While we are locked-down and our external worlds are volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) are we going to helplessly allow our inner worlds to wither? Or will we consciously enable buds to freely unfold in the sunshine of our souls? Being ‘in the moment’ can help us to tune in to our natural potential.
There are countless examples of how imprisonment can bring forth growth. Caterpillars, at first free to roam branches in the light or shade, become trapped in cocoons. Later they emerge as butterflies. This happens not only in nature. Anderson and Mathur-Helm in their article ‘Mandela: The art of the authentic leader | London Business School’, emphasise how Mandela, when incarcerated, was stripped of his outer trappings of leadership. As his physical world grew smaller, his inner world expanded. He found a new kind of freedom.
This golden thread runs through other writings where people have become confined. Patterns can be seen. Thoreau, in his diary writing of April 13 1852 wrote that ‘the imprisoning storm condenses our thoughts’ and that his life was enriched though the experience.
Looking back, this aligns to my entry on Day 1 ‘Diary Writing: a short course’ presented by Finuala Dowling in which I’m currently engaged. I ponder how, during this time of lock-down there seems to be more clarity. We have been forced to get off the treadmill of our ‘normal’ lives and become more resourceful. I find it easier to articulate and make explicit the tumultuous sea of thoughts which sometimes seem overwhelming.
In my diary entry I refer to an example involving a simple daily exercise where I view the beauty of the rising sun from my bedroom window each morning. I have been able to do this for many years whenever I’m home. During this pandemic, stripped of my freedom to travel for pleasure or on business, I’m always home and able to enjoy this changing view each day. In capturing the moment, I stop and take a photo with my cell-phone. I do this purposefully in order to create a pause in my life. Within the crucible of the gigantic suspension imposed by lockdown, our smaller pauses provide significant structure and need to continue – but perhaps differently to the way we conducted them prior to our current global disaster?
‘Day 1: Saturday July 4 2020
I love the view from my bedroom window. It puts me in touch with my soul. Each morning I rush to the window, hoping it isn’t too late to experience the pink light of dawn. I pause and capture the moment through the camera on my cell- phone.
It is a point in time that will never return. Moments later the light will be different, the colour of the sky more or less pink. The clouds might have changed shape and the mist over the city lifted.
Now time is more abundant. I was suddenly inspired to experiment and try the zoom lens on my cell-phone camera. I had always recoiled in horror at friends who, without heeding quality, zoomed in to far distant scenes, creating less distance between themselves and their point of view. And why would you want to reduce the quality, not only of the whole experience, but also of the outcome, a photo which captured that moment and had permanence? To me, it had seemed acceptable to do this with a good camera but not with a cell-phone. I had underestimated the quality of the camera on my own cell-phone!
Last week, I consciously relaxed my previous prejudice and zoomed in to a distant tree, stark in winter. I was overcome by the beauty of the tree contrasting with the softness of the dawn pink sky as a backdrop. The tree might not have its leaves, but it was alive not only within its skeletal being, but was also given life through the birds thronging in the upper branches, celebrating the new morning.
Another distinction arose that night. I feel asleep early and woke again at 10:20pm. Ethereal light came through the crack in our blinds. I was intrigued and quietly went to the window. The sky was bright, reflecting the full moon. Yet, in the distance I could see the outlines of dark trees, among them, the stark tree I now zoom in to most mornings. Why had I never thought of viewing the night world through my camera? Had I thought that nothing could be seen just because the sun had gone to sleep? No. One of my blind spots had prevented me from considering this option.
I silently absorbed the new beauty before me. I looked at the scene through my cell-phone and felt a sense of gratitude that, even late at night, I could see outlines of trees and the tiny sparkling lights of the city in the far distance. Bravely I zoomed in and saw a beautiful sight. Being out of focus makes the picture even more meaningful!
My appreciation of the beauty of these new experiences transcends my sadness over my past stuckness in not realising that I can view the moment through so many more different lenses. As an executive coach, I feel like a fraud. I help people to access and use new pathways that will assist them in feeling that they are flourishing. Reflection and journaling are essential. Yet, I have so much to learn. Life is that teacher.
Restrictions such as those we are experiencing during the current pandemic can help us to become more resourceful. I now have a new treasure chest filled with opportunities for me. I am flourishing even under very difficult circumstances. I have found a new freedom’
I was able, in that diary entry to express how I am more mindful now. I have time to un-bias some of my unconscious prejudices and try new ways of using the diminished resources that I do have. I have found a new freedom…freedom from being trapped in past perceptions and practices. Captivity has provided a new lens.
What general lessons can we learn? How might our current sentence provide the freedom to explore our former stuckness and complacency? In which ways may ongoing confinement enhance our ‘way of being’? Our lives have changed and we need to reflect, recognise, explore and optimise new opportunities.
Questions for reflection
- What does freedom mean to you?
- How has your inner world changed over the last few months?
- Which new practices have you introduced?
- How has the current pandemic enabled you to use resources, including time, differently?
- Which new opportunities can you use to your advantage?
- Who can help you to view life through a range of different lenses?
- When the pandemic ends and you have the freedom to return to your previous ‘way of being’, in which ways might that be different to your previous ‘normal’?
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