The Duality of Life During a Pandemic

11 May

“Duality teaches us that every aspect of life is created from a balanced interaction of opposite and competing forces”

(Scott Trettenero //


Here in the southern hemisphere we are enjoying the beautiful autumn weather, a time when the earth breathes out and prepares to hibernate. Contrasting vastly with our northern hemisphere friends who are breathing in fresh spring air after many months of wintery sleep. Our magnificent world is in a constant duality of sleep and wake, breathe in and breathe out, growth and decay. Importantly, these dynamics are not opposites, but actually complement each other.

This ‘duality’ is brought into strong relief today whilst we grapple with a new life-death challenge in the form of the Covid-19 virus pandemic. We try to make meaning of confinement for our life and safety, or freedom to move, socialize, and trade, and possible illness or death. This is a conundrum for which no one appears to have a definitive answer. The consequence for most people is uncertainty, denial and even panic and anger.

Either-Or or Both-And?

When we feel threatened, our nervous systems move into “fight or flight” mode. Physiological adjustments include increased and rapid breathing, dilated pupils, and our blood supply rapidly move to the muscles required for running or fighting. Our brains switch from relaxed, nuanced and complex thinking to reactive “either-or” thinking. Whether a threat is real or imagined, our nervous systems are designed to protect us and they are automatically activated.

It doesn’t take a stretch of imagination to assume millions are under threat and feel some degree of anxiety from an unseen ‘enemy’. Will I get the disease or not? If I get the disease will I survive it? What will happen if my family become infected? When can I resume work? Under what conditions? May this is one big hoax, it’s probably just a severe ‘flu.

Our brains are working hard to manage the anxious messaging and one of the ways it does this is to revert to basic, reactive ‘either-or’ thinking. These scary feelings are reinforced by excessive and alarming social media reporting, so finding a balance between the real and perceived threat can be challenging.

Break the cycle of anxiety

While we are hard-wired to protect ourselves by activating our ‘fight-fight’ response we are also hard-wired to self-regulate and calm our nervous systems down. The part of the nervous system that is calm and relaxed is called the parasympathetic nervous system, or ‘rest-and-digest’ system. In this state we feel ‘safe’ and contented, we think more clearly, and our bodies naturally digest foods, heal and connect with life.

By actively creating time and space to exercise (yoga, pilates, aerobic exercises abound on YouTube), do breathing exercises, meditation, prayer, creative drawing or writing, eat and drink healthy foods, we can break the cycle of anxiety and experience increased calmness.

Calmness brings increased balance in thinking. For example, we are better able to see the pandemic both as a real and present health crisis, but also an opportunity for personal, social and economic changes. As time goes by scientists are learning how to curtail the spread of the virus, and thus the potential for lifting restrictions. In other words, the pandemic is both a crisis requiring sensible protective measures, and an opportunity to return to work, to be creative and live our very best lives.

As we all learn to navigate this new challenge and bring balance into our changing world, the iconic words of Obi-Wan Kenobi said to Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars come to mind: “may the force be with you!”

Enjoy this lovely guided meditation!