Image by Peggy Sealfon
Change is tough and the Coronavirus pandemic is causing a daily tsunami of changes at a frightening pace. We desperately crave certainty and routine; to return to a semblance of normalcy. Instead we’re inundated with wild fluctuations to our way of life and face an unimaginable future. This leads to heightened levels of exhaustion, anger and sinking deeply into fear and depression. We need to stop, get calm and engage our minds to understand what is happening and what we can do to survive, and maybe, even thrive.
As a Personal Development Coach, I can tell you that a terrified brain cannot think clearly. Just observe the racial discord erupting across the U.S. The more you resist, the more you descend into panic. Carl Jung wisely said: “What you resist, persists.” Letting go of the past is hard because you’re used to the “way it’s been.” But it’s time to connect to the present to discern facts and realities. You cannot see solutions with a mind in a turbulent spin or stuck looking at where you’ve been. Where are you going? Where are WE going?
So, let’s first be accountable. Each one of us helped cause the pandemic. That’s a difficult one to swallow, but let’s review. Decades ago, scientists were warning of impending doom from “emerging viruses” that would threaten our way of life. In an article in Scientific American, science journalist Robin Marantz Henig reflected on experts who 30 years ago were “identifying conditions that could lead to the introduction of new, potentially devastating pathogens — climate change, massive urbanization, the proximity of humans to farm or forest animals that serve as viral reservoirs — with the worldwide spread of those microbes accelerated by war, the global economy, and international air travel.” Of course, as Henig points out, most of us “were blithely going about our business despite the growing threat.” We are part of the problem so we must become part of the remedy.
To support this position, consider our unpreparedness. In 2007, Stephen S. Morse, an epidemiologist at Columbia University’s Center for Public Health Preparedness, wrote about lessons of historic pandemics like the great influenza of 1918. His article (published by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States) sounds shockingly like it was written today not 13 years ago. Not only does Morse mention the inescapability of a pandemic, he talks about how “closing schools or shutting down mass transit could be very disruptive to society…” You think? He discusses “nonpharmaceutical” measures that are most effective to stave off the worst effects including: wearing masks, social distancing, prohibiting public gatherings, and isolating the sick. Sound familiar? Furthermore, he points out that “no single intervention was sufficient…” Why haven’t we learned the lessons of the past??? But I digress.
In my humble opinion, we must be forward-looking and do the right things. Too many are still in denial and not following guidelines nor thinking about what they want for their life, their community, and the world. There is no going back. Humans have been through the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Information Age. We’re now experiencing the next evolutionary leap. Here is what it will take from each one of us to transcend to a better existence, and maybe to the Age of Wellness and Unity:
Understandably we’re grieving about what we feel we’ve lost. Many thousands have lost more than a lifestyle, they’ve lost loved ones. Grieving is a process, and everyone embraces it differently. Some meet loss with anger and fear, others with sadness and depression. So, take your time to grieve but then join humanity to work on advancements.
The first step is accepting what is by seeing reality through an unemotional lens. You cannot change the external circumstances or the challenges of COVID-19 like losing your job, home schooling your kids, problems paying bills, dealing with social distancing. You cannot change racism with words or violence. With acceptance, you can release the pain and develop resolutions that work. But you cannot access them from a state of fear and defiance. In my own work with clients all over the world, I know only too well how stress and anxiety exacerbate feelings of limitations and can derail you from accessing your truths and potential.
This is a biggie. Clearly some people are white knuckling as they cling steadfastly to the old ways. As a former journalist, I still get a rush from researching stuff so I’ve discovered unusual complexities that might help explain why change is such an anathema. The following is not intended as any political diatribe but merely a neutral and factual insight (of interest to me because my boyfriend/life partner has an unsettlingly opposite political view from my own).
Decades of studies have revealed psychological and brain structure differences between conservatives and liberals. In self-identified conservatives, studies showed they have larger, more active amygdalas. This almond-shaped area of the brain processes emotions like anxiety and fear. Therefore, people choose political conservatism (at least partially) because it reduces fear and uncertainty; helps maintain status quo and avoids disruption. Liberals, on the other hand, showed that their brains reorganize their thoughts in more flexible ways. This conclusion offers clarification of why some people adapt more easily than others, especially in current times when faced with such unprecedented and disturbing challenges. It recalls H.G. Wells succinct saying: “Adapt or perish…”.
My amazing Uncle Lester who turned 101 years old this year epitomizes courage, resolve and determination. In his lifetime, he admittedly has never faced a global crisis like this pandemic but has been on the front-line of war. And yet, he continues to exhibit unrelenting fortitude along with a disarming attitude. “Peggy,” he repeatedly tells me, “Just take one day at a time.” He adds: “This will pass.”
Models of courage surround us at every turn. Front-line and medical personnel, first responders, certain community leaders, organizers, and private citizens who have selflessly volunteered, offering acts of support, kindness and generosity are all to be recognized for their bravery as they take risks. “Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s the willingness to be present and respond in spite of fear,” writes mindfulness and meditation teacher Oren Jay Sofer in a recent blog.
I believe we are incredibly resilient. Yet I recognize that being able to navigate through these troubled waters takes a quantum leap of surrender. The reality is that you only grow by stepping out of your comfort zone and you’re now forced to take that giant stride, ready or not. This takes nerve and a willingness to try something that may never have been tried before. That’s what explorers, scientists, inventors and even entrepreneurs do. Now you have the opportunity to let go of a crumbling system and jump into the unknown to create a new paradigm. You can see the experiment as a danger or an adventure!
Henry Ford once said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, … you’re right!” Our minds and hearts are far more powerful and expansive than we ever conceived with innate abilities more critical now than ever before. Belief is a connection to the source within of empowerment, inner guidance, and knowledge.
Science and spirituality are revealing the path. Dr. Joe Dispenza in books and workshops offers insightful understandings of how beliefs stem from a neurological and biological level. He teaches how to change any perceptions that are no longer serving you. Another breakthrough comes from HeartMath who has provided a foundation of peer reviewed studies of a significant heart-brain connection. Another scientist, Gregg Braden links to faith: “… to believe in the outcome as if it has already happened. In other words — faith is an activation of our powerful beliefs.”
My optimistic belief is that each one of us can rise above the confusion and discord to come together for the benefit of all.
Elon Musk admittedly thought he had a 1% potential of ever launching a NASA manned SpaceX craft. He imagined it and, against all odds, on May 30th it happened This historic moment required intense hard work but even more importantly took massive creativity.
You must think differently; stretch outside the box. Warp-speed innovations are happening in every area of life whether you consciously see them or not. Schools and education are transitioning to novel learning methods. The travel industry is focused on catering to guests with more value in a safe, sanitized environment from car rentals and airlines, to resorts. The retail landscape is consolidating as big box stores, chains and small retailers file for bankruptcy. Shopping experiences are moving to keyboards or smartphones accessing sophisticated web malls. Existing physical stores are providing more customized, touchless interactions.
Work environments are downsizing while expanding work-from-home digital approaches. Astonishingly, more jobs are emerging as we shift to more technology; a greater focus on wellness and healthcare; more time spent at home increases home construction and demands for home services such as plumbers, electricians, etc.; expansions of warehousing requires more truckers and delivery people; and clever marketing experts are rising in demand.
Socially we interact differently. We greet friends without hugs or handshakes. We’re staying distanced and yet we’re developing unique bonds and an unusual closeness. Personally, I’ve enjoyed seeing more of my family, scattered all over north America, in recent months through online ZOOM sessions than I have in years. My niece even creates fun breakout rooms where I virtually wander into the kitchen or livingroom and visit with whomever is hanging out there.
Many evolutions were already unfolding slowly in the background of our lives pre-COVID but the pandemic has boosted the necessity for modifications to occur more rapidly. Instead of struggling against them, we need to “be the change we want to see…” as Mahatma Gandhi once said.
Our system is broken, and this is the inevitability that will allow us to bring about significant improvements. I agree with Bruce Lipton (biologist and author) who aptly points out: “… the planetary upheaval we are now experiencing is not an ending, but a new beginning, offering an opportunity to birth a new, healthy, sustainable civilization.”
I often play with crazy thoughts of the future. Maybe we’ll witness teleportation, whole-body safe santization systems that you walk through before entering an establishment; non-polluting energy sources; healthy community or home food growing options; Star Trek-type phasers that heal physical or emotional imbalances instantly; and telepathy where we communicate via an Internet-like network from within our own minds. Why not dream of what can be?!
You have choices. You can remain a victim stuck in discontent or you can connect to your source of inspiration, guidance, and infiniteness. Remember, you can do whatever you believe you can do, especially when you accept, adapt, have courage, believe and are creative.