Updated: Oct 29, 2020
It is the 19th of September, I am talking to my daughter on a video call and she says, “I have to go to the toilet daddy”. While patiently waiting, my ex comes to the video and says, “did you hear that the UK has added Singapore to the travel corridor list? There is no more quarantine for people who travel from Singapore!”
I had no idea!
By that point, I had not seen my daughter in person for 8 months. We spoke every day on video call during her summer holidays, and every weekend during her school time, and I was yearning to see her soon.
That evening I bought a ticket, and at the earliest opportunity, on the 3rd Oct, I flew over.
The two weeks leading to my departure continued as normal. Everything was running smoothly and peacefully; the closest the departure day came, the more excitement I felt.
Fast forward to the morning of the 3rd of Oct, I am gingerly preparing my suitcase, feeling excited beyond belief to be less than 24 hours away from holding my daughter in a loving embrace.
Suddenly I experience my first ever panic attack. It was a mild one, nevertheless a panic attack.
With focus, breathing and determination I solved the problem at hand, and a few hours later I was walking through an uncharacteristically deserted Changi airport, ready to check-in and fly.
My time in the UK with my family was amazing. We savoured each other’s company, had family meals, completed fun projects, shared stories, and reconnected spiritually and emotionally.
Oh, what a feed for the soul love is!!!
All good things come to an end (bad ones too!), and I am making my way to Heathrow airport. There is sadness, but mostly the heart is filled with joy, love and gratitude. I had an amazing time and I feel ready to get back home to do the things I love.
As I board the flight, I finally realise that for the next two weeks I shall be isolated from the world, locked in a hotel room, unable to leave or to have any physical contact with other beings.
It is the SHN (Stay at Home Notice) that the Singapore Government mandates for all people returning to Singapore. This type of quarantine, despite the name (“at Home”) takes place in hotels that the Government has selected for this purpose.
In typical Singapore-style, the process is highly planned, efficient, well organised and executed to perfection; I land in Singapore and everything is like clockwork. Not more than 60 minutes after exiting the airplane’s door, I am at the reception of the hotel selected for my cohort.
Throughout the flight I wondered what it would be like to be isolated for two full weeks, and every time the thought emerged, the same answer came loud and clear, “I am good with isolation, this will be an amazing time to re-centre.”
Todays I left quarantine, and speaking from experience, I would like to share a couple of the lessons that emerged from it:
Staying present gives us power and peace
Look beyond your conscious mind and trust what you find
STAYING PRESENT GIVES US POWER AND PEACEFULNESS
As we arrive at the hotel, we are asked to sit in a specific area, so to be briefed on our stay and have the opportunity for questions. Once over, one by one, we are directed to the front desk for the usual check-in procedure.
While sitting on the bus I was wondering whether I would get bored, and how I would pass time while confined in a room for 15 consecutive days. One obvious thought emerged, “I will watch some movies! I love movies!”
It is my turn to check-in. Everything happens quickly and efficiently. As I am about to leave, I hear my voice say, “Oh, one more thing please, could you please have your facilities team remove the TV from my room?”
You should have seen the look on the lady’s face, “Excuse me sir!?!?”
After some back and forth between the lady, the facilities manager and I, we agreed that they would disconnect the TV and take the cables away. I readily get confirmation that the room is ready and as I am making my way up in the lift, fear kicks in and says, “What did you do?! We are going to be bored and you are going to feel so stupid for making this request!”
I assured fear that if we really needed the TV, we could get facilities to bring the cables back.
I proceeded to start my quarantine.
Here I am, fifteen days later, having not once felt the need to power the TV on. Furthermore, during this time I watched a total of 3 movies on my laptop. I felt at peace with my choice and never felt fear of boredom again.
It was good to listen to my instinct. It was equally good to listen to my fear. It gave me the opportunity to cater to both and enter the quarantine consciously, knowing that I had choices I could make if I needed to.
The moral of this story is that staying present to one’s own values, needs and commitments is super hard. There are multiple external (and internal) forces constantly conspiring to throw us off-course and often we succumb, unaware of the forces at play.
By practicing the art of listening to the now in a present and non-judgmental way, we empower ourselves to consciously make the choices that best serve us and those around us.
LOOK BEYOND YOUR CONSCIOUS MIND AND TRUST WHAT YOU FIND
About three days ago, I begun to imagine today, the day I finally leave the hotel and go back home. I realised that mixed with the excitement there was a tinge of sadness. I enquired with the sadness, and a new thought emerged, “I want to stay in this room!”.
The conditioned mind immediately retorted, “Are you crazy?!?! You are not supposed to think like that! You are supposed to want to go back home, to go back to your usual life. What is wrong with you!?”.
I smiled, and I stayed with the thought. I soon realised that a part of me was indeed sad at the idea of leaving behind everything that felt good about being alone in that beautiful hotel room.
It is common for all of us to have concurrent thoughts that feed real and true, and yet sit at diametrically opposed ends of a continuum. "How can it be?! How can I feel excited to finally go home and sad to leave this room, all at the same time? Clearly one of them is a lie! I must chose the expected emotion! I must do the right thing!"
In reality, these opposing forces, are often both true, but we do not see them as such, because we expect ourselves to be a specific way, with clear scripts and expectations on who we are and how we should behave.
The quarantine reminded me that we are multi-faceted beings, with a rich experience of life that goes beyond what the conscious mind projects on our silver screen moment by moment.
The opposing thoughts are likely all real and true, and it is likely that they represent the state of different domains within our existence.
In my case, the rational mind was clear and locked on the benefits of exiting isolation, and expected that these should override any other experience of the moment. Yet, the emotional mind was clear and locked on the comforts of an isolated and confined life and felt sadness at the realisation of leaving it behind.
When we look beyond the constraints of our conscious mind, we realise we exist in deeper and broader ways that we imagine through thoughts and stories. The subconscious and unconscious experiences of our existence are deep and vast, trust what you find.
The panic attack was also an exercise in presence, and a reminder of the complexities of our being.
Early into the packing process, I could not place my passport. At first I stayed calm and looked systematically around the house. When it became apparent that the passport was nowhere to be found, I locked on the idea that after 8 months I was not going to embrace my daughter after all. The fact that I clung onto this thought (fear) crushed me.
I started spiralling out of control, my breathing accelerated, my heart beat loudly in my ears, I sweated profusely. I stayed focused on taking action, searching for the passport, thinking of alternative solutions, making phone calls, packing the bag and moving forward, but the fear what there to stay!
I focused on my breath and tried to maintain a healthy distance from my thoughts, but the fear grew and the physiology took over. I begun to hyperventilate and feel a sense of ultimate doom.
I sat down, allowing all that was happening to flow, while concentrating, moving slowly through long and deep breaths. After a few minutes the body and the mind relaxed, and, feeling dejected, I begun to accept that maybe it was not time for me to travel.
I allowed the thoughts to float in my mind, but I completed packing my bag, trusting that everything was ok, trusting that I was ok.
Suddenly my eyes fell on my desk and I knew where the passport was. A few months earlier I had scanned a copy of my passport to attach to some documents…and it was still peacefully resting on the scanner glass plate.
We are complex multi-dimensional beings. The conscious mind works hard to convince us that its version is the only reality that exists, in fact it is a significantly small part of the every-moment experiences we exist within.
Trust yourself, you are a lot more powerful, wise and knowing than you imagine!
Thank you for reading my article.
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