Connecting across distance

This is the first week in which the people of Denver have been asked to stay at home in an effort to flatten the curve.

At this moment, I find it somewhat ironic that typically I start my classes by asking that everyone go and meet someone they don’t know. There are times when it feels as though people look at me as though this was an unreasonable or bizarre request. As though the idea of leaving one’s mat, one’s home for the hour or so we spend together exploring breath and movement, was either a waste of time or just plain torture. And yet, in this moment, I can imagine that so many of us would give anything to be able to carelessly, albeit awkwardly shake a strangers hand and make inconsequential chit chat without the fear that something may be passed or something may be picked up.

The current state of the world requires that we be cautious about our interactions. That we each do our best to maintain physical distance that may prevent the rapid spread of an invisible agent. So sadly, the casual, if not uncomfortable ways in which I use to attempt to foster community in my classes is no longer available.

And yet, there’s hope. I believe that each of us is being challenged to find new and perhaps better ways to connect on deeper levels across physical boundaries.

In reading a newsletter from a woman who is a Feldenkrais Practitioner, I was struck by how she talked about the need to do virtual sessions. Rather than saying that she was no longer seeing clients in person due to “social distancing,” she said that she was no longer seeing clients in person as a form of “physical distancing.”

For me the distinction between these two words became immediately apparent. That is, I can adhere to the guidelines of CDC and the WHO and maintain 3 – 6 feet between myself and another being while still being connected to people. This is physical distancing. Whereas with the words social distance, the implication becomes that to remain safe and to stop the spread of the disease, one needs to remain isolated, scared, and alone with whatever fears or worries may be present. I can’t speak for any of you, however, I do no that for me – that sense of separation, that feeling of disconnect, of not belonging anywhere or to anyone in particular –  is maddening. It creates for me this surreal feeling of numbness, anxiety, and depression.

And yet, hope is not lost.

Many of us are engaged in a practice that by its very definition is intended to help one overcome feelings of separation, isolation, and uncertainty. The word yoga literally means to join, to yoke, to unite. And in this time of so much separation, uncertainty, and fear, nothing could be more important than collectively coming together to decrease our social distance, while maintain our physical distance. To share our hearts, our loves, our joys, our sorrows, our fears, and pains.

The question of course becomes how do we do this? And well just as we’ve done it before: one breath at at time, one conversation at a time, one moment at a time. As we begin to walk through what some might call the Kali Yuga we need to bravely open our hearts and share our truths from a kind and gentle place. We need to do the work to keep our hearts open and receptive to whatever experiences of joy, sadness, grief, sorry, pain, and pleasure might be evoked. We need to have faith that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that we will be stronger for having been alive to experience this world event.

And before we are able to authentically and compassionately share our truths with others, we need to first and foremost be witnesses to our own inner experiences. We need to practice slowing down and listening to our own inner guides as they show up in those quiet moments or express themselves through the rhythm of our breath.

For many of us, myself included, this may not be an easy ask. We are accustomed to the constant stimulation of movement and action. In some ways, physical proximity makes it easier to maintain social distance – to know someone without ever really knowing what’s inside their hearts. And yet, the time has come to change that paradigm.

With that, the questions that I have for you, the ones I am working to answer for myself are these:

  • How can I begin to share my heart more courageously – my joys and sorrows, fears and pleasures, successes and failures?
  • How can I begin to be more generous with my time and create more space for other to courageously share their hearts with me?
  • How can I use this experience as an opportunity to heal some of the wounds that my business kept me from being able to fully see and experience?
  • How can I use this experience as an opportunity to help others heal their own wounds that previously they may not have been able to fully see or experience?

The optimist within me believes the spread of COVID 19/The Coronavirus is the Universe asking that we use the parameters of physical distance as the means by which to get closer to one another – heart to heart. To perhaps for the first time, really see, hear, and connect to each other on a deeper level. The question of course is, are we courageous enough to step up and answer the call?