“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly”. This age-old phrase is frequently quoted by spiritual teachers, thinkers and philosophers. In the current situation, when we are staying at home over weeks contemplating the sense of the global coronavirus pandemic and our existence, this wise proverb provides comfort and hope. Even before the Covid-19 outbreak, the lifestyle of preferably staying at home and spending time in your own four walls was referred to as “cocooning.” With the appearance of the coronavirus, we were all forced into a cocooning lifestyle. “The world after the coronavirus will be a different one!” One can hear this powerful statement from many influential people and on many different channels. Now, what kind of metamorphosis are we going through in our homely cocoons? I believe that already today, we can say that a profound transformation is taking place. This transformation is playing out across the entire tapestry of life, including the intimate personal level, our close relationships, our interaction with mother Earth, our social, political, and economic systems, as well as the big universal and spiritual questions.

Cocoon note to self: Some big multi-level shifts are currently happening

The other day I came across a quote in connection with Covid-19 which said: “Mother Earth sent us to our rooms to think about what we have done”. These words touched me deeply as I felt a lot of truth in their ring. What is new for many of us due to the social distancing policies is spending time with ourselves. The path from a “hyper-stimulus & always-on” mode to a quiet inward investigation is quite a trip. I experienced this as a harsh landing during the first weeks. Though I have been meditating for years, spending entire days alone initially almost drove me crazy. Eventually, the social cold turkey and outer stimulation withdrawal subsided. The panic-working and pressure to be productive diminished. And finally, the grief segment of the U-shaped change curve hit rock bottom. Once the emotional waters had calmed, the actual inward investigation could start. I acknowledged how much I missed meeting my family, friends and business partners face-to-face. Overnight, we switched to “virtual only” using video calls for business, education, and private purposes. On the one hand, it is impressive to see at which speed it was actually possible to adapt to this remote operating mode. On the other hand, I now realize what “power of touch” really means and how much I cherish a good hug or even a handshake. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I agree – physical proximity and touch are things in our human experience which we should never take for granted.

Cocoon note to self: Individual cells of the organism can survive in Petri-dishes for a while, but this is not the point of life – they want to be, love and function together physically

Interconnectedness is a big theme the world is experiencing like never before. The virus spread from Wuhan around the world in just a few weeks irrespective of spatial, national, and cultural borders. The shortage of face masks, hygienic items, and drugs produced in the Far East as well as the inevitable global economic recession, which comes in lockstep with the pandemic show us how intertwined our global economy is today. Amidst broken cross-border supply chains, some politicians already claim a certain degree of autarky back. In general, the virus puts humanity to the test in regards to egoic versus altruistic behavior. This question revolves around the current state of consciousness – whether actions are fear-based and survival-driven or love-based and abundance mindset-oriented. On a national level, we saw countries in the EU retracting back into collective egoic patterns by closing down borders and fiercely arguing about the format of European financial aid programs. At the same time, Germany and the Netherlands treated Italian and French patients in their hospitals as Italy and France ran out of ER capacities. This example showcased how true European solidarity can look like. In Hungary president Orban used the Covid-19 crisis for his empowerment while further prying out democracy in his country. On the contrary, in many Asian countries like Singapore or Taiwan, which had experienced pandemics in recent years, government agencies and the population worked hand in hand to reign in the pandemic relatively quickly. It is worth mentioning that technology in the form of a coronavirus app was part of the success story.
In the civil realms, we observed this manifest in people hoarding toilet paper and pasta while others spontaneously and selflessly offered their help to endangered elderly people with grocery shopping and running errands. In Berlin, ignorant youngsters celebrated corona-parties in parks spreading the virus unknowingly. At the same time, people in Italy made music from their balconies adhering to the strict social distancing rules. In the UK, people applaud NHS workers from their windows and doormats. The virus has brought out the good, the bad, the very ugly, and the eternally beautiful in people.

Cocoon note to self: In a thriving and happy organism each cell supports all other cells

In many countries, Covid-19 has clearly shown that the public health system is heavily profit-driven and shareholder-oriented foregoing costly, yet now much-needed ER capacities. Ultimately the question comes up: What is a health system for – to cure people or to make money? On another note, the “new heroes” emerging from this crisis are the doctors, health workers, caregivers, supermarket cashiers, and truck drivers, which keep society running. The latter three are known to be chronically underpaid and hence undervalued by society. Going forward, may these system-critical professions be adequately compensated based on the newly found appreciation.

Cocoon note to self: Organize health system for good health and nurture critical cells of the organism

Mother Earth is taking a breather. CO2 emissions in China were down by 25% in the first quarter as manufacturing activity came to a halt. Early estimates talk about a global CO2 reduction of 5% for the entire year 2002. (It takes a 7.6% reduction per year to have a viable chance of limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5 Celsius according to the Paris Climate Agreement) Air pollution levels are at a long-term low and waters are clearing up around the world. Photographs like the clear skies over Northern India with a view of the Himalayas and the cleaner waters in the canals of Venice became the symbol of nature bouncing back in effect of reduced human activity. Satellite pictures from industrial areas in China (Q1 coal consumption down by 36 %) and Northern Italy (sharp reduction of nitrogen dioxide) deliver the confirmation that Mama Gaia is cleansing temporarily. Animals are spotted in suburban areas roaming around and playing happily in empty streets.

Cocoon note to self: Mother Earth is a powerful healer. She will recover over and over again – with or without us

Purpose in business is being put to the test in this economic crisis. The global recession is here and companies of all sizes and sectors are going through rough times. A good portion of these companies will not make it and others will have to fight their way back out of the red numbers over a long time. Governments are launching gigantic support programs issuing grants and loans to keep the economy alive. It is precisely times of crisis when companies should step up and live up to their purpose statements — acting on their social and environmental commitments. According to Martin Reeves from the BCG Henderson Institute, it now shows that resilient organizations outlive their efficiency-trimmed counterparts. In this context, there is a strong correlation between purpose and resilience. Resilient organizations are not only more flexible and organized in modular organizational formats, but they are also more purpose-driven. People in purpose-driven companies are more passionate and committed to what they are doing as they are very clear on their “Why”. This is the key reason why these companies are unleashing more energy and creativity to navigate through the crisis. Once the pandemic hit, we have seen good and bad examples of corporate citizenship in the media. First studies suggest that consumers will remember how companies acted in this extreme situation. As a result, they will either favor or boycott certain products and services in the future. For companies of all sizes and sectors, the coronavirus crisis is a great opportunity for a purpose reset – to answer the question of why the company exists and which role it wants to play in the post-corona world.

Cocoon note to self: Purpose of business – If each human being is a living cell and the butterfly is a thriving, balanced and happy world … then business becomes a vital organ which needs to support all cells and organs of the new creature

In conclusion, the coronavirus has shown us vulnerability in many ways. It has taught us how fragile our human constructs are. It has also given us the chance to deeply contemplate why we are here, what we want to contribute to life and how we want to show up in the world.
Final cocoon note to self: May we use our cocooning time wisely to grow collectively and consciously

I invite you all to write your own cocoon notes and wish you an insightful and reimaginative chrysalis process!

PS And for sure I do not want to miss all the hilarious coronavirus-inspired pictures and videos on Whatsapp and social media. So keep them coming … 🙂