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Over the years, I’ve written a lot about sustaining. Reflecting on our ability to keep on, to maintain a sense of presence, purpose and engagement, all while tapping and refilling a reservoir of compassion (for self and others) along the way.

And here I am again on the same topic.

Because if ever we were in a moment that asks us to sustain, to stay the course, this is it. We are being challenged – yes, still – to juggle more uncertainty, to relinquish our [natural] burning desire to control and predict.

Conjuring up the energy, the will, to sustain ourselves consistently and with equilibrium isn’t always the easiest of tasks. In fact, I would venture that many of us are finding that the “old tools” that previously served us aren’t as sharp or as well-suited to the task as they used to be.

In part because some of those tools have become unavailable as a result of the pandemic.

AND IN PART BECAUSE THE CIRCUMSTANCES WE ARE IN ARE ABSOLUTELY UNIQUE, UNLIKE ANYTHING WE’VE SEEN IN OUR LIFETIME, SO THE TOOLS WE USUALLY REACH FOR MAY NOT BE QUITE THE RIGHT ONES FOR THE JOB.

I’ve certainly been (re)assessing my tool kit.

Just two years ago, stillness practices helped me to rediscover small, quiet moments amidst a busy, always-moving life. However, during this pandemic time, my system has mostly withered when faced with too much stillness. My body has yearned to move. To find creative outlets to keep paralysis and stagnation – of both mind and body – at bay.

I’ve also found that my tried-and-true grounding practices weren’t robust enough to weather the ups and downs of the last year. I had to rework my methods and visualizations in order to find better footing and settle my central nervous system successfully on a regular basis.
 
What are your outdated tools? I ask the question so that you might ask it of yourself. Consider what tools haven’t stood up well to the tests of the last year and a half.

This is an evaluation not to chuck those tools out the window – they may still come in handy down the road – but to be honest about what is working for you and what is not.

When we keep reaching for the same tools that don’t turn things around like they have in the past, we deplete our ability to sustain, to stretch ourselves into and through demanding periods.

THIS IS THE TIME WHEN WE MUST DIG INTO WHAT ELSE IS POSSIBLE. NEW TOOLS.

And while that sounds like it could be easy – simply “try a new practice” or “read a book about so-and-so” – it’s important to state that it takes courage to pivot and open to new ways of sustaining ourselves through difficult or restrictive times. Particularly if our energy is flagging or our attitude is less-than-shiny. This can make reaching for fresh perspective an effort.

And so we must take one step at a time.

After you’ve assessed what isn’t working, start tapping into Willingness.

Shine a light on your inner curmudgeon, comfort-seeker, or Know-It-All-self so they are revealed, the drag on your system lessened as you become more conscious of your sometimes-stealthy, sometimes-obvious blocks to Willingness.

This isn’t about self-shaming or beating yourself up for curling up in a corner or hitting a brick wall from time to time. It’s about acknowledging that a change of course is needed and then making a commitment to turn yourself in a new direction. By turning your thoughts in the direction of something new, you have already begun the process.

Once Willingness is engaged, turn to your Inner Student.

The bright-eyed one always interested in seeking, learning, discovering ways through, particularly when you’ve been told (or tell yourself) “there’s no way through.”

Perhaps you’ve already done some of that in the last year. Learning how to use Zoom and other online connection apps. Standing on your deck or balcony to cheer for frontline workers as a reminder that gratitude is always within reach. Exploring new classes or skills.

In my case, I took two soul-expanding online courses that might never have been on my radar in the past. I re-sharpened my Shamanic journeying tools and used them regularly. And yes, hold the phone … I learned how to properly use a sewing machine (having said for years that it would never happen; Inner Student firmly recruited).

THE PROCESS OF FINDING AND ENGAGING NEW PRACTICES CAN TAKE TIME. IT’S IMPORTANT TO BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF, WHILE STILL HOLDING YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE FOR TAKING SMALL STEPS FORWARD.

Critical to this process are family, friends and community.

Ideas for new paths forward often come from others. Be curious about what your loved ones are doing to manage their emotional, physical and mental landscapes and how those tools might spark a new direction for you.

I want to acknowledge that these last 18 months have pointed many of us toward online solutions – not ideal for the long haul. So many essential tools for recovering and healing from grief, major transitions, loss of direction, depression, and shock are seated in personal contact with community, family and friends.

And yet, this is another example of living in present reality and embracing what is available right now. So keep using those online tools when in-person doesn’t feel achievable or safe; isolation rarely serves expansion.

And of course please engage in 10-minute, heart-to-heart hugs when and if that is possible.

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The key here is to keep your toolbox updated so that the marathon we’re running doesn’t wear you down to nothing, but reveals and bolsters your resiliency, responsiveness, and strength. Your ability to re-invent yourself so that you are moving with the times, rather than against them.

By staying flexible and resourced through the most difficult of passages, your ability to sustain and persevere over time will become less of a chore and more a natural way of being.

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