I hear the phrase ‘new normal’ everywhere right now. In the environmental sense and working together to support each other, I can see that all challenges bring a chance for us to collaborate and find ways through. But if a part of that is becoming even more distant from one another, more reticent to reach out and touch someone, and even more dependent on social media and technology to communicate, I do not want to accept that as a ‘new normal’.

We need to truly know and embrace one another, to travel, to share in each others’ visions, and to be together. To physically be a community in an embodied way. Yes, I work partly online, I speak online and I meet participants virtually for Yoga Wisdom discussions. I am grateful for the fact that I can be with people virtually across the globe. But, that does not mean I would see it as a replacement for travel or events ‘in real life’ so to speak, that include physical presence and physical connection.

The Internet can be used skillfully to increase our ability to connect with others who are not in the same location. However, its use has been increasing exponentially as a part of our total time. I don’t think we’re even clear on how having less physical and social contact with people has crept up on us over the years even before these physical distancing measures. My point is not to refute the value of technology, but rather to challenge the extent to which we had already begun to use it when it was possible to meet physically. I want to raise the fact that the dinner party has long since taken a back seat to each of us streaming movies at home alone. We don’t even consciously recognize loneliness or acknowledge its increase in our lives and its effect on our wellness. We must recognize it, and reclaim in-person time! I hope this period of physical distancing shows us how we’ve taken gathering and hugging for granted and motivates us to correct that slide. Yes, correct that slide, not further migrate our whole lives (and children’s lives) to virtual reality.

For me it is a firm no to further dependence on technological imitations for ‘connection’ as a long-term way of life, school, work, socializing, yoga, dance – to virtual life as an ever increasing proportion of our total time. I want to sit in circle with people. I want to be with people in yoga and dance classes, to sit and talk to friends in a park, forest or cafe, not online. I want to see the kids wrestling and playing together in piles of leaves or by the shore.

So, here’s to using technology skillfully and seeing how we may reclaim (after this pause) even more time actually with people. Here’s to sitting on the front porch and chatting with neighbours who walk past. Here’s to talking to others on public transit. Here’s to cooking together so no one has to worry about preparing an elaborate meal. Here’s to street parties. Here’s to potlucks. Here’s to hugs!

Pandemic mode is not a ‘new normal’. It is a temporary emergency measure. Please, let’s stop calling it a new normal. We will again, and need to be, even more often together in real life, shaking hands, holding hands, hugging, laughing, gathering, at the farmers’ market, being a community. This too shall pass. It’s just a new now.