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SMITH: Quarantine is an inconvenience and an opportunity

Be where your feet are.

I say it a million times a day. To myself, my family, my yoga students. Just be here, right now. Stop running from everything. Stop running toward that unknowable future. Stop running around like a headless chicken, banging into walls. Be where your feet are.

I now realize that this long practice of trying not to run was preparing me for social distancing.

I am a proud Enneagram 4, an introvert, a deep thinker and empath who values meaning above all else. I unabashedly make vision boards and change my meditation practice based on the lunar cycle.

But I do not believe everything happens for a reason. I believe things happen, and it’s our responsibility to find meaning in the experiences set before us.

What if our quarantine is an opportunity and not simply an inconvenience? What would happen if we stopped running from our current reality and instead leaned into it?

We say we want a break, a moment to collect our thoughts, space to breathe. But our feet can’t stop moving, running from boredom, running toward constant distraction, running in circles. We’ve been offered a scared break for renewal and rest and we can’t stop complaining about it. So we fix another drink, grab the last box of Girl Scout cookies, and binge watch documentaries about serial killers until our eyeballs hurt.

It goes against our nature to be where our feet are. The human brain is designed to crave predictability. When we don’t know what to expect, it triggers a stress response to keep us safe, asks us to fight or take flight. So we flee instead of facing our overwhelming fear of stillness. Because in the stillness we might have to admit that we’re terrified of dying.

Because isn’t that what it ultimately comes down to? We’re avoiding the quiet because it reminds us that this virus can actually kill us. Or our loved ones.

But acknowledging death is also a gift. Life’s meaning increases because we have a fixed time limit on earth.

I saw Dr. John in concert right before his 2019 heart attack. As assistant helped him on and off the stage and his hands shook when he wasn’t playing the piano. The audience knew we were hearing his final songs and this knowledge gave the experience a unique depth and poignancy. It had more emotional punch because it was the end.

Our forced hiatus is a call to go deep. The pause is a call for perspective and purpose.

Each morning, as soon as I awaken, I lie in bed and ask myself three things:

How can I give?

How can I grow?

How am I grateful?

The answers help give shape to my day and the asking grounds me in higher purpose. By going inward, I am turned outward. Right now, these questions feel more urgent and larger in scale. When faced with our untenable mortality, the answers define who we are and who we want to become.

Izzie keeps saying that COVID-19 is “her generation’s 9/11.” This is a defining moment for our children. Their grandchildren will ask what life was like during the global pandemic. I want my daughter to have a better story than she watched a bunch of Tik-Toks to pretend it wasn’t happening.

I want her to remember how we talked about the science of viruses and the psychology of fear. About meaning and gratitude and service. About our very real anxieties and concerns. About mortality. But also about how we read books and built fires and made hot chocolate and put together so many jigsaw puzzles. How we prayed for all the families around the world that weren’t as lucky as ours. And how she was proud to be in the best family in the world.

We’re being called to go deep. Be where your feet are.

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness” and the online host of the OM channel. Follow her on Twitter @erinsmithauthor.

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email whitney.leggett@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0049.

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