“I would hate meditating in silence for a week. It would be so boring. Are you allowed to bring your phone?”
This is what a friend of mine said when I told her how much time I’ve spent on silent meditation retreats. It’s a sentiment I’ve heard many times. I used to respond by talking about the benefits, but this time, my answer was much simpler:
“You’re right. You would hate it, but you wouldn’t keep hating it for the whole week. Have you considered what might happen next?”
As I write this, many of us have been stuck at home in quarantine for about two months. We’re facing a choice, and it’s a choice we have to make over and over again. We can resist the reality of our situation, or we can seize the opportunity to evolve. As challenging as this pandemic is, I can’t help but wonder: What might happen next?
It’s not that COVID-19 is a good thing. It’s a disaster and I wish it weren’t happening. But it is happening, and within that reality, we are being forced to reflect on the path we’re on and where it leads, both as individuals and as a society. A think-tank recently published consumer survey results showing that, post-pandemic, Chinese people are becoming more interested in financial responsibility, stronger relationships, spirituality and self-development. In many ways, crises bring out the best of humanity. If you’re lucky enough to be healthy right now, you might be waiting for things to go back to normal. I hope you also explore how things might improve if they don’t go back to normal. Here are five areas of life worth reimagining in quarantine:
5 Areas of Life Worth Reimagining Right Now
1. Productivity and Career
If you’re overwhelmed with emotions, health issues, collective trauma, and a crushing economy, the last thing you need is someone telling you to do more. So right out the gate, I want to clarify: I’m not necessarily suggesting you do more.
Maybe this is a time to do less. This could be your opportunity to be less productive, less efficient, or less ambitious. The world has been accelerating so fast, maybe for you, reimagining life in quarantine means unapologetically slowing down and catching your breath. Doing nothing can be surprisingly productive.
Or maybe you’re cash-strapped and unemployed and you don’t have that option. Even if you still have your job, maybe you’re energized to find a new path forward. You could train yourself in new skills. You could take an online course, or you could make an online course.
While restaurants pivot to delivery and meal plans, teachers are hosting online classes and hairstylists are guiding people to cut their own hair over Zoom. We all need to take some time to grieve, but eventually, we might explore what work looks like in a post-pandemic world.
2. Home and Routine
If you’re stuck at home, you could try transforming your home into your own retreat centre. That might sound weird, but all it really means is structuring your time and space to support the person you want to become.
Maybe that’s an early morning meditation alarm or a calendar invite with yourself for intense focus. Maybe it’s a time-restricted eating schedule or a firm commitment to daily exercise. Have you considered turning the office into an art space? What about moving all the beds into one room and having slumber parties every night?
Watching TV is a great way to take a break, but it’s not a great way of life. You could hide it away for a while. You could repurpose your living room into a yoga studio, or clear out space for a dance floor in the basement. How would you redesign your home if you knew you couldn’t leave?
3. Friends and Family
Have you been calling people more? If not, I highly recommend it, especially if you’re all alone. Trade your social media feeds and one-tap reactions for extended video calls. Remember how exciting it used to be to get a phone call out of the blue? Bring that back. Your friends are isolated too; they’ll be so glad to hear from you.
Be vulnerable. Be together. Your new normal might be more quality time with people (or pets) you care about.
Quarantine is also a golden opportunity to deepen your relationships with the people you’re stuck with. Why not learn to cook something new with your partner? Or learn to make music with your roommate? Why not shock your kids by asking them how to play their favorite video games?
If you’re not in the mood for fun, try putting the screens away and make time for a daily heart-to-heart. Share what you’re feeling. Be vulnerable. Be together. Your new normal might be more quality time with people (or pets) you care about.
4. Tech Habits
In this situation, the value of our tech is clearer than ever. Our connected screens are a lifeline in isolation. In the midst of this crisis, we’re seeing the very best of what tech can do for us in our personal and professional lives. We can live, work and play online.
It might be tempting to admit full dependence on tech and abandon the pursuit of healthier screen time. You might think the whole idea of resisting the attention economy is moot in a fully remote world. I disagree—our ability to manage our own attention is more relevant than ever.
Sure, you’re locked inside with nothing else to do. That doesn’t make gaming, scrolling, binge-watching or remote-working for 24 hours a day any better for your well-being. Flooding your mind with pandemic news isn’t exactly going to help, either.
Many are projecting this quarantine will last months—what happens when our physical lives become secondary to virtual reality? Unless we find deeper ways to connect and put limits on our information diet, we’re all about to find out.
5. Politics and Scientific Literacy
Nothing like a global health crisis to remind us that we’re not invincible. We now know what a life-or-death emergency feels like. We’ve got front row seats to our own fragility. Political news feeds can be very chaotic, but on some issues, this pandemic is cutting through the noise.
It’s never been more clear that actions taken on one side of the planet directly affect people on the other side. Global crises are real and they can affect all of us. More investment in healthcare infrastructure and medical personnel would be a great silver lining. So would increased scientific literacy.
And if this pandemic is reminding us to trust science, we may want to reflect on climate change, too. Turns out life with less cars on the road and less planes in the air is possible. While we struggle with respiratory illnesses, the earth is breathing better than it has in a long time. This is an opportunity to pause and deeply consider our views and attitudes toward compassionate, evidence-based policies.
We now know what a life-or-death emergency feels like. We’ve got front row seats to our own fragility.
This is a unique moment, yet we still have the same choice now as we do in any moment. We can’t control the situation, but we can choose how to respond. We can complain on Twitter, take it out on loved ones, bury ourselves in work, or binge on our favourite vices. Or we can anticipate a new reality, consider what we want that to look like, and lean in to a new normal for ourselves, our families, our communities, and the world.
For the vast majority of us, it seems the best thing we can do to help address the health crisis is stay home. But there’s another way we can help. We can use this opportunity to see the big picture more clearly than ever before. If any of these 5 areas feel especially juicy to you, start there. Starting with ourselves and those around us, we can do our part to make sure the people who emerge from these cocoons are more balanced, more caring, and truly ready for humanity’s next chapter.
Originally published at attentionactivist.com.