I’d like to clarify that I’m not advocating suffering, or suggesting that we manufacture suffering in any way. However, I am recognising, that suffering, when it arrives unbidden, is an opportunity. An opportunity to discover who we truly are. An opportunity for transformation.
In so many ways we are fortunate when things don’t go as we had planned. Mystery is knocking. With our lives turned upside down by COVID-19, we have the perfect opportunity to discover an aspect of ourselves that really doesn’t mind what happens. COVID-19 has disrupted the flow of our lives. For many of us it is significantly challenging our sense of identity. There is a call to find a new way of understanding who and what we are, and make meaning in our lives. Self-isolating or distancing forces us back onto ourselves.
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Staying at home
I do want to acknowledge though, that isolation and distancing may not be a particularly quiet time. Especially if you find yourself at home with the kids, or in-laws, or other dependents. Not to mention the constant bombardment via our electronic media!
When social distancing first started, my initial response was one of relief. I welcomed a chance to let go of spending so much of my time travelling and away from home for long hours. I could finally sort my online offerings. They’d been in the wings, literally for years, so clearly, now was the time. It was all very exciting. I like technology and quite enjoy grappling with it to get it to work for me. The idea of hibernation has serious appeal to an introvert!
However, my first week in, I found myself face to face with my computer for eight days straight from 9am to 5pm. (A course I had enrolled in was transferred online.) The opportunities to stay connected online were overwhelming. I couldn’t keep up with them, let alone make my own offerings available! I found myself in overwhelm! How was that possible when I just had to stay at home? Travel time was a thing of the past. Social distancing had cancelled work and meetings. I was feeling that same old inner tension – strive, achieve, get more done, there’s never enough time.
Over stimulation characterises our modern lives whether we’re in lock-down or not. The variety of notification sounds that emit from my various devices; email, Instagram, Messenger, Facebook, WhatsApp, Slack, LinkedIn – so many channels. Our leaders are encouraging us to stay connected. There is certainly a plethora of opportunities.
By now I’ve realised that it isn’t the circumstances. It’s me! My patterns, my constitution, my samskaras – whatever you want to call it. That relentless pressure comes from nowhere else but within me! I take it with me whatever environment I’m in.
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A special time
This is a special time though. Despite the threat to our health and economy, somehow the world feels a little bit kinder at the moment? We’re doing so much to take care of each other and it feels like no one is being discarded. It’s heartening. It may well be an opportunity to turn inwards and recognise our intrinsic connection.
COVID-19 has forced our world to slow down, to shift priorities. Our own powerlessness confronts us. We have an opportunity to get to know ourselves beyond control. We can touch something bigger than our small lives. It may be an opportunity to discover or to rediscover our spirituality.
The dance of life
There is so much that we have no control over; the number of our days, the weather, our digestive processes – to name a few. And yet, it’s not as if we don’t have any control. We have choice. Life is a dance between what we have no control over and what we can do – how we can respond to the situations we find ourselves in. We are neither totally in control or totally out of control. Making peace from moment to moment with the way things are and finding our best response is the nearest recipe for peace that I have found. (And, I certainly haven’t perfected it.)
Our appointment with the present moment
In this environment, I think it’s easier to accept the moment. Because we don’t have any choice and we certainly can’t see too far ahead. There are so many things that we just have to accept. No point arguing, it’s the way it is. While I completely support the importance of staying connected to others, I’m advocating that we make a slightly different connection. A connection to ourselves!
Embracing the Mystery
When we are ONLY identified with the story of our lives, we are easily threatened, require constant defense and are constantly seeking security in some future happiness. When we ALSO know ourselves as that which never changes (that which is beyond control), the consciousness surrounding our personality, our life story, and every aspect of life from the minute to the massive, we live in connection.
We can let go of defences, be present to our experience as it is, c and cease the tireless pursuit for some future happiness. We already know that we are ok no matter what happens. Getting acquainted with ourselves as that Mystery, the very ocean within which we swim, is to know that part of us that is always unbroken, unharmed, safe, protected and secure. Because nothing can touch it.
Of course our own life story is very compelling, and not to be discarded. We still have our personality, with likes, dislikes, our own foibles, the story of our lives playing out. But, that’s not all there is. There is something else, other than all the dramas. It is quiet and steady and where our freedom lies.
This poem points to it beautifully. Our spirituality (just like the virus incidentally) does not discriminate.
This shines on regardless – by Miriam Louisa Simons
This shines on
whether I’m in bitch mode or radiating benevolence
whether I’m depressed or enjoying equanimity
whether I’m achingly weary or frolicking tirelessly.
This shines on
whether my bookshelves are stacked with scriptures, chick-lit, crime or porn
whether my shoes are microfiber or leather, my coat cotton or mink
whether my fridge is piously vegan or robustly carnivore.
This shines on
whether my philosophical tendencies veer towards the scientific and secular
or the mystical and metaphysical
whether I’m a closet optimist disguised as a cynic
or a knee-jerk nay-sayer, jus sayin
Don’t be fooled. This shines on
– pristine, incorruptible –
This shines on
whether you agree with me as you scan these words
or jump to defend your own view
whether you accept me as a flicker of the vast Light we are
or turn your back on our inextricable intimacy.
This shines on
and in, and from, and through, every perception,
every experience of every face and fact of World
known by human and non-human Knowingness
(and I exclude nothing, no thing in creation
from that capacity for Knowingness).
This shines on.
The sages call it Reality, but beware: it’s not a thing, an object
or even a state. To name it is to turn from it, but it could care less.
It shines on regardless.
Perhaps, a new spirituality
Spirituality isn’t reserved for a special few. To find your spirituality does not require great intelligence, great morality or worth, or any particular belief. It is freely available to all of us. It’s very quiet and defies definition or confirmation, it is that which can never be known in a conceptual way. (As Miriam says – ‘it’s not a thing, an object or even a state’.) It’s very nature is timeless, formless, eternal. And maybe now is the time to open the door to it.
With all the worries, fears and anxieties, the ‘shoulds’ and expectations, there is space around them. The quiet background that holds them all. The ever-present, unchanging nature of consciousness. Is available to us all in equal measure, it’s the ‘cloth we are cut from’ so to speak. Life itself, there for us all to discover. Only Awareness is required. Nothing to achieve, just something to recognise. A communion with the great Mystery of life. If we slow down enough, we might just touch it. You’ll find it on the inside, in the present moment.