Bewildered. Bemused. Here I stand in the lobby of Bashful Alley in the middle of Lancaster. I am surrounded by Posters, Government Warnings and Guidelines. About my feet: sticky black and yellow floor tape-arrows.
‘Please do not enter the building if you are… ‘
The 1 metre and 2 metre floor arrows and warnings remind individuals to:
‘Keep your distance’
The ‘New Post-Lockdown Normal’ beckons.
During the early weeks of lockdown in April and May 2020 I created a series of videos and audios. I was bowled over at the time, by how much the contents of those communications were shaped by the energy of individuals who over many years, have passed through Bashful Alley. Standing here in the lobby of Bashful Alley Centre that energy is even more tangible to me and is present in the backdrop as I struggle to change the usually convivial and welcoming lobby into a Certified COVID-19 Safe Sanitisation Station.
This is the only occasion in 30 years that I have spent more than three months entirely away from this place. Now I am back. Like most. I am confused and wrong-footed by the exceptional challenges of the COVID-19 virus epidemic. Right now I am at a loss to know really why it is that am making efforts to recommence work that is so heavily based on the close human contact of touch: Touch, that was once a source of safety and nourishment and that has now become in the ‘New Normal’, such a source of threat! Bemused or not that special energy strengthens my resolve and commitment to being here, to returning to work – when little else makes any rational sense at all!
I am well aware of the necessity for these safety precautions in the present conditions of viral contagion. I have now placed warning signs on the noticeboard and walls on one side of the lobby entrance to the centre. I look over to the opposite side. That special energy seems to intensify. In my mind’s eye I start to see another different type of poster sign. This one says:
‘The warnings that you see on the wall opposite are not orders but represent a continuation of the expression of care and concern for each other’s well-being that has always been a part of what goes on within these walls’.
Projected in my mind beneath it I see another poster
“COVID-19 is an invisible enemy but Co-Kindred 20/20 is our invisible ally”.
I jot it down on the back of an envelope and feel a bit less bemused – a little bit more in touch with the special energy. I then climb the stairs to show what I’ve created to Christine, and I ask her to type it up and laminate a poster. For over 20 years my P.A. Christine has been my loyal and trusted colleague and friend. We have not met together in person for over three months. Whenever we have been away for any length of time we usually greet each other with a warm hug and kiss. This has not been possible. We are keeping a distance. There is a gauche awkwardness between us. Christine’s face wrinkles up with disapproval at what I have written.
Just as I was just becoming a little bit less bewildered and now I am back bemused again.
Christine is seriously unhappy with the virus as an enemy.
“This is not right”, she says bluntly.
I bridle back a flush of outrage. The COVID-19 virus has recently taken the lives of some of my close friends and family. But I trust this individual – she is perhaps the most selfless person I know. Christine would not challenge and confront me out of anything other than a genuine concern.
“But come on Chris, there have been 50,000 deaths in the UK alone due to the ravages of this disease. Isn’t such a wanton killer our enemy”?
Although she does not answer she is clearly not going to relent and is already deep in silent thought as to how this should be rephrased. I realise that what was going on between us is very important and an integral part of my returning to work, and – my future survival in business. I choose for now, not to pursue it any further and while Chris sits at her socially-distanced desk, I retreat into the room of “Good Sense” to sit there and meditate for a while.
This Covid crisis throws up so many challenges. Finding a little bit of welcome inner space amidst the busyness I ask myself: Right, in what way is this killer virus not a deadly enemy? I have the greatest respect for Christine. Very rarely does she ever stamp on my leash in this way.
Therefore it is vital:
Give it some deep and serious thought!
After a short but deep meditation I get the first glimmers as to why Christine is absolutely right! The process of this realization came to me along the following lines: I have prefaced all my courses for over 30 years with the same opening invitation: I ask people for the duration of the time that while they are with me on the course: to regard themselves as an expression of a Force of Nature. In the early years I had little idea of exactly what I meant by this invitation. For quite a while it was like a kind of repeated mantra. However over time subtly and slowly, there was a dawning of understanding as to why this invitation is so important. Now it is very clear to me: In some way we have become radically disconnected from our origins. When we were evolving and surviving in pre-history we were an integral part of the force of nature. We have lost connection to how we survived in pre-history. At some point, when that connection broke we stopped surviving! Currently we face a threat to human survival from pollution, climate change and now from deadly viruses but in fact – we stopped surviving a long time ago. In the State of Disconnect unwittingly, we have created a matrix that threatens our continued survival as a species
We face an urgent current threat to our survival from a highly contagious and potentially lethal virus. There is an underpinning, a context to what is happening. To develop an understanding of this context reveals how vital it is for us together to re-establish that broken connection. It is central and crucial to our future survival. Our ancestors were survivors in a way that, despite a period of unwarranted material prosperity, currently we are not. In our State of Disconnect we come to regard the virus as in some way a consequence of untamed nature suddenly inflicting havoc and suffering upon us. Without the context to revision this notion, it is easy to think that what we are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 virus is much the same as if, out of the blue an asteroid hit the Earth. We consider we are under attack from a submicroscopic form of life. We must rally all our resources in the battle to conquer and control this deadly enemy. This is not right. There is something wrong with what I had just written.
Sitting right here in the room of “Good Sense” I fill with gratitude for Christine’s wisdom. Something of profound importance has manifested self: Christine and I stand apart and keep our distance- we need to!. The closeness and intimacy of a hug and kiss greeting has indeed become a threat but “Stand Apart” does not mean that we cannot stand together. In exactly the same way as so often human beings can be in very close proximity and yet extremely distant from one another and not at all present for each other, so we can achieve the opposite: we can be physically at a Covid safe distance apart and yet become deeply emotionally connected.
The theme of connection is crucial and reveals all the important human survival options. I had envisioned these possibilities by creating the term of Co-Kindred 20/20. When we are threatened we tend to withdraw in fear. However, it is a big ask but fear can be down-regulated. It is love and courage that makes us human! This enables human-beings to co-regulate. Then together we can face threats. Co-regulation unlocks the special higher human capacity; TO co-operate, to co-labour, collaboration. Survival is about connection – or in our present plight more accurately about re-connection.
I reconnect to the core of my life and work. It becomes clear that the COVID-19 virus is not our external enemy. It could even actually be revealed to be quite the opposite: as an ally that has appeared from a context of our own creation. The virus arose from out of the context of a State of Disconnect and it positions us external and outside of Nature. It has arrived to awaken us to the consequences of the State of Disconnect. Yes COVID-19 is indeed a threat. However maybe only such a potent threat to our future survival could awaken us sufficiently to make the fundamental changes needed to survive. Hopefully so that we can take our proper place as participants in the extraordinary and improbable gift of life on earth. What else but a deadly threat to our survival could expose the fragility and vulnerability of such arrogant claims to have conquered and gained mastery over external nature? The issue is truly about survival.
A change of paradigm is demanded. New forms of connectivity beckon that transcend our disconnected digital dreams of omnipotence and control over external nature. The State of Disconnect has positioned us outside of nature and this has created a polarity. A sense of enmity is incorrect. The paradigm shift that beckons is internal nature and if it is ushered in will bring with it a different kind of thinking that is able to recognise and correct the State of Disconnect. It is in a state of disconnection that unwittingly we have created a context for virus contagion. This context broadly involves: the way that we treat ourselves and the way that we treat each other: in forms of economic and social interaction, in terms of urban density and unsustainable animal husbandry practices.
Only when we realise the radical need to address the inner disconnect will we become survivors once more. It will enable us to honour the ancestors and the state of alertness and readiness to act and survive in the face of the threat of annihilation. To awaken, to re-establish our connection to our origins and to the present moment centred appreciation of the gift of life that we share. This after all is the reason why we need to meditate. The awakened or enlightened state that we aspire to in meditation connects me back to where we have come from – in our origins and our ancestry: an inheritance from when we once were an integral part of a Force of Nature.
To begin to survive we need to reconnect.
The writing is on the wall.
When you see something written on a wall, let’s say this for example: (it is in fact Christine’s edit of what I had earlier written:
COVID-19 IS AN INVISIBLE THREAT
BUT CO-KINDRED 20/20 IS AN INVISIBLE FRIEND
(This is in fact Christine’s edit of what I had earlier written).
If you see something written in a language you know and understand then in less than an eye blink of time, within 500 milliseconds, a complex neural literacy circuitry is engaged. You may not understand what is written. You might well not agree with what you have read. However in the literate mindscape you cannot choose not to read it. What I mean here is that you cannot choose to see the writing on the wall as a series of random hieroglyphic dots lines and circles. Today we still call writing “text”. The minds of our preliterate ancestors did not have that complex reading circuitry. However they did have a brain the same as ours and language and the power to understand metaphor! The writing is on the wall.
There are times in my life when I experienced a deep profound knowing of a very different and non-literate nature. Occasionally I experiences a truth so profound that I cannot comprehend it or sense it as anything but true. I could no more choose to see it as untrue than I could choose to see the text: the writing on the wall and not read it.
I am ready to start work again.
Monday 2 August 2020.