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This Too Shall Pass

This too shall pass

100,000 people dead. Staggering. Let’s remember they are not a number.

I have just been tearfully remembering them as I watched their faces on BBC this morning.

Diverse, grandparents, parents, family, relatives, friends. Each unique & special. And many died in isolation. Death should not have the last word.

We should remember them as individuals.

Many of us are feeling a deep sense of loneliness. Loneliness can be profoundly damaging for mental and physical health. Social isolation and loneliness are not the same, but they are closely related.

Each week I see more and more people who are now feeling the effects of isolation and millions feeling a sense of deep personal loss. Now my own sister is fighting COVID in ICU and no one can visit her. I was reminded of isolation and loneliness when Layla send me a poem to tell how she was dealing with anxiety on Tuesday:

Days…weeks…pass
Restless people
Eager to go back outside

People struggling
Hours…days…weeks
Alone, in my institutionalised reality

Days…weeks…pass.
Although now I see some light
My future seems brighter
The end of my solitude is in sight
I will never again take my future for granted

Then I met Anne on the street yesterday with her young kids and she told me she had enough of being at homeschooling but that she was feeling guilty. Why? because at 35 she had rang the teacher and pretended to be sick and that she would not be doing zoom home schooling today.

Funny yet sad. Isolation and home schooling had made her stir crazy.

Here are some of the mental health practices that I use in my practice:

  • Going for a walk
  • Structuring your day
  • Engaging with people
  • Switching your focus
  • Being kind to yourself
  • Visualisation
  • And meditation, the practice I will touch on today.

I got into meditation a long time ago and by accident. I was in my 20s and in love. When she asked me away for a long weekend I must say I was very happy. She took me to Lough Derg – Europe’s oldest place of pilgrimage and the most challenging in the Christian World. It’s called St Patrick’s purgatory and is not for the faint hearted.

It consists of 3 days of fasting, 24 hours without sleep and 48 hours on bare feet. Not the weekend I had expected but I discovered meditation and the sense of achievement was amazing. I went home refreshed and renewed and it gave me a life skill that is profound and that I have practiced as part of my life ever since.

To me meditation will not carry us to another world, but it will reveal the most profound and awesome dimensions of the world in which we already live. In my coaching on leadership, change, elite sports performance I keep teaching people meditation and say “if you cannot spare 10 minutes a day on meditation, then you need to spend one hour.”

Meditation is like a gym in which you develop the powerful mental muscles of calm and insight and in the words of Lama Surya Das:

The first step when we get really gripped in fear is to calm our nervous system. A simple way to do this is with long, deep breaths. Take at least three full breaths, counting to five with the inhale, and counting to five with the exhale. And with the exhale, intentionally release tension.

That begins to calm down the nervous system.

I use the acronym RAIN, which I got from a brilliant teacher named Tara Brach, because it is easy-to-remember when that sense of fear creeps up on you. RAIN stands for Recognise, Allow, Investigate, Nurture.

R – First, just recognise, “Okay, I’m feeling fear.” Mentally whisper it, and that helps right away.

A – Then allow it. Just let it be there, don’t try to run away or fix it or control it or judge it. Remember thoughts have energy if we keep pushing them away they keep coming back

I – Then investigate it. Begin to come into the body and just feel where the fear is in the body. Find out how it feels and breathe with it, with a gentle attention just breathe with it. Take at least three full breaths, counting to five with the inhale, and counting to five with the exhale. And with the exhale, intentionally release tension.

N – And then nurture. Say “Thank you for trying to protect me, it’s okay” and let it go.

Today is a wonderful day to have a wonderful day! Dream your dreams with your eyes closed, but live your dreams with your eyes open. Beautiful things will happen when you distance yourself from negativity. Our time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t cheat the world of your contribution. Give it all you’ve got today. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us live fully today.

THE MENTAL FILTER – 

  • Get outside, in nature if you can
  • Meditate, or just breathe
  • Let yourself off the hook

The most important thing to keep in mind is not to beat yourself up when things are not going perfectly in your household. On top of everything else, being upset with yourself is totally counterproductive.

I can take you to success. I coach ordinary people every day to do extra-ordinary things. I coach extra-ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. The difference is those who have a dream, and are prepared to follow said dream, are extraordinary, and just need a structure and support system to kick off that journey, which will finish with them sliding in fast sideways to the grave, totally worn out from the relentless living of their dreams, screaming out loudly “Wow holy sh*t, what a ride!”

If that is you – start today! If you are looking for coaching on change for yourself or your organisation, or would like more information on the work we do on Personal, Professional, or Organisational Change, please contact us on letstalk@mauriceduffy.com

About Dr Maurice Duffy

Irish. Author, Professor, Coach and Business strategist. The person Australian Captain Steve Smith credited with helping him back from his cricket ban. Coach to two Ashes wins. Coach to CEOs, Politicians and some of the best know international sports starts including Olympians. BBC ‘Thought for the Week’. Coached business leaders and organizations in 80 countries. Works with charities to do with Mental Health. Lives in North East England with his wife and 11-year-old son.