The other day I managed to sneak outside early in the morning for a mindful sit. Although my mind played back and forth from thought to thought, the sounds of the river and the birds, the cool morning air on my skin, the smells of spring grounded me and I was happy to just sit and notice both my internal and external environments. At one point the sound of the river changed. It grew louder and there were frequent popping and crashing sounds. When I finally opened my eyes I was surprised to see the river moving faster, churning and crashing with large chunks of ice. The water was dirty and loud but I was drawn to it. I grabbed my sweater and walked to the edge of the river bank to observe this awe-inspiring act of nature. In all it lasted for about 45 minutes and then the water returned to it's gentle bubbling pace.
As the water returned to normal, I scanned the banks and one particular turn in the river and was amazed at how clean everything looked. Debris from the 2013 flood had lingered in this one corner turn of the river and now after 7 years in a matter of 45 minutes, it had all been lifted from the muck and cleared away.
I could not help but consider the similarities between this natural phenomenon and the cleansing and detoxifying processes and protocols that I work on with many of my clients (and myself). When a person makes choices to rid harmful foods, products and thoughts from their body and mind the initial side effects of this period of detoxification can be extremely unpleasant. We ache, we crave, we fatigue as our body works through the pollution and debris that has collected in our organs and cells. But as our body begins to up-regulate and return to it's true healthy, vibrant self we see changes not only on the outside, but on the inside as well. The spring months are an exceptional time to focus on this cleansing process and one of the reasons for this is because of the same processes happening around us in nature, as the river demonstrated this particular morning.
Perhaps it is because I work in natural health care and so my mind automatically goes to these thoughts, but I am choosing to see this entire pandemic experience as one of detoxification and cleansing processes. In a mere 6 weeks, as her human children have done less, produced less, traveled less, we have seen amazing transformations take place in our natural environment.
The permanent haze over LA is gone! We can see the top of some of our highest peaks for the first time in years, the Ganges river is running cleaner, they have seen Jellyfish swimming in the canals in Venice and this is just a few of the natural spaces I have read about that are showing signs of healing.
And what of our pace of life? I know for many, especially small business owners who have been forced to shut their doors and move online, this would NOT be considered a time of slowing down. So too for Mom's like myself who must run their business from home, mind their children, teach their children and still do all the other things, the days literally fly by and sometimes I feel like I have accomplished nothing. The pace may not be slower per see, but it is different and change in and of itself is also a powerful component of this cleansing process. The opportunity to shift focus, expand comfort zones, grow offering or perhaps declutter, spend more time in the kitchen, have kids play in nature instead of on a court, etc. Each of these shifts that we navigate plays a role in moving through our world differently. We have before us the opportunity to veer away from the often overwhelming and seemingly unavoidable and mundane tasks and schedules we have endured and approach our days with a different focus. I see this as a gift.
My husband commented this morning that he heard they are starting to lift some of the current restrictions on businesses and spaces. I am happy to hear it and I am excited to get back to frequenting the gym and some of my favorite shops. And yet, I wonder what this return to 'normal' will look like. Will normal look the same as it did before? Do we really want it to look the same, or have we learned some powerful lessons both about ourselves and about our natural environment?
A research study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology discovered that on average it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic. According to this, it will be interesting to see if this period of forced change will have given us time to build new habits that last, or if we will dive head first back into our old normal because it still feels like the most comfortable place to be.
At first glance, after the ice flow had subsided, the river returned to it's typical spring pace and color. But upon closer inspection, there are lasting effects. That short natural cleanse that occurred with the ice flow has forever changed the river in small but undeniable ways and so too I hope this is our experience. That as we slowly being to emerge from this period of isolation we recognize that we have been changed. I hope we recognize all that what we have learned and use it to propel ourselves and our communities forward. I hope that we are able to welcome back many of the cherished pieces of our lives and yet approach our bodies and minds and our natural environment with a new appreciation and understanding. I hope that as we transition out of spring's natural processes of cleansing and release what no longer serves us, we can also shift into the lushness and abundance of summer retaining the lessons and gifts of this time and remaining changed for better.