Entering the Iron

Did lockdown lock you up or could it be a key to unlock who you are ?

Just about to have a coaching call with the Igniting Souls Tribe members of the Central UK and Wales Chapter yesterday afternoon, I thought I’d ask them the following question,

‘What has this lockdown potentially unlocked in you and your lifestyle that you will cherish and even continue beyond this season?

The very idea of being locked down arouses mental images of “Spooks” MI5 agents shut in at Thames House during an internal investigation where aspersions have been cast about one of the team. It’s when bugs are swept for and stolen intelligence leaks traced to a source. Or there’s a prison lockdown; rioting breakouts and severe containment measures applied to curtail the escalation of anger and violence.

These are externally applied forces intended to resist an unwelcome or compromising escape of energy or information. They are emergency measures with everyone’s safety in mind. Which, of course is exactly what the #StayAtHome message has been all about these last three weeks, and will be for at least the next three.

Because there’s no precedent for this in modern society and as conspiracy therories abound, it is difficult to assess how our different national strategies are shaping up in preparing us for an unusual 12-18 months. Measures we took will be reflected upon as to whether they have been adequate or even over-reactive as we assess the comparative death tolls and the state of a post-pandemic 21st century global economy. For many, on a personal, community or business level, things will never ever look or feel the same. I’ve seen grateful and humbled grown men crying like babies after telling their story of recovery from coronavirus on our teatime news and a UK 99 year old war veteran raising nearly £20M for the NHS with his sponsored 100 circuits of the garden on a walking frame.

Pressure certainly brings out the worst and the best in us.

Lockdown

I smile wryly to myself as I remember Boris rallying us to this call by explaining in a nationally televised speech that ‘If a friend asks you to visit them you must say No’. Now, that’s the understated British definition of “lockdown”.

Let’s consider another kind of ‘lockdown’ yet with all the same connotations of pressure and resistance.

Phil and I embarked last summer upon a book launch/canal cruise adventure. One of the days’ sailing was a similar test of perseverence as this season’s quarantine lockdown. We tackled the flight of locks known as the Hatton flight.

In my book “As If” I describe a typical few minutes of the taxing experience of a waterway’s ascent called ‘locking up’.

Lock-keeper leans over the first footbridge, ascertaining that we are ready for the ascent. He will instruct and guide my partner on the opposite bank, and I must steer the tiller as he instructs me in locking up. The lock ahead is empty, so he opens the first gates, and I drive straight in. He closes the bottom gates and paddles, advising me to stay at the lowest end of the lock. Opening the paddles ahead, he watches the rising levels as I gently rock. He has positioned me so that the narrowboat is prevented from buffeting and drifting at a diagonal within the pound as the waters rise. He understands how to pin the vessel parallel to the wall and harness rather than resist the currents entering the pound as the paddles and gates are then opened. I recognise that our safe and easeful passage is determined by his expertise and not our own. Experience may bring anticipation, but this is a working relationship that safeguards even the most inexperienced or incapable narrow boat pilot.

I came to understand this as a breakthrough insight. Delay caused by an obstructive lock is the potential for higher progress. Seeing the lock as a means to elevate you to a higher plane rather than opposing you, is a crucial step in embracing rather than recoiling from life’s challenges.

What clearer picture could you have than this simple engineering solution? Man-made waterways climb and descend nature’s topographical features.

The graphic above, posted during my 2019 book campaign refers to Psalm 105:8. It is to do with Joseph (of the famed Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical) at the start of a terrible rite passage to maturity, who had his soul ‘enter the iron’. It was a time of testing and obscurity when he was utterly betrayed. For a tough and lengthy season of life, everyone looked the other way as he was isolated from his nearest and dearest, scapegoated, imprisoned and forgotten. From this he formed a steely resilience within himself as a result of his faithful and fierce perseverence.

It was a hardship no one would choose or even wish upon their most irritating neighbour.

But it shaped him into one with remarkable capacity to forgive his accusers, to lead and serve his nation during famine.

What do you suspect could be the one thing you will find and forge within yourself during this national and international gridlock?

What heights could this ‘lockup’ be raising you to?

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