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Meditation and Dealing with the Present

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In the time of a pandemic, focusing on the present can seem like the absolute last option anyone can take. In a situation where we literally can’t leave our own houses except for essential reasons, it can be painful to keep ourselves going by remembering the past. I know that there were plenty of things that I took for granted back then but can no longer do now. For first years, it feels like the end of an era, stepping into a new one that is wholly different in a way we could have never imagined. From what I have gathered from second years and above, their experience had been abruptly jilted, snatched from them and forced into a place of stagnancy. Thinking about the past while you do the same thing every single day can make you feel like you’re stuck in time - and it’s difficult to find growth this way. However, it’s completely understandable and I find myself doing it often.

The second thing that we often seem to do to cope when we’re in a situation that is out of our hands is imagine a better future. This is something positive and hopeful, moving forward and telling ourselves that things get better. The downside to this, of course, is that - especially in our situation in the UK - I know that every time I thought something would get better it would - and then it would get worse again. The cycles of lockdown, restrictions easing, cases rising, lockdown again have repeated themselves and driven us mad for a year, and so thinking of the future can be pretty scary. I find it now hard to think about what I’ll do tomorrow, let alone 3 months time.

The one thing that I can say about this is that it represents a loss of control. As medics, we’ve got here by shaping our own futures and doing whatever it took to get here. Now it feels like we have no power over our current situation, and this can be really disheartening.

A solution I keep having to remind myself is one that I doubt anybody wants to really here. It’s to focus on the now, even when the now seems rubbish. I found that when I focused on what I liked about every day, I could imagine and look forward to tomorrow more easily. Small things, like going on a walk (I live in London, there are so many things to see!!) or pouring myself a nice cup of tea on a rainy day. When we say to focus on the present, this doesn’t have to be everything that’s wrong with today. It could just be the things around us. We spend so much of our time staring at a screen or needing to do something that we forget to actually slow down and look at the things and people that are already around us.

Meditation can seem tricky for a lot of us, and it does require practice to ‘clear your mind.’ But I’ve found that it can involve thinking and surrounding yourself with the things you love first that are right there around you, and incorporate this with focusing on your breathing. It can seem so obvious that it won’t work when you’re in a panicked or sad state of mind, but once you start and get into it - breathing, focusing on your surroundings and where you are in the here and now - it can take the worries of a different time and even the current situation out of your mind. Our present isn’t a pandemic, as much as the news and social media tells us it is. It’s exactly what we choose to have around us - and that element is something that we can control.

Once again I hope you’re all doing well, and I encourage you (and myself) to breathe and remember to look up and around you every so often ❤️

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