“But what am I supposed to do next?”
This was actually one of the questions I asked myself when the world went into lockdown during the last week of March in 2020. I was so busy doing, I had completely disconnected from myself. I had neglected my core needs and self-care in the process, and had slowly damaged my holistic health AND the future of my projects.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to my zero waste lifestyle when I evacuated my zero waste hostel in Rajasthan, Hara House, having to make an executive call for the future of the social enterprise. We had to close. It was clear we wouldn’t survive what was next. Today, I’m glad I made that call, but me a year ago, I was devastated.
As someone who has always been deeply rooted in my activism for social and environmental justice, I remember feeling so stuck. I couldn’t DO. How was I going to prove to myself that I was an activist and someone doing good in this world? How was I going to combat climate change and advocate for anti-oppression work if I couldn’t DO?
When the lockdown swept across India, I was in Chandigarh without the resources I needed to survive more than a month, lacking access to essential services. Unlike many countries, India’s lockdown was abruptly announced leaving millions of people, specifically migrant workers, with no transportation, no work, and nowhere to go due to strict state border movement.
For the first time in almost 10 years, I was forced to remain still. And that just wasn’t my style.
My husband and I had only been married a month. We had just put a deposit in on a house in Mumbai. I was working towards opening our third Hara House property. All of that was taken away as we rummaged through the store room, analysing how many days our current supply of vegetables and pulses would last us. We estimated 30 days.
Do note that I am well aware of how privileged I was during this time because I had access to food, shelter, and family.
It took about two weeks before we were able to access what we needed. City buses came into each sector of the city filled with vegetables for purchase. A few corner stores opened up to offer essentials. Things calmed down as we got a hold of what we needed, but the restriction of movement was terrifying, and here I was whining about my coffee coming in a plastic jar.
My husband and I would try to get out for morning walks when curfew ended at 9am. I remember drones flying overhead, watching us as we walked around the Gurudwara with masks on, not a single soul in sight. I remember trying to get a run in around 5pm at the park across the street only to be stopped and scolded by police.
My connection to self was slowly disappearing. I needed to do something, but I didn’t have anything to say or do because the world was totally consumed (and so was I). As a result, I let Facebook Ads take over my life. I took up Zumba to stay active and started teaching my community online. I played the Sims for a good week straight (yes, I’m 28-years-old). I wrote, started a new platform, tried to keep podcasting, but then I sunk into a depression. My body was exhausted and it had been for a long time.
We live in the age and culture of “busy”. We decide our worth based on what we accomplish in this world and are made to feel if we don’t share and scream our accomplishments to others, we have no worth. However, it’s not until we slow down and really reflect on everything we’ve done, and everything we’re working towards, that we realize how individual and spiritual this process is. We don’t have to say “yes” to everything. It’s actually better for our holistic health to say “NO” to what doesn’t align with where our paths are taking us. But, excitement and opportunity often get the best of us and can harm our journey to restoration, rest, and connecting with our inner self to truly identify our needs.
I remember exactly how intense it felt when my body just kept saying “NO” to me. I didn’t want to get out of bed most days. I would make the same foods over and over again – literally eggs and toast. I had fallen into a consumer trap, only able to buy foods in plastic, forgetting my values completely. My mother-in-law’s health was a concern as well. She stayed in her room all day away from us in case we were already infected, or received the infection when we left the house for groceries.
It took a good few months of me trying to figure out what’s next, which I won’t walk you through, but it landed me here a year later and I couldn’t be more grateful (and actively working towards not putting “busy” on a pedestal).
After severe lockdowns, no community, no entertainment outside of Netflix (and The Sims), no projects running, and tourism gone, my husband and I moved to a small town in the mountains to truly practice what we had learned during this time.
And now, I’m sharing it with you (very vulnerably) as we enter another wave of the pandemic. I hope it communicates as a dose of inspiration and mutual support for a community so fueled by human connection, sustainability, and justice.
This past year in isolation taught me how to escape the loop of always doing and actually focus, nurture my health, and be present with my family.
To get here, I believe these four teachings have supported me in nurturing a truly conscious lifestyle where I’m not just focusing on being conscious in action, but also being conscious in thought.
Lean less on the left
Did you also get caught up in all the same COVID news and contradicting stories puncturing your thinking cycle, drowning you in “what ifs”? Me too.
That’s when I realized the only way to get out of the cycle was to get creative. I scheduled time in my day to dance, sing, write, run, Zumba, color, do handstands, and bring a smile to my mother-in-law’s face during such an uncertain time. It was so important for me to flex the right side of my brain instead of constantly leaning on the left, trying to make logical sense of everything that was happening and what I should do next.
The reason I want to emphasize this is because when we’re constantly being triggered and delivered information we can’t quite dysifer, our mental health spirals into harmful cycles. In order for us to do any of the work we want to do in this world, especially around sustainability and justice, we have to ensure our mind, body, and soul are nurtured first. Letting our creativity flow is a huge part of our development.
Embrace digital activism
I know many of us are struggling with how to effectively use our platforms to address injustice. The space is crowded with conflict. It’s hard to be so vulnerable online. It feels like you aren’t making a difference because it’s just a few words and graphics on a social platform.
I want you to write down all the reasons you’re feeling blocked by digital activism and literally burn them. Your digital activism IS a HUGE part of the future of activism, no matter the size of your audience. It’s how we can continually make a difference during such a chaotic time.
Yes, there is censorship and you may be unfollowed, but if what you’re doing feels right and helps you in pushing forward an equal, just agenda, you’re doing the work that is so needed in the world.
My tips for online activism have always been:
- Stay educated: Know both sides of the story and cover what you feel is right to share with sourced facts and resources. It is also OKAY to cry, get emotional, and feel the feels with your community.
- Approach everything with compassion: Think like a teacher, or a guide for that matter, sharing the information that you would like others to consider in forming their own opinion, instead of shoving yours down their throat. I know this is hard when addressing issues such as white supremacy, but remember most people don’t realize they are perpetrators until you lay out the facts.
- Include a specific call-to-action: Do you want your community to donate to a cause? Read a specific article? Talk to their community representatives? Be specific so your audience knows exactly how they can help improve the situation.
Remember, words are just as powerful as actions. Make sure they are intentional and invite others in to get involved. You want to avoid isolating those who have been wrong in the past and want to make things right. You making the information accessible is just as important as protesting on the street.
You don’t always have to be perfect
Moving from a zero waste home that I had intentionally built to meet the needs of my lifestyle and my business was a massive challenge. Not only were supplies suddenly very limited, minimizing the spread of infection meant choosing sealed, packaged items over loose, bulk items.
I felt so guilty, like I had betrayed everything I stood for and everything I preached. How dare I talk the talk but not walk the walk.
It was a slow process, but I learned to forgive myself knowing that I couldn’t always be a perfect zero waster, especially with major health concerns surrounding me. During this process, I learned to become a lot more resourceful with what I had available to me. In the past, I had always loved making my own skincare products and sauces at home. Now, it was up to me to take it to the next level. It was a challenge I knew I would learn from.
As a result, I worked with plastic containers for collecting food scraps and creating a small compost to nurture my mother-in-law’s garden. Any soft plastic that was brought into the house was repurposed for other things, like storing easily damaged items such as jewelry and shoes. Mom made us homemade masks from old textiles. I even shifted my language around plastic use with my community, learning that I can’t just rage out about plastic bags when there are other matters at hand.
It may not sound like a lot, but those little things kept my spirits high knowing I was doing my part. Even if the journey was much slower, I was still doing what I could to build the future I promised to help create.
A huge reason why moving to the mountains was so crucial for us was because we wanted to farm. Having experienced food scarcity, I realized just how important it is to cultivate land so I can supply for my family and those in need in case of a, well, global pandemic.
With another COVID wave at hand, it’s important that we go back to our farming roots and remember one of the core needs for human existence and building community: food!
I encourage you all to plant as much as you can, depending on your local climate. Use your small yard, build a greenhouse, practice indoor permaculture with the natural sunlight that radiates through your home.
There is no connection more sacred than our relationship to mother earth. By continuing to give to her soil, plant, and feed our communities, we are actually fighting the status quo, showing the big guys how essential agriculture is for survival (which is my family’s way of rebelling against the government’s decision to privatize farming in India).
Revel in the power of the pause
You are allowed to pause. I forced myself to continue working my marketing job, even if it meant voluntarily taking on projects, just to stay distracted from everything else around me. It’s not something I regret, and I’m very fortunate to have income during this time, however I learned that I can’t continually distract myself when my body, mind, and soul need rest.
Investing your time and energy into your mental health, and taking rest when needed, is not something to feel guilty about. Rest and restorable is a cause for celebration. It helps you identify your core needs and feed them so you can move forward and thrive, not just survive.
I truly believe I have become more mindful by accepting the pause, realizing its power, and reveling in stillness. It has strengthened my critical thinking skills and taught me to read, absorb, and reflect, instead of just unconsciously taking in whatever is in front of me.
Taking intentional time to heal myself from the inside out has been the greatest gift I’ve ever received. I’m also so grateful for being open to receiving it. Often, we are so closed up and dedicated to our responsibilities that we neglect our own needs. Sure, I still cry when I intentionally put time aside to read the news, but the noise of “what ifs” and “what’s next?” has become merely a simmer.
I’m sure my journey is not necessarily unique, however it has brought me so much goodness and enlightenment in a dark and uncertain time. My activism and need to do is now rooted in strength and resilience. I trust my mind to say “yes” and “no” based on the needs of my body. I’m finally walking the walk again while representing how to ensure you, yourself, are nurtured while living out your purpose.
I would love to know how the pandemic has brought more intention and consciousness to your actions during this time.
What are some of the opportunities you’ve been given? What challenges have you overcome? How has your present self strengthened from the last year of uncertainty?
When we look at the positive, we continue to manifest abundance into our lives, and I truly believe in a time like this, we need to hone that energy so we can nurture ourselves, our families, and our communities.
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