About a month ago, before shelter-in-place took effect in my town of Petaluma, I went to Trader Joe's to buy food for the week. I knew things were changing. There was the coronavirus devastating China and speculation about its spread to the United States. But I was unprepared for what I discovered in the store: empty shelves, crowded aisles full of frantic shoppers throwing things in their cart, and a feeling of strangeness in my own body, like I was watching events unfold on television or a movie. What I kept repeating to myself, and to anyone who would listen was simply, "This is crazy."
The other shoppers were too busy finding their items to pay much attention. But I made eye contact with many of the staff at the store and repeated my mantra, "This is crazy." We looked at each other in disbelief, trying to take it all in, and found comfort in a shared overwhelm.
Since then, things have gotten worse. The state is on lockdown. We don't know when things will go back to normal, or if things will ever be "normal" again. But human beings are resilient and adaptable. I've become accustomed to my days. Working via video sessions with clients, shopping only when necessary with a mask and gloves, daily long walks steering clear of others, scheduled zoom calls with family and friends.
There are the difficult days, when fear wakes me up in the middle of the night, or when sadness washes through me for all that has been lost, for those that will lose their lives today, or tomorrow, or next week, or for the many who won't have the means to buy food, pay for healthcare, or pay their rent in the coming months.
One of the sustaining tools I use to help me put one foot in front of the other in times of difficulty is a simple practice.
Just one thing.
I know that doesn't sound like much. But when put into practice once, and then again, and then another time throughout the day, whatever is happening still happens, but there is a little more of me inside myself to experience it. I'm not going through the motions or waiting for the moment to be over but instead I notice my feet moving down the hallway and the pressure of my socks against my heels; I notice breath moving my belly and chest, I notice the presence of an inner witness to thoughts, sensations, feelings, which become sharper and more alive. After doing this for some time, my body relaxes and I even begin to enjoy the task in front of me. The flow of warm water running over my hands while doing dishes, the softness of my puppy's ears, the smell of the jasmine blooming in the yard.
The only thing we truly have is this moment and the more we can cultivate living in it, the more livable existence becomes. No matter what.
So remember, just one thing.