the same way that we would care for an infant. We need safety, stability, and a consistent routine. We need quiet, lots of sleep, to be well fed, and to reside in warm and comfortable surroundings. We might even need to tightly wrap ourselves in a blanket and have someone hold us, or we can embrace ourselves. These activities will support and calm our body and nervous system.
We have lost our normal way of life. We haven’t experienced anything like this before. We don’t know what to do. Some of us will find it challenging to be home with little to do or without the usual social activity we enjoy. We might feel isolated and depressed, and cling to the familiar things of our past: our favorite foods, aspects of our daily routine, old memories, and what we have relied upon to comfort us.
Instead of seeking diversions to avoid our discomfort, we can choose to go deeper. We can use this precious time to do something different. We can do something significant and life-changing.
I was sitting in stillness a few days ago, reflecting upon how I could make this time meaningful. Ten years from now, I don’t want to look back at this quarantine period as a time when I stayed home, binge-watched Netflix, followed the news, and spent too much time talking about it with others. I want this to be a time of deep reflection, and the catalyst to inspire new action in my life.
When I recalled the tragic event on September 11, 2001, I remember exactly where I was at the moment I saw footage of the terrorist attack on the news. I went into shock, I cried, I panicked. That event changed me. Within one month, I left my normal way of life to go on a silent retreat in the mountains. I no longer wanted to delay. I was no longer willing to waste my time in the mundane and meaningless activities of life. I wanted to become more aware and to heal myself from the trauma I held within me. I wanted to create a different way of life, and I knew I needed to step out of it to do so.
I spent six months on retreat, and it transformed me. During that time, I gained the discipline to show up every day, face myself, and not deny or avoid my pain. I sat in stillness, expressed my feelings, wrote in a journal, analyzed my dreams, and received guidance by phone every week. I cleared my mind of old patterns and restored my body. I began to see my life choices very differently.
When we are too busy, too comfortable, and focused on having pleasurable experiences, we usually don’t take the time to go deeper. We often need adversity to take us out of our comfort zone. We need to stop the normal, habituated motion of our daily lives so we can look at ourselves and examine how we are living. How do we spend our time? What do we think about? What do we focus on?
If we are distracted, lost in repetitive thinking, or constantly in-motion, we lose the opportunity to think and feel deeply. We may have a powerful insight while washing the dishes or preparing our food, but to fully understand its significance, we need the time to be still and explore its meaning.
To go deeper, we remain in the present moment. We do not lose ourselves in fearful stories of the future or reminisce about past events. We feel ourselves breathing and feel our aliveness. We tune-in to our present experience and connect to receive its wisdom.
To go deeper, we stay focused within. We do not lose ourselves in the stories of others. We acknowledge what we are feeling and attempt to understand it. We listen to the subtle messages of our heart. What is the importance of this experience? What does it mean to me? How will it change me?
This is the time to honor our life’s breath, the wisdom of our body, the expression of our emotions, the strength of our immune system, the power of nature, and the purpose of the virus. It is here among us, and we are not going to stop it. What we can do is move beyond our denial and stagnancy to embrace all that it brings.
This is not only a physical crisis; it is a spiritual crisis. We are being called to look at the meaning of life, as well as the significance of death. We are being urged to not only rethink our lives but to reshape them. With presence and awareness, we can shape this crisis into a deeply meaningful life transformation.
Photograph by Tomasz Filipek