What’s Not Cancelled

Governments around the world first responses to the pandemic included the widespread closure of schools, workplaces, childcare providers and after schools activities. In the space of a few days, the network of opportunities our children, and we have to engage and interact with others on a day to day basis disappeared. Many of us, I included, felt relief at the break from the average pace of life towards a slower and less noisy alternative. The constant round of drop-offs, pickups and commutes can be exhausting, and a chance for a change of pace felt like a welcoming space for quiet and reflection. In my situation also led to a scramble to fill my children’s, and in turn, my time with things to do and stuff to engage with. At one point it felt that everything had just been cancelled and a slight panic was felt to find anything to fill the gap.

Following this short spell of trying to busy ourselves as much as possible, it became clear that this was not sustainable and it was neither viable nor healthy to continue my frantic effort to fill every second of our day with ‘doing’. It was when the sense of initial panic dissipated that I began to appreciate the space and time that I had been afforded to indulge in, well, sometimes just doing nothing. Even the rush from one activity to the next slowed down, and I began to experience a greater appreciation for the everyday things I would do. I enjoyed taking an hour each day to walk with the children noticing the change to the plants and animals in a local nature reserve. I started to operate more often with greater awareness, and it helped to keep the negative thoughts at bay. It also created a chance to focus on the positive, smaller things day to day that was passing me by.

When I look back at 2020, I will try and focus on the opportunity I had to spend an extended paternity leave with my newborn son. Due to our family circumstances, I would typically have two weeks leave then be back to work, but lockdown gave me the opportunity to spend more time with my 2 months old son while I was on furlough. The opportunity to spend more time caring for him and my other two sons (age three and five) is something I will cherish forever. It was certainly challenging at times, but I will always fondly remember making cakes together, building a pond for the frogs in our garden to live in and holding my son as we sat in the shade listening to the rustling of the long swaying arms of the willow at the end of our garden. None of this was cancelled, it just took everything else being stopped, for me to appreciate it more fully.

Our partners at SEE Learning have also been thinking about the importance of spending time thinking about What’s Not Cancelled. They have created a handy worksheet for students and parents, which guides you through some creative and reflection exercises. Spending time bringing the mind to the current moment takes us away from rumination, negative thought patterns, and that can lead to catastrophising. It gives our mind time to rest in the now, and the opportunity to appreciate the moment in front of us in a deeper and more meaningful way. As we continue to spend time in various stages and tiers of lockdown, it may be worth spending some time working through the exercises offered in the worksheet. It is an excellent opportunity to bring yourself to the now and bring a positive thinking to all the wonders available to us right here, right now.

A project from theĀ Dalai Lama Centre for Compassion

33 St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3LD