Writing

Returning To Normal

by | Aug 23, 2021 | 0 comments

In a few weeks I will, if all goes according to plan, return to in-person teaching. With a couple brief exceptions, this has not been part of my life since March 2020. So in a few weeks I will, for the first time in eighteen months, walk to Monterey Centre, collect my class list from the front desk, grab some props from the storage cupboard, and sit down to meditate with whomever is there.

“A return to normal,” someone recently observed of this likelihood. This is an interpretation I understand. It is an interpretation I sometimes verbalize, sometimes believe myself. A return to normal. Only it’s not.

Assuming we get there – which is by no means certain given the pervasiveness of the Covid virus, the infectiousness of the delta variant, and rising case count in this province… Assuming we do all get to the community centre a few weeks from now, while things may look and feel somewhat normal, they will be anything but.

I cannot imagine myself practicing with others during either of our regular slots without being very aware – without being painfully aware – of a great many things. That a pandemic still rages among us, for one. That many of us have been affected by uncertainty and loss over the past year and a half. That lots of us are still feeling the sharp, unsettling presence of these forces.

Should we actually be able to hold regular, in-person classes at Monterey Centre soon, I cannot imagine doing so without feeling my mind wander, at least occasionally, to all those who are not so fortunate. All those who are not able to come together, take a class, meditate with others.

I read a striking article not long ago. This piece noted that, while vaccination rates in Canada are now climbing above seventy percent – making the apparent return to normal I’m considering here possible – other countries are not so lucky. Uganda, for instance, presently has a vaccination rate less than one-tenth this amount.

What, I wonder, does everyday life look like for people in that country right now? Is a return to normal something citizens in Uganda or Angola or Afghanistan are thinking about in this moment? Is gathering in a community centre, debating whether to don a mask, is a meditation class something people elsewhere in the world are considering today? Is such an activity anywhere near the top of their ‘to do’ list?

So in a few weeks time I will, if all goes according to plan, return to in-person teaching for the first time in eighteen months. Having considered the matter, I do not imagine this will constitute anything like a return to normal for me. Not, at least, in the way I once thought of the term ‘normal’. I expect I will carry the weight and presence of much more than I used to should that day finally arrive. And perhaps, now that I think about it, this is what the new normal is going to be.

– Neil

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