Shifting from below the line to above the line is just a tiny baby step (and a big dose of self-kindness.)

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When I shared last week that I’d been having a lot of below-the-line thoughts, especially when I got into a state of anxiety, my friend Nancy Lee offered this infographic. I’ve seen it a few times since, and really appreciate the visual, the idea that there are ways to push beyond my primal lizard-brain instinct, take a deep breath, calm my sympathetic nervous system and try and be curious… what can I learn here? What can I name? What does growth look like, at this time?

I listened to a great podcast the other day, (Accidental Gods, spearheaded by my favourite author, of the Boudica novels, Manda Scott): a rambly conversation, in which the guest Ya’akov Darling Khan acknowledged that he does oscillate between “got my gun, my chickens and my family safe” and “how can we manifest a better world out of this?”

I noticed in myself so many of these flight-fright responses – to look after our son, look after our land. Make sure the we’ve got ammunition to protect those we love. Have we got amunition for the shotgun, that kind of thing – that impulse to close down and protect your own kind is huge. And then there’s the impulse of generosity and caring that stems from a different place. I’m well, I’m healthy. I’m at home. I’ve suddenly got a lot of time. What else can I create? What can I offer? I notice those different responses many times during the day to just take a deep breath.

He also shared something that I thought was really interesting, about the power of language. This is not a war. War, defence, battle, domination: this is the language we know. This is the language that governments use, to rally the populace. This is the language we use, when we confront big life challenges, like cancer, or depression – we’re going to battle, and we’re gonna win or lose. But that’s not fair, or true, to the experience. And we’re not at war now. He shared a post that had come up on his social feeds, of a French doctor, who said, “We are not at war and we don’t have to be. There’s no need to import the idea of struggle, in order for this to be effective. The ambition of being in service to life, is enough. There is no enemy. There is another living organism in full migratory flow, and we must self isolate so that our respective currents do not class too much.”

You might have seen these language re-frames, but I think it’s helpful to spin things towards the positive and empowering… Like the reframe that Dr Bonnie Henry recently offered, this isn’t social distancing. It’s physical distancing. Keep your bodies apart from each other, but you can still be social beings, from that distance.

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