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They say Isaac Newton created calculus and the theory of gravity while holed up in quarantine during a pandemic.
Sets the bar pretty high, doesn’t it?
During the COVID-19 outbreak, many have taken to social media to share their intention to finally write the book or do the project they’ve been putting off… along with their total lack of confidence that they’ll actually follow through.
In my everyday work, I teach people the spiritual and practical strategies they need to finally, actually answer their callings, like writing a book or starting a business.
A principle I share over and over again is the concept of decathexis. This is the idea that when you stop pouring your time, money, energy, or attention into a particular activity or occupation, you recoup those resources back in a big, energizing wooosh.
And almost instantly, you can re-access that time, money, energy or attention and re-invest it into whatever new project or endeavor floats your boat.
Normally I teach the principle of decathexis by pointing out to my overscheduled clients that if they already feel strapped for time and energy most of the week, they must decide what they’re willing to stop doing to create space for the new book, business, or relationship they want.
That’s where the Newton story comes in. A pandemic freed up the headspace and time he needed to flourish creatively, and out came the theory of gravity.
A Global Reset
The current pandemic and shutdown has forced most of us to be much less busy outside of the home than normal, by freeing up our commute time, stopping us from socializing, or, in the worst cases, ending our jobs on zero notice. But it’s also caused many conscious souls to be chronically anxious, worried, depressed, distracted, or simply overwhelmed at the daily realities involved in trying to work from home and home school our children all at once… with no preparation.
If we try to look at this crisis in a positive light (knowing that there are people at real risk), maybe the Universe has just given us all a reset that will unfold and unfurl in stages.
In stage one, awakened beings all over the world shelter in place for the wellbeing of all, send any concrete support we can, and send out the highest energies of love and wellbeing to our healthcare workers, vaccine researchers, leaders, and those affected by the virus.
And in the next stage of this worldwide reset, our minds naturally gravitate to wondering what the next version of our world will look like, and how we’ll navigate lost jobs, shuttered businesses, and maybe an economic recession to get there.
Then we begin to wonder how we can best make use of our free time, in the meantime, to dive into our long-deferred passion or personal projects, or handle old unfinished business.
If you’re open to viewing the shutdown as an opening to make progress on your life’s work, here are a few best practices for making the most of it.
4 Steps for Making the Most of Downtime
1. First, rest. I’ve had a number of clients confess that they were secretly relieved when the shutdown gave them this rare break in their overscheduled daily lives.
We’re undergoing a collective global reset, and a collective global trauma, in real time. I’d say a sacred pause is in order before you start trying to get a bunch of stuff done.
Bonus: When you rest for a few days without trying to jump into action, you allow your nervous system to downregulate into a state that allows for more creativity and flow than your normal schedule likely does.
2. Create physical space. At the same time, some of us feel less stress when we’re busy doing something.
I encourage people who want to do a creative or passion project to first do what Tosha Silver calls “intentional vacuuming”: nature fills a vacuum, so anytime you want to call anything in intentionally, you should first do a bit of decluttering.
Get rid of things in your physical space that no longer work, fit, excite you, or otherwise serve you. I usually ask my students to do this for no more than seven minutes at a time, but it feels so good that often seven minutes snowballs into a whole house decluttering campaign.
Note: Creating space is not procrastination. And it’s not a distraction from the process of creating whatever you want to create during the shutdown. It’s part of the process.
3. Sit, then journal, to get clear on your focus. And do it in that order. Create the space in your daily household routine to sit in quiet meditation for at least five minutes in the morning, when you’re unlikely to be disturbed.
You can invite inspiration and clarity on exactly what you want to create and what your next steps should be by meditating on the mantras: “I’m willing” and “I’m open.”
Then, grab your journal and start writing, freely. Just do a brain dump. Bad grammar, bad spelling, incomplete sentences: it’s all good.
It’s all helpful to write out any old grudges and grievances, ruminations about things past, fears, worries, and anxieties about the future. When you get all of those swirling subjects out of your mind and leave them on the page, you’ll be surprised at how many clear, inspired ideas will come next.
Write them down, too. And within a few minutes or a few days, you’ll know what project you want to focus on first. Maybe it’s your book or a passion project you’ve never had time for, or maybe you just want to do some self-discovery, finish a course you started or get your taxes done.
All are worthy. But just choose one, to start.
4. Take inspiration from the monks. I’m deeply inspired by monks of various faiths who live whole lives of devotion, for decades on end. We can learn how to devote ourselves to a practice or a project from them, by taking some cues from how they live and work:
- Take vows. Get ruthless with your focus, and just pick a single project you commit to work on until it’s done. Make a commitment to yourself that you’ll devote a specific amount of time to it every day or week throughout the shutdown. And make sure the people in your life know that you need to turn inward for that time every week. I live with a two-year-old, so generally put in my focused writing time after the baby goes to bed or before she wakes up.
- Create a sacred place. Don’t work on your laptop on the couch, amidst the children’s toys and schmutz. Dedicate a specific, physical space in your home to this project and your materials, and make it beautiful: light a candle, get your favorite warm beverage and keep it sacred so you’re more likely to go there and dive deep.
- And create sacred space. You need to create a sacred space for this project in your head, your heart and your calendar. Actually put your work sessions on the calendar for at least the next few weeks, and if you finish the project before then, you can start on another!
When you sit down to start on your project, take a moment, pray, do a few affirmations or set your intentions for the day’s allotment of focused time. Light a candle, play some focus music, and then… away you go.
This pandemic will leave millions of broken hearts and dreams in its wake.
And like every unwanted experience, it also creates opportunities for more awakening, more growth, and more actualization of your potentials and less hesitation to answer your callings.
But first, rest.
And be gentle and easy with yourself all along the way.