barry robbins consciousness covid-19 emotions mindfullness

 By Barry Robbins

Our lives have been transformed as never before, as we attempt to navigate uncharted waters during this time of corona virus.

The pandemic has become a new form of unrehearsed practice. The shelter-in rules have created a quasi-monastic life for the world’s population. For a period of time, this marked the end of live community and in-person social interaction, prompting the need for new types of connection and communication.

As we shift gears from sheltering-in to sheltering-out, we engage in social engagement with a new set of rules that are being created on the fly, with no precedent.

Coupled with this new reality is the emotional roller-coaster of uncertainty. A whole new set of feelings arise as we experience the extremes of emotions. On one end of the continuum is fear, doubt and neurosis and on the other end is hope, excitement and creativity.

Discernment becomes critical as we vacillate between rational and irrational thoughts and behavior. Should we panic shop, how many times do we disinfect ourselves each hour, how frequently and how close to get to others? Where is the middle path, the third way?

We have been forced to adapt immediately to a dire set of circumstances that fly in the face of our previous behavior patterns, only to adjust over and over. Many of them are counterintuitive to everything we have learned. Our ability to adapt and evolve is being challenged in many walks of life.

One could make a strong case for cognitive dissonance, defined as “a state of mind where our belief does not match with our behavior. In terms of psychology, it’s a mental discomfort associated with psychological stress experienced by a person, where the person holds on to more than one contradictory idea, attitude, or belief.”

In sports, athletes are trained to practice Pacing, Peaking and Re-entry. In Pacing, athletes take the necessary steps to maintain a routine of training, neither too extreme or too lax. As the athlete approaches an event, they accelerate their training regimen to maximize peak performance for a specific period of time.

After Peaking, it is important to recover and re-collect, which is called Re-Entry. This is characterized by a period of time in which the athlete may engage in healing, limited training, resting, meditation and other exercises designed to settle the athlete down from Peak performance and return to Pacing. Experienced athletes map out their training protocol along these lines to avoid burnout, achieve maximum performance and sustain recovery.

This sports experience is a useful model, as these routines apply to many aspects of life. The corona virus is a new paradigm with respect to these three principles, and as we now face the concept of sheltering-out, we face the prospect of an uncertain re-entry into what was once every-day life.

This is especially difficult as the peak period of the virus has lasted for months of constant alert and uncertainty, rather than much shorter periods of time for athletes. What are the ground rules for this new experience of Re-entry? How do we engage in family, community and social encounter? How do we make decisions in light of uncertainty?

The inner game, the practice of Interiority, can be very useful in finding our way and making decisions. We can use the body as a learning and calming mechanism to help navigate through this new world. Using the body’s highly developed sensitivity, we can sift through thoughts and emotions, so variable and indeterminate, and listen to our body for the right answer in any given moment.

Here’s a simple practice. Run a decision through your mind to consider the alternatives, and then through your heart to feel the variety of emotions of each alternative. Now shift your attentional state into your center by breathing into your core and allow the belly to expand. Experience the possibilities through your belly. Notice any “gut feeling” that you may have and pay attention, as your body is giving you messages.

Your “hara” or “belly-brain” is the early responder and first receptor of incoming information. Before your brain can think it away, or your heart can develop various distracting feelings, your core is responding and giving you an immediate message that comes from the billions of nerve-endings in your center.

The science behind this is the relatively new field of Neurogastroenterology, the study of the enteric nervous system, which posits that sensitivity in this area is a more advanced form of intelligence, more immediate and more accurate.

Go inside and listen deeply to what your body wants to tell you. It is wise beyond time and can bring you into the moment, surfacing messages that feel right. Enjoy “core consciousness”, a deep wisdom that consistently tells you your truth. This is a place where decisions can become clear and immediate, and will serve you well in this new world.



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