Recently, I have been thinking about the ‘in the meanwhile’ garden allotments established by community groups and workers in Belfast. Over the last few years, individuals have used the ‘space in between’ to create something beautiful for the community, coming together to plan, sow, tend and harvest. They grow their food on empty, unused sites. These areas may not be permanent, as they could be earmarked for future development; hence, the name ‘meanwhile gardens.’
I find the liminality of these creations beautiful yet unexpected; ephemeral gardens that enact wondrous possibilities. What struck me was how these projects, although temporary, were able to embrace change even in unexpected circumstances. It got me thinking about our current predicament: What can we create ‘in the meanwhile’ as coronavirus plays out in the world? As we continue to meet online, growing community and connection, can we create something as nourishing in such unexpected and limited circumstances?
With the support of others this is easier for sure, and knowing that we are all in the same boat can help us accept these unprecedented changes in our society. Byron Katie says that wishing for reality to be different is like trying to teach a cat to bark. Wishing for reality to be different is useless; in fact, it is exhausting and takes us away from what we can do in the present moment.
The here and now is the only place where we can strengthen ourselves for what might become. We might have habits of thinking ways out of a situation or methods that offer solace, maybe even a sensible viewpoint. However, the pandemic, now, demands more from us.
For me, it is challenging all that has been useful so far and requiring a kind of surrender. When we surrender to something we fall into it. It is deeper than acceptance and we allow ourselves to move with it. There is a shift in our positioning. We let go of struggle and we begin to experience rather than observe and analyse. There is freedom and spaciousness in surrender. We let go into the many beautiful moments as well as into the more painful ones. We surrender to the help and the support of others and to the realisation that we are all connected and our responsibility for each other within that. With each surrender comes a greater awareness and acceptance, an appreciation and a resolve.
In the fear around our families getting sick, the wellbeing and mental health of our parents, children and siblings, the pressure on our health care workers and key service providers, we can easily overwhelm ourselves. This fear and worrying might develop into a reactivity, altering our minds into a new state of permanence. We must resist this mindset becoming our ‘new normal.’
We can do so by cultivating our presence, not from the worrying and panic of our everyday discourse. We need to find the ability to be with whatever comes over the next few weeks. Whatever happens, we will be able to face the uncertainty with the power of our own presence, as long as we know how to access and practise growing it.
We should not push away or deny our own pain during these turbulent times; instead, we can choose where we place our attention. If we situate our minds with fearful thinking over and over again, then we further exasperate anxieties, creating a self-perpetuating cycle. Instead, we can turn inwards and find ways to grow calmness and stability, becoming more of an anchor for those around us.
We could fill the space ‘in the meanwhile’ with information, not only about coronavirus but all the information and suggestions that come with it. We could carve out some time to strengthen ourselves by coming into stillness, feeling our own breath, and our own bodies. By offering ourselves compassion and kindness, we accept the reality of the situation.
If you would like a space with others to practise this and a little guidance please join the regular Monday and Friday meditations at 7 am. My wish is that it is a space that feels safe, where people can practise together and feel the strength and connection with each other. Please send an email for the Zoom link.