Most of my adult life i've been lurching from one moment to the next, always leaning and looking forward. As a child I was immersed in every moment as it arose. Something changed, and not necessarily for the better.
Have you ever caught yourself in that "waiting" energy? It feels like you want to just jump into the future.. to that point where you are at the cashier instead of three customers deep in line, or you have secured that deal instead of sitting with that lingering anxiety of it pending. The problem with this state is that we are essentially sacrificing any pleasure or insight we could reap from the present moment as we reach our arms out for the next. And life is short.. these chunks of time add up.
What if we could catch ourselves waiting, and instead of grasping forward, lean back into the now? The future will come without our assistance or worry, the present is in our company ready to be engaged. This unique pandemic time is an opportunity to cultivate a practice of stopping the plodding, grasping mind.. just hitting pause on that and asking, "What is true right now?"
The uncertainty of the future will never fade no matter how hard we plot and plan, however, there is instant certainty in the now. Are you safe right now? Are you healthy? Is there food in the fridge? Can you smile? Is the sun shining or the moon glowing? Do you have someone who cares for you? Do you care for yourself? All these answers are attainable right now.
So how do you come back to the now? Meditation is by far the best tool. You don't have to believe anything whacky or unsubstantiated to meditate. You just have to train your mind like you would train your body for physical capability. The training ultimately comes down to this: Can you come back to awareness, surfacing out of the sea of thoughts? A "yes" is your first rep of the weight, or your first tiny run. Eventually you'll progress to coming back over and over again... multiple reps and sets.. running 5 miles without stopping.
To get through this thing mentally healthy we need to put some tools to work, and this is one of the best tools you can have in the shed. So... right now.. take a big inhale... look up from the screen.. and as you slowly breath out feel the environment around you. Feel what's happening inside you. Ask, "What is true now?"
I recently read an excellent article which elaborates a theory that the world is currently experiencing a massive, collective grieving. The first step of grief is denial. Are we in denial now? Denial of what??
We are all witnessing a shift. Deep in our guts there is an awareness that there is no going back to "normal" (a.k.a, the way it was.. a.k.a, the past). The Coronavirus just closed the chapter on an old era. That era is not coming back. We will miss it. We will suffer uncertainty and fear as we fumble towards what is next. Letting go of the familiar is never easy.
What era did we just leave. I believe historians will look back on pre-corona times as something like The Golden Era of Decadence. Think about the myriad of conveniences, comforts, and excesses. Think of the money spent on silly gadgets. Consider popular music videos full of luxury cars and money being sprayed around like there was a never-ending flow of wealth. You could throw stacks of money around. There was always more.
Do you feel like throwing stacks of money at trivial things now? No. That era has gone.
So we grieve, and that's natural. We sit locked into our apartments in denial binge watching netflix like this is a storm cloud that will pass over. Waiting until someone will tell us we can go back to our old lives. Then there will be anger, bargaining, depression, and finally.... acceptance.
I want to get to this acceptance as fast as possible. I want you too as well. The sooner we are there, the sooner we can be present with the way things are right now. This isn't a break. This, right now, is our life. When we accept that we can engage it fully. When we accept that we can begin to make the changes that will create our new future. We can begin to tell ourselves a better story than the one we shared in the old era. We can tell ourselves a story that favors the well being of humans over profits; that prioritizes more time for leisure, play, and sharing with our friends and families; that is more conscious of the rest of the natural world, understanding our interconnectedness with it.
It all begins with letting go of that old era. Are you ready to let go and embrace this moment?
As a flight attendant we had strict protocol for what to do in every kind of emergency. Even if the plane was headed for a crash landing, there were so many procedures to execute, before and after the crash, that there was little room for worrying about personal survival.
Once you plan out your protocols for all possible scenarios in this pandemic, you can relax a bit. If something happens, you've already got the plan dialed in, so you can set it down until (and if) it's time to enact those plans.
Once you've had those discussions with the family (if Y -> We do X) and agreed on the procedures, it's time to settle in and reflect on this monumental historical moment. What does it mean for us individually and as a society? Is there a message in this hardship for us to hear?
The Byzantine Empire was at it's absolute zenith when BLAM! a plague collapsed the entire enterprise. The roaring 20's gave way to the depression. The trust in government, institutions, and companies to be honest (and care for our best interests) collapsed into the disillusionment of the 1960s.
The Roman's might say these pivotal moments were caused by Fortuna turning her rudder. This mythical figure is a good object of contemplation. She represents a fundamental truth about the nature of life.
Fear not. We'll get through these Coronavirus times. We will evolve as a species for the challenge and the reminder that we are not outside of history or nature.
Putting a yes around life's situations, even the most difficult ones, makes them all easier to handle.
Credit to Marcus Aurelius and Tara Brach for inspiring this perspective.
This is a revision of an article I published exactly 4 years ago. Now with video!
One of the most influential people in my life was a guy I knew for less than 2 minutes. Compared to other stories I have this will seem super mundane, but stick with me... that's kind of the point.
I was working as a grocery bagger for Thompson's Food Basket in Peoria, IL. One day I manned the register and soon got into the flow of quickly handling customers.
"Hey how's it going," I'd say perfunctorily.
Bleep Bleep Bleep. I'd scan their items.
"That'll be 45.60$"
"Thanks. Have a nice day."
Over and over I'd run them through like a blur. I was a young man being assimilated into the machine of the modern, busy world where we plow through our day mainly lost in our heads. Strangers around us interpreted as either obstacles or gatekeepers.
The next customer came up.
"Hey how's it going?" I said not looking up as I reached for his items.
"Good man. How are you," this shapeless customer replied.
"Good," I said as I begin to scan. Bleep bleep bleep.
"No man," He said with authority, "how's it going?"
I lifted my gaze up as if broken from a daydream to see a man in the prime of his life. He was handsome, fit, and had all his attention focused upon me. He was radiating a positive energy. He seemed to genuinely be inquiring about my state without any kind of agenda.
"Oh... I guess I'm good," I stammered.
"Right on," replied the guy with a warm smile, still looking at me.
We finished the transaction and he went his way. Never saw the guy again. That's my story.
This happened over 20 years ago and I still remember it clear as day. Why? Cause a super cool Brad Pitt type of dude gave me all his attention for a minute. He acknowledged me: a shy, skinny, socially awkward 16 year old who still hadn't kissed a girl. For a moment I wasn't just a bumbling kid that handled groceries for minimum wage. I was a bro.
Think about this: Who was the Elvis of the Mayan Empire? Who was the Michael Jordan athlete of the Mycenaeans? Who was the legendary hunter of the Apache or the beauty queen of the Han dynasty? Surely these personalities burned legendary at one point, but they are all forgotten now, just as this anonymous cool guy is nameless. He could very well be dead. His ego, just like that of all the Incan emperors you can't remember, has crumbled to dust; but the waves of energy he pushed out into the world live on. Because of him I try (though often fail) to take a beat and acknowledge the people around me. Because of him I'm writing this post.
I used to imagine one day I'd maybe change the world in a monumentally positive way, like Hellen Keller or Abraham Lincoln, and perhaps I still might. But I strongly believe our real contribution occurs this day, when you walk out your door to grab a coffee, take the subway, or buy your groceries. What kind of waves of energy are you pushing out into the world? Let me encourage you to jump on the vibration of that nameless cool cat of Peoria, IL. Take a moment to acknowledge people. Pour a few seconds of all your attention into little genuine gesture of "I see you" or "I get you." It could be the brightest spot in that person's day, and just maybe they'll remember it, and emulate it, decades later.
I can't definitively say the gear I have is the best on the market, but it's served me well. I scrolled through my purchase history on Amazon to find some of the items. I choose bright colors when I can because it's easier to spot in a hotel room (so you don't leave it behind), easier to keep an eye on while you take a swim at the beach, and thieves are less likely to grab something that is easy to follow.
Here is an awkward situation when you travel: Someone sets a plate of food in front of you and your gut says "Don't eat that!" Maybe the restaurant owner is standing over you, beaming with pride, waiting to see the reaction of your first taste. Maybe it's a new friend having you over. How to escape this situation and leave everyone's pride intact?
Another awkward situation: Your driver is being reckless. Maybe you're on a bus full of people and nobody is speaking up. Maybe you're in a car and you don't want to offend the driver's pride. What to do?
In this video I'll share experiences I've had in both situations and how I resolve them now.
Got alternative techniques? Let me know in the comments.
I'm Jonathan Legg
The road has been my greatest teacher.. challenging stagnant beliefs, disarming prejudices, and developing understanding of others. I hope the content on this blog will bring a sliver of that juju to you.