CELEBRATION AND GATHERING IN THE TIME OF COVID
At the end of 2019, the world learned of a new virus that has since spread across the globe. Along with it has come fear, the unknown, and the necessity of adjusting our own lives to fight an invisible, yet very real, enemy. Consequently, the importance of human connection has struggled to find expression eight months into this plague called Covid-19, as has maintaining a sense of normalcy in daily life, special occasions and celebratory gatherings. As a season of celebration begins to rise as 2020 comes to a close, so do questions about how we approach those events. In moving toward others (physically, emotionally, energetically), we must also move inward toward truly honoring connection and gathering with others in the safest possible ways. We must look beyond the surface level of traditional methods of gathering, into the deeper levels of connection, even if that makes the celebrations we organize and attend look different than they have looked in the past. How do we stay connected and gather when merely attending an event or gathering together could expose our loved ones to a virus we might not even know we carry, or be exposed to it ourselves? How do we unite if we cannot (or should not) travel to visit family or friends, if we cannot (or should not) be in the same physical space?
First, we must acknowledge that what we do affects others, and relatedly, second, we must acknowledge that this virus may remain asymptomatic and therefore readily spread if we do not maintain vigilance and acceptance that how I live my life affects how you live yours. This celebratory season, in essence, requires us to truly and fully examine how our behavior impacts others — how what we do affects those people we love most. We do not live in a vacuum; humans are social creatures, we need connection yet now more than ever, we need to inform that connection with honoring the fact that what we do, how we practice (or how we do not practice) personal and interpersonal safety has a direct consequence on those around us: physically, emotionally and energetically. Arming ourselves with this fundamental truth could be the building blocks of a fun, connected, birthday, baby shower or Diwali.
Third, we must acknowledge that how we gather needs to look different this year. Shifting mindset from “different” or “loss” to “creativity” and “growth” can be a powerful practice. As such, we must tap into our creative centers to find ways to connect in pleasantly unexpected ways. If we gather in person, in order to honor our impact on others and on the physical environment, we must respect and practice crowd limits, social distancing practices, wearing masks, properly cleaning and de-contaminating surfaces, etc. An increasingly popular and accessible alternative to in-person gatherings is gathering over virtual social platforms (Zoom or Houseparty). Games and feasts can be organized and prepared in each household then played and eaten together across the miles. Laughter, joy and togetherness may fill the space rather than anxiety about distancing and mask wearing.
Fourth, we must find ways to continue our celebrations and stay connected. Maintaining a sense of normalcy by continuing to engage in events that bond us is paramount in staving off depressive processes, isolation/isolative behaviors and anxiety. While how we celebrate might look different in practice, the underlying processes of connectedness and sharing remain intact.
In conclusion, we must fully practice the energy that underlies Namaste. The fundamental tenet of Namaste, the light in me shines and honors the light in you, is how we may safely, respectfully and joyfully enter the festival season and stay attached energetically with loved ones. 2020 has been a challenging year.
However, out of challenge comes growth … if we let it. The choice is ours. May you choose growth. May fear never drive you. May your celebrations be safe, joy-filled and opportunities for progress and light. Namaste.
Michelle A. Bosco is a research psychologist and yoga instructor in Tampa and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org