The Life, Death, Rebirth Cycle

'Round and 'round we go.

We were born to die. And in fact, we practice “dying” over and over again during our lives.  It’s sometimes referred to as “shamanic death” which is really dying to the old self or the old way of being so that you can be “reborn” as you with a little more wisdom + clarity and a little less baggage.

As we begin to step into spring in the Northern Hemisphere we’re reminded of the rebirth that always follows the “death” of winter. And as we mark the one-year anniversary of lockdown I thought it was the perfect time to talk about the cycle of life, death, and rebirth that we have all shared during this pandemic.

We begin at the top in early March 2020, when a lot of Canadians were looking forward to their March break plans. Whether that meant taking off somewhere tropical or signing kids up for March break camps if you were working.

We’d heard that there was a pandemic wreaking havoc in China and maybe even edging its way into Europe. But it wasn’t on our doorstep yet. Our lives had largely gone uninterrupted and in our busy day-to-day life, most of us probably weren’t worrying about it too much. Life was still familiar, comfortable, and good.

Then we move clockwise down to the separation event that happened on March 12, 2020, when the government here in Canada announced schools would be closed across the province after March break.

Parents were scrambling to find childcare. School boards were scrambling to figure out what remote learning would look like. Many were confused…do we still go on vacation? Is it safe?  Will we be allowed back in if they close the borders? For those of us who weren’t parents – school closures and the lockdown that followed soon after were a wake-up call regarding the seriousness of the virus. I know for me it was when the NBA cancelled its games that I thought ‘oh shit, this is serious.’

It seemed like life got turned upside down in an instant. 

We were literally leaving the community, withdrawing from our places of worship, our careers, our yoga studios and gyms, and just about every other aspect of the life we had so carefully built. The path ahead of us was suddenly gone, making it feel like someone pushed us out and slammed the door shut behind us.

We were in shock.

Which, for some people, meant amassing a year’s supply of toilet paper. For others, it was bingeing the news and doom-scrolling as we tried to find our footing.

The uncertainty and fear left us feeling vulnerable. Was it okay to go out? Would masks really help? Was 2m far enough? (ugh, just writing this I can remember how supremely confusing those early days were). We had no frame of reference for the chaos we’d been plunged into and it felt like someone had cut the mooring line and set us adrift.

It’s a little like the shock that comes with the sudden death of a loved one or a cancer diagnosis. We were instantly cut off from life as we knew it and catapulted into a life we no longer knew.

It also highlighted the cracks in our society by shining a light on how far we still need to go in the fight for social justice. Inequality and racism were suddenly brought to the forefront of our collective consciousness and without our busy lives to distract us we were able to show up for our Black friends and neighbours with marches around the world. Let’s stay committed because this work needs to continue even as we edge our way back into “normal” life.  

It showed the cracks in our personal lives as well. Suddenly, we were aware of what we didn’t miss – the 5 AM workouts in the gym, commuting an hour to the office, the watercooler gossip and boardroom drama. Our priorities began to shift.  

And we began to redefine what’s important.  

When we started to move towards the ‘Rest & Rebirth’ stage we finally slowed down long enough to see that our band-aid solutions were merely short-term relief for all the shit we’d been burying for decades. It was still there and it still needed our attention.

One of my favourite things that came out of this time of upheaval was that we were finally willing to have honest conversations. We could stop pretending we were okay because no one was okay. We could talk about our anxiety and grief because everyone was anxious and grieving.
We also found new ways to support and connect with one another. Zoom calls aside, I loved watching people in Italy sing, dance and play music from their balconies. The stories of neighbours checking in on one another warmed my heart. We donated to food banks, charities and social justice groups even when our income was uncertain. Frontline workers stepped up for all of us and became unsung heroes. We cheered healthcare workers during shift changes instead of celebrities at movie premieres.

Even the earth took a deep inhale as we watched smog-filled skies clear for the first time.

We came together with humour, creativity, and displays of indomitable human spirit because we were all navigating uncharted waters.
Many of us also doubled-down on rituals that kept us grounded and sane. These are crucial for walking through the dismemberment stage. Rituals like your morning coffee in your favourite spot by the window. Your afternoon break at 2 pm to stretch. The 5 pm walk with the dog. Reading your favourite book or doing a puzzle before bedtime. Rituals that we might have taken for granted when life was comfortable became survival strategies during chaotic times. This stage is a deeply reflective time and we need to be held by our commitment to our souls and spiritual practices via rituals.
Honour that this is a growth stage although it feels the opposite. Growth is messy and uncomfortable and there is no fast-forwarding through it. We’re taught to chase the quick and easy path, that if life is difficult we must be doing something wrong. But it’s our challenges, losses, and heartbreak that push us to grow. What doesn’t kill you makes you wiser for the next trip around the Cycle of Life.

It was a constant roller coaster of emotion.

In summer, the lockdown eased and it felt like a moment to catch our breath. We cautiously ventured outside to parks and beaches a little more grateful to be in nature. We were still deep in the rest and rebirth cycle, still in the tunnel of grief.

But hope felt a little more tangible.

We’ll continue our journey through the cycle of life in the next post, but right now I want to invite you to grab a pen and your favourite journal or open up a fresh doc on your computer and reflect on what this part of the cycle was like for you.

  1. When did the moment of separation start for you? Where were you when you realized life was going to look very different for a while? How did you feel? What was your first worry?
  2. What have you been grieving over the last year?
  3. What did you find you didn’t miss from your “old life”?
  4. How have your priorities shifted as a result of COVID?
  5. What have you finally been able to begin healing during this time?
  6. How did you find creative ways to support and connect with others?
  7. What have you learned from living with uncertainty?
  8. How have you been able to stay true to your values? Or have you got some new values you’re getting to know?
  9. What’s your favourite heart-warming story from lockdown?
  10. What positive changes have occurred for you this past year?

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