Pandemic relief #6 – Searching for meaning

As COVID-19 sweeps the globe, it’s hard to know where to turn or what to think. To work through the reality and future surrounding this pandemic I’ve been following the live daily conversations of TED Connects. These talks are designed to get us through this time with a sense of responsibility, compassion and wisdom. Have you been trying to find ways to make this time meaningful? Me too. Today, I share some sweet insights thus far.

I’ve been listening to a number of bright thought-leaders and two talks in particular have positively impacted my thinking. One turns to our internal world, whilst the other focuses on our relation to the external one. Both hugely helpful in our search for meaning amid a global pandemic. First, I found the conversation with Elisabeth Gilbert extremely therapeutic to come to terms with feeling overwhelmed and figuring out what to do next. Her articulation of our internal landscape is like a fresh breeze of air when you feel like drowning. Then, Priya Parker intrigued me to rethink the ways in which we can create meaningful gatherings while apart. Let’s dive in.

Quarantine vs. retreat

Should you be handling social distancing better? Are you wasting creative potential? Can you serve the world in a better way? Questions that may come up when you are social distancing. Listening to Elisabeth Gilbert I realized that our emotions about our emotions often become the real troublemakers in our lives. I sure have layered this type of shame on top of genuine concerns about what’s going on in the world. Helpful? Nope.

Admittedly, there is big magic baked into how we treat this time. Is it going to be an anxiety-driven emotional rollercoaster or an opportunity to learn to be present with ourselves? Even if it means working through terror, fear and shame without having to reach outside ourselves for something to numb these emotions with. This is where creativity and play are called in as antidotes of future-tripping. Building on this talk, I turned my attention from excessive news reading to stuff that actually calms me down. I picked up a new form of movement, longboarding and started a few projects in the kitchen. Is it working? You bet!

Do what you used to do when you were a child that made you happy and relaxed. You’ll find this often involves creativity and play.

The art of gathering

When is it necessary to meet? What is the purpose of our gatherings? Who to include? Where to meet? Now, perhaps more than ever we need to look for novel ways to create meaningful conversations with friends, family and co-workers. After listening to Priya Parker I started exploring methods to gather across differences, to connect and make meaning together without having to be the same. 

The critical questions in her book ‘The Art of Gathering’ reframed some of the virtual meet-ups I took part in or organised lately. This line of thinking helps shape our recent initiative: Social Distance Disco. The idea came from recognising the need to break out of serious thoughts and to connect with friends. Every Friday we strive to create a sense of togetherness, a feeling of energy and a space where friends can temporarily not take themselves too seriously. It’s free. It’s fun. Join our house party this weekend!

We don’t need to gather more. We need to gather better. Start with why.

Together apart

To cut a long story short, you’re not alone if you struggle to make each day meaningful while you are social distancing. Through listening to bright thinkers I’ve come to realise that a closer look at our inner landscape and external relations can be helpful to arrive at a place where you can feel at ease in these strange times.

Turn inwards by listening, playing and returning to creativity. See what happens when you dare to sit with your thoughts and stop numbing. You don’t need to hop on four wheels or start fermenting vegetables to feel at ease. Just carve out time for activities that calm you down and see what happens.

Look outwards by questioning the purpose of gathering with people. We can in fact foster meaningful conversations without having to be the same or in the same space. Recognise the needs that arise in this time of crisis. Thanks to technology and a little creativity we can find novel ways to be together while apart.

I am sharing these thoughts and resources for the simple reason that they have provided me with a positive outlook. This article is a kind invitation to find your own silver lining.

Play & gather well,