When you see a spouse, friend, sibling, or child every day, how do you maintain and even deepen the relationship? When many of the usual distractions and schedules are interrupted and you are isolated together due to a crisis, how do you stay sane together? It is easy to think each day is the same or you feel cooped up ⎼ or all you think about is what you can’t do and not what you can.
In such a situation, it is even more important than usual to increase your moment by moment awareness and realize what you often miss out on, due to your schedule or way of thinking about the world. Do you usually rush through life, from one place to another? Do you often get lost in thoughts or worries? How regularly do you check in on your thoughts, feelings, level of focus or object of awareness? How do you feel right now?
Right now you can strengthen your ability to look more clearly and listen more deeply. Look around at the room you are in now. What is something right here that you don’t usually notice or didn’t notice until now? Look at the ceiling, bookshelves, feel the surface of the seat you are sitting on, your belly as you breathe in. Or go outside your house, look up and down the street. What is there that you never noticed before? Or imagine someone who never visited you before was walking towards you. What would she or he see, hear, smell?
Notice the quality of light outside. Is it dim or sharp? Is it different from yesterday? How? Or different now than a few minutes ago? How is the light different at 8:00 AM versus 4:00 or 5 PM?
Look up at the sky. We usually look around us but not up. It is so vast up there, isn’t it? Are there clouds? How fast are they moving or are they so thick they don’t seem to move at all? Just take it in.
Notice any people around you, how they stand, sit, walk. Notice the expression on their face. What is their expression saying to you? What is the expression saying about who they are or what they might be feeling? You can’t know for sure, but what do you see? Notice any lines or wrinkles, a smile or a grimace. Tension or joy. Then scan the shoulders, hands, feet.
And how do you respond to what you see? Do you mirror the person, and have a similar expression, or a different one? Notice or feel your own posture. Do you stand up with strength? Mentally travel through your body renewing your acquaintance. Are your eyes relaxed or tense? Mouth? Shoulders? Chest? Belly? Knees?
How do you feel when you are near the person you live with? How do they help you in your life? How can you lighten their burden, make the moment more fun?
If you feel angry at the person, can you be honest about the source of anger without actually being angry, or yelling and accusing? Remember that you are in this house or on this street or in this family together. If you carry anger, the house where you live houses anger.
If one or both or all of you used to go to work or school and now, you’re all home together, it is even more important to be sensitive to and discuss the family dynamics. Does one of you feel you are doing too much of the work? If you feel you are constantly putting other people’s interests before your own, examine when, where, or about what you feel this way. Do you do what you do out of guilt or obligation, or because you love and care for each other? What terrors does your lover or family member carry? How can you ease instead of provoking them? How can you share your thoughts and feelings so the other person can hear and honor them without feeling overwhelmed?
Notice when thoughts arise. You might think your thoughts are you. That they express who you are or they’re just the truth. But they are often just passing clouds. They can be gifts or troubles passed on by others. They might be remnants of your past that you revive over and over again by believing them. They might be brand new. Just listen. And then let them pass. Whether they are hurtful or joyful, they’re just thoughts.
If you hear those thoughts deeply enough or see them clearly written on the pages of your mind, you might get to the point where you hold onto no single thought. All mental content becomes like clouds passing through the sky. You are just the space where these clouds pass through. And when this happens, when you get quiet like this, the mind feels brighter. Perception is more clear and joyful.
You are present. No longer do you cover up so much of your life with “I’ve been here so many times before.” You’ve never been here before.
Share with others not only what frightens, but what gladdens and enlivens you, what makes your home a place you want to be.