TODAY IS halfway through five weeks of lockdown – significant for South Africans, though there is nowhere remaining on the globe that some form of lockdown is not happening, where it may, or where it in some cases is being eased. Concepts like hard or soft lockdown, essential services, to mask or not to mask, have become part of life.

It’s a funny thing, being halfway (at this stage it’s still five weeks)… It’s not quite shock denial anymore, and there’s some appreciation of relief from traffic and food being back on the shelves – after a fashion. There are most likely still those bouts of worry interspersed with chilling on the couch, and even a little acceptance of where we find ourselves now.  It’s also two days before we were expecting lockdown to end, so there may be a little weariness with the situation creeping in, and wondering how we are going to get through the next two and a half weeks and what comes after.

Before I get you all anxious with trepidation, or remind you too much of the frustration you may be feeling right now (and remember, I’m in the same hot water as you are, feeling the same things), I want to share something I am using to keep myself focused on getting through these coming weeks and months. It’s a story I came across a good 25 years ago, which I found as a piece online somewhere. It’s saved in a doc on my laptop, but I have no name of who authored it or how long ago. No matter when it was written or what it was in response to, let me just say that each time I stumble across it, it’s like I’ve never seen it before, yet the effect is as profound as the first time I read it. It goes like this…

How do you react to adversity?

A daughter (or son) complained to her father (or mother) about life and how things were so hard for her. She was tired of struggling every day, didn’t know how she was going to make it going ahead, and felt overwhelmed by one problem after another coming her way. She’d had enough and was at the point of giving up.

Her father, a chef, called her into the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and put each on a cooker. As soon as the water came to a boil, he took out carrots, eggs and some ground coffee beans. Without saying a word, he put each into a pot and sat down patiently to wait. His daughter, not so patient, had no choice but to wait it out with him.

After 15 minutes he turned off the burners, then extracted the carrots and eggs from the pots, placing them each in a bowl before ladling out the coffee into another. When he was done he turned to his daughter and called her over.

“What do you see?” he asked her. “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. He beckoned her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noticed that they were soft. The he asked her to take an egg and crack it. After pulling off some of the shell, she noticed that the egg was hard-boiled. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. She closed her eyes and smiled as she savoured its characteristic flavour and rich aroma.

Opening her eyes, she asked, “OK, nice coffee, but what was the point of all that?” With a gentle smile her father explained: each of the items had faced the same adversity – being immersed in boiling hot water for a period of time. But the way they reacted was completely different. The carrot went in strong and hard. But after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” he asked his daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Do you become weak, like a carrot? Do you become hard on the inside, like an egg? Or do you change the circumstances, like the coffee beans?” The lesson here, is that there are different ways to react to hardship. Don’t become weak and lose your power, or hard and suppress things. Rather, change circumstances from within.

This story makes you think – and not just about the coffee from your favourite takeaway that you’re dying to taste again. In this case it’s about becoming that coffee (or tea if you’re like me) and transforming into your best self through this period of hot water. It may be a little longer than 15 minutes, but at some point we will be out of this pot and that is when it’s going to matter.


Useful things

Mindfulness Meditation Keeping your mind stable and learning to work with things as they are takes time and practice. Start with a simple meditation on the breath. If you’d like to use a guided meditation, try the Breathing (Clouds Are Not the Sky) Meditation on the Practical Mindfulness website. Then move on to train your mind to observe without judging. For this, you can use the Senses versus Imagination option on the same website. NOTE These are both available as part of Practical Mindfulness Module 1 Online, which is available FREE during lockdown. Use the coupon code LOCKDOWN on the checkout page.

Inspirational Book Universal Compassion is a book by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso that is all about transforming adversity into spiritual development. Available at Exclusive books or www.tharpa.com.

Information Resource Here’s a great information resource for the latest daily global coronavirus statistics and trends: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/.