We cannot deny the extremely challenging times that we have been forced to navigate over these past two years. As with any threat or challenge in our life, the denial of ‘what is’ would be a futile attempt to avoid the emotional pain these challenges have brought to our lives. Many of us have felt consumed at times over the course of the pandemic by feelings of worry, fear, isolation, and sorrow. And we understand that we are not alone in our suffering. We know that it extends far beyond our individual experience -- that it is being felt collectively -- as we bear witness to incredible suffering around the world as the pandemic rages on.
There are so many things we cannot change. But rather than buying into the notion of helplessness, what we can do right now is change our fundamental way of seeing and being in the world -- and use this crisis as an opportunity for our personal growth. A maturing if you will. Instead of looking for all the reasons to validate our pain and stuckness, we can decide – and it is definitely a decision – to look for reasons to validate our joy and freedom. And by freedom I mean cultivating the ability to access the inner stillness that is ever-present, irrespective of what is happening outwardly. Making a choice to take responsibility for our own experience has perhaps never been more imperative to our health and well being than it is right now.
The pandemic, like all other major challenges that we might have faced in our lives, is providing us with an opportunity to reassess our commitment to self. And this kind of commitment is intrinsically and intimately connected to the development of three core aspects of the self: self-love, self-appreciation, and self-acceptance. These are three fundamental facets of our being that need to be lovingly cultivated as they are intrinsic to finding our joy and freedom in life. And it must be done in the spirit of compassion as we learn to walk toward becoming more whole.
Until we fully commit to ourselves, we cannot authentically commit to anyone or anything else. It lays the very foundation for our work in the world. It is literally the energy source that makes all other work possible. And it opens up a pathway that allows ‘us’ to get out of our own way. In other words, it gives us the capacity to transcend our unconscious needs and desires; thus, making us better able to recognize what truly needs to be done in our lives and in the world – ‘unclouded’ by our own pain and dysfunction in whatever forms they may appear. This is the only way we can become benefactors and facilitators of authentic healing.
So where can we each start? Let’s look at a few ways we can move toward greater emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual health. Most importantly we need to change our thoughts. Because when we change our thoughts we change our (inner) world – and that is necessary before outer changes can manifest. Reacquainting ourselves with the beauty and power of rituals is certainly a good place to start. Here are just a few ideas:
- When you wake up in the morning commit to having the greatest day you can. Before you even get out of bed. Before you reach for any electronic devices. Don’t decide that you are going to HAVE a great day, decide that you are going to MAKE IT a great day. There is a difference. The former is conditional on outer circumstances, the latter is not. It might sound simple enough, but we need to be careful to notice the resistance that might arise even with this seemingly simple practise. Many of us will hear an internal chatter undermining our efforts. ‘Reminding’ us that we are ultimately victims of our circumstances and that we are helpless in the face of so much adversity. But decide and commit anyway. And recommit throughout your day as many times as necessary…and it will be necessary!
- Think of several things you are grateful for each morning when you wake up and each night before going to sleep. Don’t get lackadaisical about it. Write them down if that helps you keep with the practise. It’s a simple but profoundly powerful tool. When we learn to live in a state of gratitude, it opens up a whole new spiritual dimension of ourselves. We may even come to have gratitude for our own suffering, as it is one of the most dynamic motivators that we will ever encounter in terms of our own personal growth and sense of ‘deepening,’ as we connect with our soul.
- Each day think of at least one way you can make someone else’s day better. There is a saying I heard once that goes something like this: ‘When we seek happiness for ourselves, it eludes us. When we seek it for others, we find it ourselves.’ Don’t underestimate the power of a good deed!
- Creativity feeds the soul! Surround yourself with it! Listen to music that you enjoy or seek out works of art that move you. Or get creative yourself -- in whatever way you feel resonates with you. Perhaps draw. Write a poem or a letter to someone you love or admire. Or do any ‘ordinary’ task creatively, like organizing your closet! Done with the right intention and an open heart, creativity will help support you in releasing your painful emotions rather than habitually reinforcing your pain. You will be better able to move through some of the difficult emotions you are holding onto and ultimately transcend them.
- Be mindful that any resistance to ‘what is’ is a precursor to stress in our lives. The more resistance, the more stress. Take a river for example. Wishing the river flowed in a different direction creates stress and depletes our energy system. Learning to simply observe the river flowing in that same direction does not create stress. We are simply observing. Try to let go of strong preferences in your life and accept and work with the reality of what IS.
- Spend time outdoors whenever it is possible. Being in nature is a wonderful antidote for stress (its been proven to lower stress hormone levels). It also enhances the immune system, reduces anxiety, increases self-esteem, and improves our mood -- amongst other things. So get out there! The trees and plants have a beautiful energy field. Immerse yourself in it. When we truly understand that we are merely a single, infinitesimal focal point of Consciousness in a limitless, expansive universe, we can bow even to a single blade of grass.
- And lastly, practice compassion – toward yourself and others. The word compassion comes from the Latin word ‘compati,’ meaning ‘to suffer with.’ World-renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell, one of my earliest teachers, often spoke of the Grail. He understood that the Grail, in mythological terms, was referencing the highest spiritual potentiality of human consciousness. He wrote, ‘The key to the Grail is compassion, suffering with, feeling another’s sorrow. The one who finds the dynamo of compassion is the one who’s found the Grail.2’
May some of these words resonate with you.
Be the Light,
1 Of course the more we understand the true nature of “Consciousness,” we see that this kind of behaviour is always an act undertaken unconsciously.
2 Selected and Edited by Diane K. Obon (1991). A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living (p. 53). HarperCollins Publishers.