Shelter in Place: To seek protection from an environmental hazard by sealing oneself in a safe and secure location instead of fleeing or evacuating. One must stay indoors and rely on stored supplies or, if materials must be imported from a contaminated environment, rely on filtration systems that remove toxins, viruses, bacteria, and other potentially dangerous materials until the hazard passes.
"Shelter in Place" is the command issued when we need to be protected from a contaminated environment. Basically, it’s bad out there so we need to stay in a safe location inside while toxins are removed.
For the past few weeks, I have been practicing this drill. Social media was introducing hazardous materials to my mind, so I did the only thing I knew to do.
I decided to hide and seek peace of mind.
I have been studying the idea of starting right where you are and learning to be present in the moment. We all like to talk the talk and want to be present, but it is actually really hard to do in this culture. Our outcome-driven, capitalist society pushes us to produce and constantly look down the road. I discovered that social media (specifically Facebook and Instagram) was pulling me away from this present moment by evoking heartache, envy or self-disappointment. I needed a filtration system to remove the toxins that were ruining my now.
So, I went on a hiatus. During this break, I did not post on my blog. I’m sure I altered the algorithms that bump up my readership, but it felt necessary to be in this place right where I am. Sheltering in this place meant that I dropped the comparison game or score keeping. I was not worried about what I was not doing or experiencing FOMO. My self-made cocoon insulated me from the world for a bit— a reprieve.
I practiced being fully present and wholly me for me, not for an audience.
I kept my mind right here smack dab in the middle of my current life. This space is not always a comfortable place to be. Oftentimes, evacuation sounds much more appealing.
Buddhism teaches that we must be willing to feel what we are going through at a particular moment. We should not attempt to drown it out, disguise it or deny it. We should sit with it and feel it knowing that everything is temporary. In other words, when we experience hardships it can seem like the end of the world, but really it is just a messy middle. We don’t know the ending. It is yet to be written.
Hiding brought me right here to this messy, unfiltered middle. I did not need unnecessary, external triggers to derail my focus. As a friend recently told me, “You know pictures only tell half the story.” Yes, by filtering out toxic thoughts and distractions created by seeing only half the story, I came closer to my truth and authentic peace.
I also safeguarded my mind from taking unnecessary negative turns. I avoided the trap of comparing someone else's highlight reels to my bumpy, unpolished day to day reality. It dulled the pang of guilt born from contrasting tensions in my household with the perfect family pictures scrolling across my screen. Sheltering in place gave me room for a reality check. This lotus needed practice rising up out of the muddy water.
If you haven’t done it lately, I recommend you give it a try. Take a break from seeing the world through the filters and staged candids. Be present for the whole story. There is no need to flee or evacuate. We can seal up our hearts and minds in a safe and secure location within ourselves. Sheltered in that place we can learn to identify and filter out the hazardous influences in our lives.