Cultivating courage during COVID-19
Well, if ever there was a time for cultivating courage, this is that time.
It’s hard to believe that just 18 months ago I was sharing about the joy of teaching groups of people, co-creating Thinking Environments with them, and gaily making assumptions about the given of being able to meet in person.
Less than a month later, and I am facing “pivoting” along with the rest of planet earth, tackling the conundrum of taking connection on line.
Like everyone else, I have spent the next two to three weeks, watching the assumptions I didn’t even know I was making fall away like the dance of one thousand veils……..
I will be able to celebrate my youngest son turning 21, I will be able to hold his precious face in my hands as I celebrate him stepping over that particular threshold……..well, no.
I will be able to dance under the starry heavens of the Tankwa Karoo with my Burner tribe......... well, no.
I will be able to jump into my car and go where I choose when I choose…….well, no.
I will be able to continue to meet, in person, with my beloved students as they travel on through their Thinking Environment qualifying journeys, well…………no.
And even as I write these losses, and each one has felt grievous, I am acutely, painfully, conscious of how paltry they are in the face of the monumental, colossal challenges facing huge numbers of South African people, and people elsewhere on the globe. I am conscious of how safe I am, actually, how privileged I am, actually. How unscathed I am actually, whilst feeling devastated, nonetheless.
But, once again, I am amazed at the strong, supple, reliable, elastic scaffold provided by Nancy Kline’s Ten Components of a Thinking Environment™, as I cultivate the ground on which to stand and face this time that we are faced with.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been challenged with the diaspora of distractions that appear to have multiplied exponentially since lockdown. The imagined golden vista of time and space quickly became filled with on-line meetings, and on-line meetings about how to have on-line meetings, on-line yoga, on-line catch ups, on-line cocktail hour. The challenge of where to locate my on-line office in the tiny new home at the caravan park has resulted in creative backdrops, and enrolling my master carpenter husband to create a nifty bedtop table for my laptop.
Suddenly attention, the ability to choose where to put it, and to give it, generatively, generously and with intention has taken on a new dimension. And to be at the receiving end of it feels like balm to the soul as never before.
Ease is under constant threat, and recreating it every morning after I have checked in on whether I can still breathe, have energy, and am not coughing has become a ritual. And taking responsibility for the profound privilege of my life vs. the experience of lockdown in Khayelitsha or Masiphumelele has shone an even sharper light onto the hurdle of what it takes to create Equality than ever before.
Appreciation, when practiced in dark and difficult times, takes on even more power, and the difference it makes to one’s brain is unquestionable…….we need all the oxytocin we can get right now, and appreciation makes oxytocin like sunshine makes chlorophyll or Vitamin D.
And if ever there was a time to give a loud shout out for the Component of Feelings, now is that time. From the ostracized shadows of social acceptance, onto centre stage……… because everyone is on a Feelings roller coaster, and we need to get good at being with them, our own and others', making space, allowing, receiving, actually even celebrating their release, or otherwise we will surely do ourselves grievous harm, and that would be a mistake.
Needless to say, I could find the ways in which each Component is responding to COVID-19’s reshaping of the landscape of our lives, and brings a supportive structure to who we can be in the reimagining of our world. I am going to leapfrog to the end of the list and speak, before I end, about how the Component of Place is a force to be reckoned with, and is shedding much light for me on how to meet the current terrain with grace and equanimity.
The size of the place I can occupy, legally, has shrunk. The way I place myself in relation to another human being has a meterage quantity that needs observing. My body needs attention and protection in new, more focused and attentive ways. My hands must be washed and re-washed again, and then again, and my hands think about what other hands have been before me with each new thing they touch.
The deck Michael built on the front of our tiny caravan park home has become a blessing of monumental proportions and the v-shaped flyby of the Sacred Ibis every evening are like a pennant flowing in the golden light of the setting sun: as Mary Oliver said they call out to me over and over, announcing my place in the family of things.