Options for a new normal post COVID-19

A survey by YouGov, quoted recently by Sky News, found that only 9% of people want life to return to “normal” following the current coronavirus pandemic. People have noticed benefits in cleaner air, more wildlife and stronger communities. Conversations are now taking place exploring the options of what ‘new’ normal might look like.

I know friends who during lockdown are learning a new language, taking up creative challenges, committing to exercise regimes. I have committed to deep cleaning the house (particularly unusual). Undoubtedly, we are more connected; it has been a joy and a blessing to stay connected with family and friends, particularly with elderly parents. The pace of life has slowed down and the focus of what is important seems to have shifted.

There are opportunities for positive change to emerge from this period – but will it? Will we continue to stay closer to home and curb our desire to travel to far away destinations, or pop down to town for a coffee, or buy stuff we don’t really need? Will we continue to show our appreciation to the NHS and other frontline workers, look out for our neighbours and be concerned for the well-being of our communities? Will we continue to be inspired by simple creative endeavours and take time to marvel at the beauty of nature? I am absolutely certain that my desire to deep clean will disappear as soon as lockdown is over!

What makes the biggest difference to whether or not we inadvertently return to normal or emerge stronger and better, not just individually but for humanity and the planet? I read an article recently about the importance of ‘stories about reality’ in reshaping our future after COVID. This refers to the tendency we have for either a pessimistic or an optimistic narrative. The article included this wonderful description of the difference: Three friends were sailing together, each on their own sailboat: a pessimist, an optimist, and a realist. Halfway through their journey, the wind died down and their boats stopped at sea. The pessimist immediately thought: “It is over. I’m going to die here.” Little by little he surrendered to the situation. The optimist, without worrying, said: “Everything is going to be all right. There is no need to be afraid. The wind will return soon and we will be able to return home.” The realist remained quiet, observed the situation and thought: “Well, in fact, it does seem unusually calm. If it takes a long time before the wind returns, we will more than likely run out of food and water and we will not arrive back at the shore before nightfall.” The realist stopped, observed, meditated, reflected, silenced her thoughts and observed that although there was no wind, there was a sea current flowing towards the shore. She paddled her boat towards the current, which carried her boat back to shore and she arrived safely, well before dusk. The pessimist and the optimist are still at sea. The moral of the story? Narratives matter. Taken from What happens post-COVID-19? By Norrie Huddle, Michael Haupt and the Sensemaking Collective.

Ultimately, when we understand that the mind only works Inside Out, we see that we all have separate realities and that we are only ever living in the flow of life. Consciousness is therefore everything and the narrative, those stories we make up about how life works, drop away, leaving clarity in the moment to deal with whatever arises. From this perspective there is no normal; normal is part of a story we each tell ourselves. We are free to be responsible for how we show up and what we bring to the world. We only need to know the next step to take, and like the saying ‘the map is not the territory’, our stories are not who we are and there is so much more to see from the perspective of clarity. Change is a natural and neutral part of life’s flow.

I would love to hear your views on whether this diagram helps to widen the discussion about potential outcomes.

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