What a great time to work on discipline in the hope that it becomes habit before we return to the new normal. 

We are living in a corona virus affected world. It is touching all of us. For the first time in a long, long time the entire world has found themselves on a similar page – this definitely affects different people in different ways depending on your job and economic situation and location, but we all have a taste of connecting via this recognisable thread.

And it is bad. Let’s not minimise the negative impact that it is having, the more than ten thousand deaths and the many more that are to come, as well as the havoc this is playing into world and local economies and situations. We have to take it seriously and beyond just our own well-being we need to be acting in ways that seriously reduce the impact and spread of this disease. We really are being called to love our neighbour as ourselves. This piece i wrote [which was largely a collation of other pieces and a very excellent message from a doctor friend of mine] helps to give it some context and also has a few ideas on how we can live well during this time.

But at the same time, there are reasons to celebrate. The curb of pollution in China, for example, due to safety measures around the virus, may have saved tens of thousands of lives. Clear water, the return of swans and apparently even dolphins in the canals in Venice are a positive outcome to the slow of traffic. DOLPHINS IN THE CANALS, PEOPLE!!! 

Edit: Sadly it seems like the dolphins and the ‘drunk elephants’ are both fake news stories BUT the pollution stuff is true and the canals have been seeing a lot of life return and having much clearer water due to the lack of heavy traffic of boats so there is some nature correction happening… but sad about the dolphins!

How do we make the best of the time at home?

i wrote a piece the other day sharing five ideas of things we can do when we are stuck in our homes self-isolating or practically-distancing [have to move away from the term ‘social-distancing’ because we must find ways of connecting during this time – our mental health demands it!] 

But what i want to talk about today and encourage us to all take seriously is the idea of using this new normal to focus on, introduce and maybe reintroduce some healthy discipline into our lives.

Most of us have more time at home than we normally do and while this can result in cabin fever very quickly, the more creative we get the better we will make of it and the less irritable we will become.

So here are some of the discipline ideas that i am going to be focusing on and encourage you to add your own to these:

[1] Exercise. This is a huge and beneficial discipline. i made a planking video this morning which i shared on Facebook encouraging others to start doing that with me. This is the ‘How to’ video that i shared for those of you who don’t know how to plank and it gives a few versions which is super helpful.

Many of these disciplines will be ones that Val and myself started doing during our time in the Philippines and are looking to keep up with. While we had a beautiful beach there that we could walk 2km on every day at least, here we have to be a little more creative, but whether it is around our neighbourhood in Diep River, or on the Green Belt or last night’s walk which was on the Silverhurst Trail. But get walking. It’s cheap and usually easy to fit in and does wonders for your mind and your by. Also it’s an opportunity to just slow down the busyness of life and reflect and chat [if there is more than one of you] or be silent with your thoughts.

Edit: We were put on to P.E. with Joe via our sister-in-law living in Morocco and so we decided to join and had three other sisters join us via video call while we exercised together. At 11am South Africa time every day Joe does an exercise workout that is meant to be for kids apparently, but two day’s later my legs are still hurting and we didn’t even make it to the end of the 30 min… Half a million people were exercising at the same time as us on Friday and i have no doubt it will reach a million during this lockdown. Very easy exercises to do, for the most part, but DEFINITELY working the body… come and join us! 

Get your friends on social media to share their at-home exercise plans at the moment because it’s an easy way to learn some new methods or techniques and change it up a bit. But let exercise be a regular part of your day.

[2] Reading. One of my big focus points while we were in the Philippines was getting back into the Bible and so i read through Matthew and Luke and started on Isaiah, which i am continuing with. i also read the Chris Hani book that is part of the ‘Voices of Liberation’ series that focus on struggle heroes in South Africa, which i need to get more of. Have read about Ruth First and still have the Steve Biko one to tackle but it is a great way for South Africans to get to know their history better. i also read a couple of novels and some African Short Stories so really had a little bit of everything which was great. So many of us who love to read find ourselves saying that we don’t have enough time to read. Well, thanks to the lock-down, there is a lot more time. Don’t spend all of it watching series or you will run out of series. But grab a book or download something if you’re on Kindle or an e-reader and put time aside.

Also, i would encourage you, if you don’t yet, to read Tip #8 in this post and when you choose books, intentionally pick some authors who do not look like you. Create a space for you to be challenged or inspired or just gain a different perspective from those you normally have. This is one of the best changes i ever made to the way i read.

[3] Writing. Having more time means there is an opportunity to reflect on life and the world and the way you live. Some of you may decide to do this by journalling. Others may choose to write some poetry and @Siphokazi_J on the Twitterer is collecting Poems of Comfort during corona virus to produce a FREE resource with poems from around the world. So check her out and submit your own poem. Or maybe try your hand at a short story or even a novel. Another great idea is to grab a bunch of postcards or letter writing paper next time you head to the store and write actual physical cards/letters to those you love. i sent some while we were in the Philippines which i have not done for years and it has been so much fun having people whatsapp me pictures of them as they have arrived. i don’t know about you but there is nothing like receiving real mail in the mail. Write some encouraging words to a friend and send them.

[4] Study. There are a number of online courses that are being offered for free at the moment. A simple google of ‘Free Online courses’ brings up a strong of results and especially now a lot of organisations have dropped charges to people can join in. tbV and five or six of our friends are going to be taking advantage of an N.T. Wright online course which was made free yesterday and study together [distantly] and then connect for a group discussion once a week – that is physical distancing but social connection! Take an opportunity to learn a skill you haven’t yet – how to blog or code or get started on a new language. This is a great discipline to get kick started while things are up in the air and if/when life returns to previous normal hopefully the discipline will be in place to keep at it.

Those are probably the four disciplines i am going to be focusing on during this time. i have some freelance writing that i can focus on finding a better rhythm with as well as hopefully starting to dream about ideas of things to do when social interaction picks up again.

Two Bonus thoughts

Not sure these fit into disciplines as much, but while i am sharing ideas here are two more that might help.

# FOOD: Take the opportunity of being locked away to try and make that meal you have always wanted to. Or bake that dessert you really love but have never tried. Or try your hand at watching a loaf of baked bread come to life [really want to try this!]. Because there is some more time, download a recipe or ask your friends on social media to share their favourite [you will quickly build up a list!] and make the most of the time.

# GAMES: Not all of us are online gamers but some of us who aren’t might be board gamers and staying away from people makes it hard to play board games. But many of these games exist online and you can play by yourself, but more importantly you can connect with people you know and love [or make new friends] and play with some real people. Some of them have a once-off cost but often below R100 and so worth it if you are going to give them a lot of use but i have Settlers of Catan and Star Realms for example and so if you are friends with me and we exchange online names we can set up a game with each other. You can make it more fun/competitive by setting up a scoreboard between friends or a virtual log. My mate Mahlatse and i just started a 50 game Star Realms challenge and are locked in at 3-1 i think it is. Many of the board games you know and love exist online and finding them is quite easy. Some of them are free. They can be a nice way to be connected despite the lack of physical presence.

There you have it – some disciplines and a few more ideas to keep you sane in the midst of the unknown that is happening around us. By working on disciplines now when you have a little more time, it will make them more likely to be kept up once they become habits, when things return to whatever the new normal is going to look like in a couple of weeks or months…

Please add any disciplines you are working on that i haven’t mentioned here in the comments below!