I am sitting in the same place as one year ago, a year older. The trees I see are the same trees. In the lock-down’s “new normal” mode, life seems to have boiled down to a long wait. The cycles of nature have continued through our lockdown. This is reinforced by noticing that my garden has thawed now, and tiny green leaves are beginning to emerge from the ground. Is this emergence of the young leaves a time to rejoice?
I am not sure how to feel about it. I am reminded of the Greek myth of the goddess Persephone, that explains the barrenness of winter and the return of life in Spring. What is the story teaching us?
Persephone was believed by the ancient Greeks to be the Queen of the Underworld. Her name means “Bringer of Death”. She did not start as the Queen of the Underworld, however, she started as a Goddess of agriculture.
The story tells that she was abducted by Zeus’s triplet brother Hades, who ruled the Underworld, to force her to be his wife. (Yes, quite a #MeToo moment!) The myth mysteriously layers connections between creativity, life returning, and the realm of death.
Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, grains, and fertility. When her mother, the powerful Demeter, angered by the abduction, negotiated with Zeus her return, Hades tricked Persephone. He fed her pomegranate seeds from his realm so she would have to return to his dark realm every year for an extended period.
So the rhythms began. She spent part of the year in the world of the living, and part in Hades’ Underworld. When she was in Hades, she ruled the souls of the dead and was the Queen of the Underworld. When she would return to the world of the living, Demeter was the Goddess of Spring and renewal. There is a poetic connection here between death and renewal that we can use to inspire us.
I find that the myth reflects the sense of I have about this Spring, that our liveliness, like Persephone’s, has been abducted to a hellish realm. COVID has felt, for the ones who have remained healthy, a lot like I imagine the souls of the Dead might have felt, all our desires alive but not a way to express them. We wait.
This wait may hold a hidden treasure, I hope. If we think of the wait as Winter, when Persephone is in the Underworld, then it is time to nurture the seeds of what will emerge in the Spring. When Spring finally comes metaphorically at the end of this COVID imprisonment, I hope most of us will emerge ready to bloom.
When we emerge, I want to have learned something and become better at living, at being human. In a sense, I want this journey to the darkness of COVID count for some form of renewal. I have tried to convince as many people as I can to embrace this.
Knowing that we will definitely emerge at some point, lets nurture the seeds of our future by making small shifts for the better. Let’s tend to the energies we will need to harness a better life when we start being in the open world again. There are all these things we ignore when we are busy, but which need tending. What are those for you?
We all know that tending to the body is a given. It is a must. We do get mushy if we stay inactive. Our bodies need movement and exercise. We all know that inactivity leads to low mood. It leads to poor self-image. It leads to ill health. How about our psyches?
Tending to our psyches is something we often do not know we can do. The psyche, which some understand as the soul, others as the mind, needs tending to as well. Like the body it needs exercise, skills and training.
For some, tending the psyche means learning how to use one’s moods and personalities for success. For others, it means to learn to understand or regulate emotions that distract us. For others is to learn to see gifts where we only see burdens, or learn how to tackle obstacles. For others, it means to pay attention to the images of ourselves and to the longings we have, and maybe find a way to embrace our full selves as we go through this precious life.
Like seeds, each one of us is unique and gifted, so each one of us has to figure out how to root one’s life on this earth. My colleagues at IHI and myself are here to help you do that, physically and mentally. During this COVID winter, I invite you to look for small steps you can take to let this year count, to move forward, to emerge in full bloom when the time comes to emerge again.
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Ariel Blau has a formidable passion for helping his clients energize a joyful, loving and creative life. He has more than 30 years of experience helping people bloom. His formal education includes a Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, a Master’s in Fine Arts from Brandeis University, and a great number of workshops, certificates and seminars. He has been studying mindfulness and how to bring compassion into the world for more than 15 years. His passion for helping others is matched by his enormous drive for continuous learning. Ariel completed his professional clinical training at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and served as Lead Clinician at the Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven.