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5 Lessons in Mindfulness by Experiencing the Pandemic Through the Lens of my Son

Star-Trek Mask: New Horizons

“Captain! I’m picking up an object of planetary size on the sensors!” 

Omni read the print on the comic-strip text on his Star-Trek-themed mask, as he tried placing it on his face for the first time.

A little over a month into the Pandemic, and we were warp-speed ahead in lockdown. 

Omni needed an escape, so we spontaneously made a trip to the Carlsbad Flower Fields. 

He wanted to catch a glimpse of the Springtime bloom before the season passed. Tours were closed, so we parked along an oversight area.

Masks sewn by our seamstress friend had just arrived in the mail. 

Frustratedly, Omni fumbled with his adult-sized mask, expressing “I don’t like it!”. The elastics had to be stretched over his ears twice, awkwardly covering his lower face. 

Omni saw the look on my face. You know that look when your mom repeats something you already know. He snapped, “I know, it last happened in 1918, this doesn’t usually happen, and we need to wear a mask”. 

As he looked into the horizon of the flower field, heavy dark clouds were looming over the ocean.

With teary eyes, he expressed “I’m sad, and this is too big, and it feels uncomfortable!” 

Witnessing Discomfort: If you felt uncomfortable during the beginning stages of the Pandemic you are not alone. Giving yourself permission to pause, to acknowledge the emotions, allows you to respond through awareness. 

What was your mindset during the initial stages of the Pandemic?

A Tail of the Shark Mask: Adjustments 

“I don’t know why I’m so frustrated!” Omni would cry.

This became a familiar emotion when it came time to use a computer to do school-work. Screen-time for school was not a matter of choice. And the transition to adapting triggered melt-downs.

In the era of digital connections, Omni felt anything but connected.

Zooming in for distant learning school.

Zooming in for daily karate class has become a daily routine.

Zooming out to connect to other kids for virtual playdates. 

The annual Spring Season field trip to the San Diego Zoo would be done virtually.

Even his first book report would be read virtually over Zoom. The topic, Sharks.

As he was writing the report I remarked how impressed I was that he managed to accurately spell certain words, or how he was about to convey so many facts about sharks. 

“Mommy, I just ask Siri!” 

While technology appeared to be a barrier to entry in adjusting to school, he learned to become resourceful in utilizing technology.

As First Grade was wrapping up, he received a custom designed mask with colorful sharks. This one made him smile. Still loose in fit, but framed his small 7-year-old face well enough. 

The only thing was he wasn’t really even getting out often enough to wear a mask. When he would leave the house it was for a walk with one of us, to the local pond. 

Somewhere along those walks, he lost that mask. 

Witnessing Frustrations: Feeling frustrated when you are quickly forced to make one or several adjustments is natural. What I witnessed was a boy who became resourceful to help himself make the adjustments. 

What was your approach to responding to the frustrations posed by the Pandemic?

Shark Mask 2.0: Chi

A couple of weeks later he was the owner of another custom-made mask with shark print. This new Shark Mask was a better fit, brighter, and more playful!

This new mask arrived just in time for summer. He would need a mask for socially distanced summer camps including baseball and tennis.

Omni spent much of the summer exploring the massive evergreen tree in the front yard, which he named ‘Chi’. Through Omni’s observations we would learn that this banyan-like tree, is the same tree we had once seen at the San Diego zoo.

Omni felt that our tree had this magical energy. One day he came running into my office. “Come quickly, there are dozens of dragonflies and many hummingbirds all around Chi!

The tree became Omni’s sacred grounding spot to climb, swing, and dangle from its rubbery limbs.

While perched on Chi, he would observe neighbors walking their dogs. He learned a lot about dogs through the animal shows on TV. 

Often he would engage with “Poodle Man” – a neighbor who was about in his 80’s who would enjoy letting Omni pet his poodle. 

He developed a keen interest in being in nature, and a newfound obsession to learn about animals. After learning about chimps from the Little Passports, he found a cable series on Jane Goodall. Soon discovered Animal Planet, and became a walking encyclopedia on facts about animals. 

Me: Maybe you’ll become a Veterinarian one day?

Omni: No, mommy! I want to work at a zoo.

Me: As a Zoologist?

Omni: No, mommy! A Zoo-Keeper, there is a difference!

Taking a short hike through our hilly neighborhood to our local pond became Omni’s favorite excursion. He loved chasing the ducks, feeding the turtles, and watching the koi fishes in the large pond. 

During our walks, Omni would search for long sticks. A stick could become anything he imagined, even a leash for his imaginary dog. 

Witnessing Play: Collectively we are seeking a means to heal. I observed that by connecting to the various elements of nature – through the various senses of touch, smell, or simply observing – you can shift your mindset into a positive state. Additionally, simply allowing yourself to play without inhibitions, can revitalize your sense of imagination and creativity.  

What healing aspects of nature have you paused to enjoy, and how often do you just play?

Upgraded Masks: Control 

As summer came to an end, we learned that schools would soon reopen in a hybrid model.

We worried. Who wasn’t worried? In an upside down world the enemy was invisible.

We were aware we could control very little. We could at least choose to make choices to feel safer. An upgraded mask felt safer.

We felt assured that the school was taking thorough measures for safety. 

First day of in-person Second Grade had finally arrived.

As he stood at the front door, with his Star Wars backpack, equipped with his upgraded mask – double layered, softer and more breathable, with easy to adjust straps.

With a huge smile on his face he yelled, “I’m so excited!” 

That night he conveyed what was the most enjoyable about in-person school. 

“I got to play outside, with my friends!” And the bonus was that his new mask was easier to breath in.

Omni noticed the worried look in my eyes. He paused, and then shared, “don’t worry mommy we kept our social distance” as he described what safety precautions were taken at his school.

Witnessing ‘Now’: As humans, we tend to worry too much about the past or future. But honestly, you can’t control most things that trigger feelings of worry. Through my son, I am often nudged to be more present. His smile alone is a reminder to be present now. After all, the only moment we have is right here, right now. 

What is happening in your field of awareness right now?

A Mask for all Seasons: Perspective

While trick-or-treating wasn’t an option in our neighborhood, he was excited to wear his Star Wars custom. We decided to have some fun by choosing a mask for Halloween season.

Omni chose a monster themed mask, with Dracula. Omni discovered that while wearing masks didn’t feel natural, it could be fun.

When his Elf on The Shelf, magically appeared on December 1st, she too was wearing her mask. He appreciated that she cared about protecting others. 

Every year he writes a letter to Santa on what he’d like to receive. Before placing his letter in an envelope, for his elf to deliver, he shared this letter.

“I want Santa to make everyone happy.  People are really sad, because of Covid.” 

I recently asked what Omni most enjoyed about 2020. 

He paused. 

At first he was brutally honest about how he really didn’t think he liked 2020. 

We lost Grandpa Steve in late Fall, and couldn’t travel to see him due to the Pandemic. We noticed we had not seen Poodle-man in while, and learned that both he and his wife died of Covid. And we nearly lost all the 1st moments of First Grade.

Silence.

After a few moments of thinking about it, he expressed that really enjoyed spending more time with us at home and that he really enjoyed playing outdoors in nature.

Witnessing Sacred Pause: When we experience “sacred pause” we become aware of what we are grateful for in our life. We also give space to become less compelled by what gives us instant gratification, or less compelled to resist what makes us feel uncomfortable.

At the end of 2019 my husband and I did a little self-reflection activity. We each wrote out ten paragraphs – giving a title to each – describing 10 highlights from each year, starting from the year 2009. Upon my encouragement we did this same exercise to describe how we spent 2020.

What if you were to think about the ten paragraphs you’d write for 2020?

This season now will only be part of the narrative. 

In the context of a year, 2020 will be just a few months.

2020 will be but a mere snapshot in the context of the next decade.

Who will you become? 

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