These last days we may have eaten pancakes (in the UK), doughnuts (Krapfen in Germany), or cream buns (fastelavnsbollar in Denmark, semlor in Sweden) and not given it much thought.  

These sweet treats are linked to the Christian calendar, this Wednesday being Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent and the start of the 40-day period of fasting, introspection and renewed spiritual practice which precedes Easter.

Many different traditions around the world mark the end of the season of merrymaking (for example, Mardi Gras, Fasching) and the transition to Lent, hence the need to stock up on treats like eggs and cream before the days of fasting or at least frugality.   

Across the centuries…

…people have practised many forms of fasting and penance, to re-orient themselves, to return to source, to become less ego-led and more aware of what really matters in life.  

People who have been on a silent retreat for any length of time speak about a renewed sense of self, energy and connection to a greater whole.  

If the dividends are potentially so great, how is it then that we don’t all do the same?  The busy-ness of our full lives distracts us from the value of taking some down time.

The current global health crisis has lead me to think of those in situations of forced confinement.  

This includes those that need to self-quarantine in the attempt to halt the spread of the Coronavirus as well as those who have already tested positive or are sick. We are seeing people in news stories who are upset, angry and fearful, which is understandable given the uncertainty of outcomes and the fear of the worst that may happen.  Fear is contagious and leads to desperate acts.

Our instinct in such situations is to act or react in order to preserve what we have, health and safety being very basic needs and concerns.  What we have taken for granted, having our basic needs met, our freedom to move at will whenever and wherever is suddenly in question.  We move back down the famous Maslow pyramid to the base layer.

What though, if this quarantine were by choice and not forced?

How would that change our attitude towards the disruption of our daily routine?

What are the options for a different approach, one that is positive and gives hope?

Knowing how well we are served by some periods of downtime and sincere reflection, can we learn to accept non-action as an opportunity for learning and inner growth?

So, when planes are cancelled and conferences postponed, we are still called upon to do our work, which is after all possible for many of us, in our digitally connected world.

And instead of doing more work, why not then accept the gift of extra time from not travelling, of being “grounded” or put into quarantine, to become more grounded in ourselves.

How?  By accepting cancelled plans as an opportunity to reflect on the non-urgent and significant that we may have been postponing for a long time.

Imagine the extending ripple effect from our most powerful selves to our communities if we use these times to refresh and renew our sense of being; a different kind of food for thought.

Namaste (the divine in me respectfully recognizes the divine in you.)

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