What a surprise, yesterday, when we entered lockdown. But how will we spend this time? Will we be resentful, stressed, or bored – or might we see this time as a gift?
So often we do not have time to do things that could enrich our lives, bringing health, skill and meaning. Now we have some time. How will we use it? If there were a drone circling above Bhutan this week, what might it glimpse?
Which of us will come out of this week in better health – learning to cook new delicious foods, or doing a special diet, or taking up some exercise?
Which of us will simply catch up on sleep? Or reflect on what was imbalanced in our schedule before lockdown and plan a new routine that is more mature and humane?
Which of us will enjoy our home relationships creatively – young people videoing a grandparent’s story of a favourite cow, couples enjoying each other, or parents having quality time with children. And where there are difficulties, taking time to talk gently through misunderstandings and points of tension until we come to a new normal?
Which of us will use the time to pray more, or to take up a spiritual practice we’ve been meaning to try? Or to journal, or listen to talks on healing? A retreat – when people close the door and focus on spiritual practice – is sometimes called a honeymoon with god, the gods, or any greater than human source of meaning and value. For whom will this lockdown become a spiritual honeymoon?
Which of us will learn something new – read something we keep meaning to, or interview a family member, or memorize a song, or watch informative programmes carefully, even taking notes?
Which of us will take time for cultural activities – painting, weaving, dancing, singing, wood carving, explaining to our younger family members the meaning of the altar or of our rituals? Or simply sorting the snaps on our phone?
Which of us will take this time to watch the news and think deeply about how this or another situation can best be handled, or engage our local political actors? Maybe we will write something, or even decide to stand for election!
For many, of course, the lockdown is no vacation. For De-Suups and volunteers, police and army members, it is a time of huge responsibility and work. Can such offer this duty with love? Can they be the eyes of care and concern for people who are worried or in difficult situations? Can they solve problems no one else knows about?
During lockdown, the livestock still needs to be fed and cows milked; but maybe now we enjoy this freedom more knowing that so many are confided. And those at staying home may have time to enjoy the horizon, to watch a sunrise, to give a thought for the birds and dogs and butterflies who know nothing of coronavirus.
And then there is house! We can see to the little repairs we never have time to make to the house, or to our clothes or to our tools; dive into deep cleaning; open the books to see how we spent our money last year; plan our finances; organise our home space so it feels radiant and beautiful.
In this way, whether the lockdown becomes a spiritual honeymoon or a time of growth and healing or a creative week when we rebalance our home, activities, and new hobbies in creative ways, we can unwrap the surprise of lockdown and find that it is indeed a gift.
May we use this lockdown to increase happiness and flourishing and GNH.
Contributed by Sabina Alkire
Director, Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative, University of Oxford.
The author is affiliated with the Centre for Bhutan studies and GNH, which supports the advancement of GNH.