[I’m writing this in the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic hitting the United States (March 2020) but the advice in this article may also be helpful in any number of other situations where you are at home for an extended period or otherwise have externally forced changes to your life.
Take what works for you, leave the rest.]
So, the world’s changed. And in some ways, it’s easier if it’s the world doing the same thing, staying at home. But I’ve also gone through versions of this when the world was going on as normal, but I was the one who had to make major changes to what I could do and how I could do it, due to health issues.
Everyone’s situation is different here – the things that make sense for someone living alone are going to be different than someone who has small children around all the time, or elderly relatives they have to take care of.
The good news is that there are ways to make a challenging situation have some benefits. If you’re looking at what you might do right now, that might be a part of your spiritual or magical work, here are some ideas.
Key: Do not feel you need to do all the things. Take care of yourself, take care of those you love. The suggestions below are ideas, not obligations.
Before you start
Give yourself a chance to adjust, first! More than half my vacation weeks are “let me stay at home and get a bunch done”. I have almost always found that I need at least a few days to let myself decompress and let things shake out. In the current “stay at home” social distancing moment, I found it’s taken me a week (Saturday to Saturday) to start feeling those tell-tale signs of my brain settling into the new pattern.
It’s hard to describe this, but there’s a point when I feel like I’ve tipped over into something new, out of my usual schedule. Sometimes it happens nearly overnight, sometimes it takes until the first ‘regular day’ (usually Monday for me), sometimes it takes a day or two longer. In the strange new normal that is spring 2020, it took me a full week to start to feel that tipping point.
(It wasn’t helped by the fact that the week we shifted to working at home and social distancing was supposed to be a week I was on a work trip to the West Coast, so I had a couple of long web meetings to make up for that trip, and a bunch of other tasks that aren’t my normal set of things.)
As I write this, I’m now feeling more able to settle into the current normal, and to begin trying a few new things. But I’m also glad I gave myself time to settle into that. Transitional times, liminal times, they’re tricky. Even when they’re about good things, they can feel scary or unsettling. And when a lot of the pieces are out of our direct control, that’s even more so.
It’s not only okay to give yourself some time to adjust, but it’s a good idea. The trick is not to let yourself fall into patterns that will be counterproductive to what you want to accomplish long-term. So, getting a bit of extra sleep is fine – but be cautious of sleeping in super late in ways that mess up your schedule for the entire day (or staying up way too late, and shorting yourself on sleep.)
Taking a few days or even a week allows you to get a better sense of what things you’re really wanting to do. Pay attention to what is particularly visible or nagging to you. Sometimes this is something you want to do more of – you may keep finding yourself circling back to a particular activity or book. Sometimes it’s something that’s annoying you, like the fact your closet is a mess, or your kitchen isn’t organised well (or maybe things just need a good deep cleaning).
You don’t have to do any of those things yet, while you’re in the adjustment stage, but paying attention to what you’re noticing will help you make better-informed choices shortly.
If you’re practicing social distancing and working from home, you’ve got fewer things on your calendar, even though other things (like taking care of kids) may be expanding to fill the space.
You’ve also got fewer variables. That means it may be a good time to explore some things in your life while you can be more clear of what the changes are doing. When are you most alert? Most creative? Do you have a consistent lull in the mid-afternoon? What helps that if you do?
Sometimes in the past, I’ve tried making specific changes, and I’ve found it hard to tell if they help. Did the thing I tried actually give me more energy, or help my stress? Was I more focused, or is that just a figment of my imagination? Sometimes it can be really hard to tell when there are so many different variables, like my commute, or how many times people came by with a question at work, or how much walking I did around various errands. Maybe I had a commitment after work some days, and not others, and it made it hard to tell the overall impact.
Now that I’m home all the time for at least a few weeks, I want to pay attention to how different things make me feel. I’m not planning drastic changes (we’re already all under more stress, and major changes in diet or other things like that are also stressful!)
But if you’ve been thinking about a moderate change (something that takes 20-30 minutes, that isn’t a big stressor for you), this might be a great time to try it out.
What am I like if I do some simple yoga for 15-20 minutes a day for a week? Or moving meditation? Or if I’m more consistent about a meditation practice? (Also, some extra deep breathing is probably not a bad idea right now.) At work, I’d be standing up and moving around every hour or two, what happens if take that time to have a quick dance break?
Do I feel happier if I play my harp for 15 minutes? How much improvement do I see if I play that much? (I’ve been trying this one so far. It’s fun, and more progress than I thought!)
This is not the time to do a major diet change: I’m talking more like “If you ate 1 or 2 more servings of vegetables a day” or “cut a serving or two of carbs” type things, if you’re starting from a mainstream diet. I have some lentils in my pantry I’ve been meaning to learn more about cooking and this seems like a good time to try out some variations.
You’re going to be home a lot, so what things can you do that make it more beautiful for you? What will make it work better for you? This could be as straightforward as picking an area to deep clean and reorganise every day (even doing a single drawer will make a big difference over time!) You could explore what it’s like to pick a specific room and spent 15-20 minutes cleaning it thoroughly on a given day of the week (the bedroom on Mondays, the kitchen on Tuesdays, etc.) and see how that feels, and then adapt that into your life long-term.
Perhaps this is the time to set up a small household shrine, dedicated to the well-being of your home and household. There are plenty of hearth and household deities you might choose, and plenty of ways to honour them. A simple prayer, a little bit of cleaning, and a low-key offering (a candle, incense, or cool water are all great choices if you’re not sure where to start.) A simple offering with an intention of what you want your home to be like, and what you need a bit of help with.
This is a great time to build some relationships related to your spiritual life. Who you build those relationships might depend a lot on your circumstances.
Deities are often the first ones that come to mind. A small offering, a bit of time, or devoting some time to learning or making something relevant are all good ways to get started. Maybe you have a deity you’ve been curious about, or maybe you’ve got a deity that you’d like to spend more time with.
In the present moment, this is also a great time to begin building work with healing deities into your life, or those associated with protection and the home. Having a little bit of help here can go a long way.
Ancestors can be complicated for a lot of us (especially more immediate ancestors) but our older ancestors have a lot of wisdom for us. Those might be bloodline ancestors, but they could also be people you have connections to through the ways you spend your time, where you come from (places and peoples), or who have something in common with you for some other reason. Our ancestors lived through plagues, through natural disasters, and all sorts of other trying times – they have a lot they can share about patience and perserverence, and what matters most in such moments.
Powers of the land may be a little trickier, with keeping a distance, but there are probably local spirits near you, near where you live, who you could connect to. Under most shelter-in-place guidelines, going for a walk in the neighborhood is fine as long as you don’t get within six feet of people (and of course, are careful what you touch, and wash your hands when you come in.) Getting outside and connecting with the natural world for a bit can be a very powerful connection.
Other beings and powers are also an option. Perhaps this is a time you might explore (through meditation or ritual) a connection with beings like guardians of the quarters, or elemental beings, or beings associated with particular plants (where I live, it’s a bit early to start gardens.)
We probably all have some projects that take time to set up and put away, or that just take more attention. If you need a goal, consider one of these. Perhaps there’s a game, played over multiple sessions, that you could play with your household (or digitally with people in other places). I’ve got a video game I’ve been meaning to play, but rarely had the 30ish hours to give to it over a reasonable span of time. I haven’t started that one yet, but I’m probably going to next week.
And of course, I’ve got some longer term projects like “Learn more astrology” and “Do more formal pages for my book of shadows” and other things like that that can absorb quite a lot of time and energy if I want. I’m definitely looking at activities I can do that don’t involve sitting in front of the computer, too – since that’s where I’ll be spending my work day, and where I usually spend my evenings. I’m contemplating taking an hour to read on the couch in the living room, or what activities I could do from there for a change of pace.
Consider this a season
Finally, one of the things my witchcraft teaches me is that there are seasons and cycles of many different kinds, and many lengths and intensities. Try thinking about this as a season, where what makes sense now may change in a month, in three months. Just like we don’t go out doing major exertion for long when there’s a heat wave, right now we stay in, away from other people, and have a more interior time. At some point, that should change, and we can expand our outward lives again.
The question to keep in mind is “What can I learn and do and enjoy now that will help me when the seasons change again?”
[Posted March 25, 2020]