In this episode, I share some thoughts, ideas, inspiration and perspective of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis that we are currently experiencing. My intention is to help you move through this time with much more insight, wisdom, resilience, willingness, openness and understanding, so that you’re able to participate in such a way you will grow, evolve, purify and cleanse your own consciousness to come out even stronger on the other side. COVID-19 is a wake up call.
Give over to good.
In every moment, you and I and everyone and everything else – from quantum foam to fleeting thoughts, intimate relationships, rainforest ecosystems, and the stars themselves – are each a kind of standing wave, like the ever-changing though persistent pattern of water rising above a boulder in a river.
We are the result of multiple causes flowing through us. As Buckminster Fuller famously said, “I seem to be a verb.”
This fact is amazing, but it’s corroborated by both modern physics and deep ecology. We can get silly-cosmic about it (done this myself – not only as a college sophomore!), but the implications are very down to earth.
As unique standing waves, you and I are constructed each moment by the currents – the forces and factors, both internal and external – flowing through us. We have no choice about being lived by these currents, continually given over to them.
But we can choose to give ourselves over to the good ones.
By “good,” I mean that which leads to happiness and benefit for you and others; “bad” means the opposite. (Of course, honesty about what is actually turning out to be truly good is important; history holds many cautionary tales about people giving themselves over to things they thought were good – e.g., Nazism – but weren’t.)
Giving over to good means relaxing into, opening to, being buoyed and guided by things like your own naturally good heart, the impulse to take the high road, love, compassion, vitality, courage, the longing for justice, and the wisdom and support of good friends.
Then your life’s wave becomes simpler, happier, and more beneficial.
There are two steps: knowing what the “good” is for you, and then giving yourself over to it.
I stop in the middle of our conversation on the street and feel those around us working on themselves and their relationships, solving problems and imagining new ways of being. For a moment, as the sun comes through, I can sense the entire city at work on their worth, unlacing trouble, looking for peace, each trying in their own way to be kind and useful in the face of storm and time. I am stopped by the sound and glow of souls being hammered in the smithy of circumstance. I lift my face to the sun, thankful to be part of an unfinished humanity, everyone trying to find the love and keep the love, everyone working as a part in the unseeable Whole. All of us like a medieval guild working in the sun: this one repairing a wheel, that one cobbling a shoe, and another repairing the path, while someone over there is baking bread. And the secret is revealed: we are never more alive than when working on the way.
There are some things we should all know -- without having to think about it: humanity is headed in the wrong direction. Everyone knows this except for those who believe they can benefit from tearing their own ship apart -- while it's still at sea -- in order to sell its pieces at a profit.
But, much as in the timeless story of "The Emperor's Clothes," where no one would speak the truth of their ruler's nakedness for fear of losing the King's favor, so we continue to deceive ourselves. We hope for a happy ending that never comes...because undetected self-deception never ends. How can it when the only thing we change about ourselves are images that have already proven powerless to change anything? And so it is that blame has become the balm of our suffering. Yet, rather than healing these wounds in our psyche, such fault-finding only makes them worse, and the cycle of pain deepens in the darkness of ourselves. Let's be clear:
"...in trying to help others, we might come to realize that compassionate action involves working with ourselves as much as working with others." -Pema Chödrön
I've Been Thinking...
The other morning, I awoke early. It was dark outside, and the rain that greeted me the previous mornings had stopped. Now there was only silence at my door.
Over the past few days, I’ve tried to stick to my morning routine: Prayer before my feet hit the floor, coffee, meditation/silence, and then exercise. What comes next has been, let’s say, more fluid.
With nowhere to go, I started practicing as if I had to go to work. I got dressed. I got ready. I wrote and practiced “calm, heart-based leadership” for my Sunday Paper team and my Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement crew, both who are also at home trying to stay calm and carry on. I also practiced it for my kids, who have seemed extremely concerned about me, reminding me hourly that I’m in the “vulnerable population“ and that I dare not go out lest I end up in the hospital. In fact my son, Patrick, has moved in with me to make sure I'm not alone. (How touching is that!)
I've Been Thinking...
“We would like the country to realize that as a nation we can’t be doing the kinds of things we were doing a few months ago…” —Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
That is the truth of this moment and what a moment this is. It’s a moment to listen up, pay attention, and follow the guidelines so that those on the frontlines are better able to do their jobs.
Like all of you, I’ve been trying to make sense of the seriousness of this moment and yet also get some perspective as I’ve lived through many big “moments” in my life. The Cuban missile crisis, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the AIDS epidemic, and of course, 9/11.
All of our lives are made up of moments. Some big. Some small. Some inconsequential. Some life defining. Some joy-filled. Some traumatic.
Usually, the moments we experience in our lifetime are deeply personal. The moment you fall in love. The moment your child is born. The moment you get your dream job. The moment someone you love passes away.
It’s rare, however, that we face a collective moment like the one we are experiencing right now. Rarely do we all experience a moment like this simultaneously.
What’s the first thing you think when you make a mistake? If you’re like most people, you will either blame someone else or blame yourself.
Blaming, even blaming yourself, is not at all the same thing as being accountable.
Why is it so hard to be accountable for ourselves – to take responsibility for ourselves? One of the problems may lie in the connotations we have applied to these words.
Do you know how much Spirit loves you? How the Divine Consciousness (Quantum Fred, God, The Dude, Mary and/or whoever else you name Divine) sees you as a spark of its own Infinite Unlimited Potential? That you are definitely not here as a mistake, that your dreams are most important and that your desire for a purposeful new life are sacred?
You’re not being punished or threatened just because transformation is painful.
Just like birthing a baby, we are at an overly prolonged crowning stage and yes let’s all say OUCH together!
Here is what I know today more than ever as I myself have stepped into a more authentic version of myself. Resistance is futile. Have courage and jump in and you will honestly find that if you let go of what’s not working, and you will see this change is magical!
You must feel this chaos at some level within you that mirrors the astrologers’ take on how the planets are teaching us about transformation.
If you find yourself living in a troubled world, what should you do? The question is as old as recorded history, but over the millennia only three basic answers have emerged. If you find yourself living in a troubled world, you should A. Turn to God or the gods, B. Place your trust in science and rational thought, or C. Renounce the world and retreat inward.
These answers have practical outcomes, which is why we have cathedrals, space programs, and monasteries. But what if none of the three time-honored answers works anymore? That’s the general situation most modern people find themselves in, and so they retain a diluted loyalty to old answers in the absence of a better one. For example, most Americans do not believe the creation story in the Book of Genesis, but neither do they completely believe Darwinism, telling pollsters that in some undefined way God enters into evolution despite the view among evolutionary scientists that Darwin’s theory is completely valid.
The third option, retreating from the world, is actually the one most of us have chosen more or less automatically. We lament the state of the world but spend every day occupied with our personal affairs. If you do nothing to improve the world, you are for all intents and purposes reliant on your own thoughts and actions. A higher authority or proven worldview is irrelevant.
Chip has written several New York Times bestsellers, including Wisdom at Work, and now is the innovator of “becoming a Modern Elder.”
I spent a week co-leading a workshop with Chip a few months ago at his fabulous Modern Elder Academy in Baja.
Today I am thrilled to share with you one of his recent blogs on “The Unexpected Pleasures of Aging:”
Just when I got comfortable in my skin, it started to sag. But that’s okay. I take life less seriously today than I did ten years ago. The Latin root of the word “serious” means weighty and grave. But even though my weight is 15 pounds heavier than it was in 2010, and I’m closer to my grave, I don’t feel more serious.
Buddha said the root of all suffering is attachment, but underneath that attachment is comparison. Part of the reason it can be painful to go to your college reunion is it reminds you of all the comparing you used to do. By the time you hit midlife, hopefully, you see what a silly game that all was… and is.
The stresses are created in this very state, so they can only be de activated in this state of mind.
You can remember many instances in your life which made you elated. It could have been a matter of getting a first class in High School, a post graduate degree with flying colors, the excitement on the day you got married or when you bought your first car. These were all moments of elation in your life, but did that happiness continue is the question. It was only transitory, it lasted in moments, and then after a little while brought you back to your same old questioning self.
You have to learn to make a choice. Life changes everyday from moment to moment. You need to decide what is it that you desire. Allow the divine order to flow through you.
Do you ever feel as though you’re missing out
Lacking in love…
Low in self confidence…
Crushed by guilt and feelings of low self worth…
You might be surprised to find that you’re not alone.
Some of the most successful people we work with are plagued with these same feelings…
Doubting themselves and feeling unworthy of the very things they proclaim to want most in life.
Each day just feels like a struggle…
Why do you feel these things?
As I travel to offer workshops and retreats, I enter a depth with willing others who’ve been opened and shaped by life. Through that depth, we create a path to what matters by which we enter the temple that is the world. I remain humbled and excited by the mystical fact that, try as we do, this depth can’t be opened alone. We need each other to do this, even though no one can experience life for you. And so we journey as pilgrims of the heart, alone and together, crossing this threshold of depth whenever we dare to tell the truth of our lives.
I open these gatherings by admitting that I have no answers and that we’re here to compare notes, because no one knows how to navigate the mystery of being alive. I then try to open a heart space through which we can enter the realm of all that matters, which is always waiting just below the interruptions of life which, if followed beyond our wants and fears, will lead us to the bareness of being that informs all life. I open this heart space by reading poems, telling stories, and sharing metaphors that reveal the unseeable architecture of existence.
Passion is your Highest Potential of Financial Reward
Consider that Oprah, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and every multi-billionaire followed their passions. They did not get rich by staying in soul-sucking, energy-draining jobs. They did not get rich by ignoring their desires, but by following them. They found their element. Roses bloom when watered. They shrivel in the desert. Passion is your highest potential of financial reward. You’ll give endless hours to what you love. You’ll demonstrate insane and unthinkable proficiency. When you love something, you have infinite resources and energy. You have more strength and talent than you know and our world is starving for true excellence.
I have a suggestion for you. Start looking for examples of people you know or read about who do the work they love and make a living. The mind is trained to look for what it believes. If you believe “creative people starve” or “doing what you love will bankrupt you” that’s the examples you’ll see in the world. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “what you focus on grows.” Well focus on finding the evidence for what you really do want to see. You want to see people thriving in the work they love. And they are everywhere my friend. They have freedom, independence, stability, and pink cheeks. They are role models to their children, instead of shadows passing by in the morning and night.
In every age there has been a dominant worldview that people tried to conform to. In an age of faith, everyone asked how they could better serve God. This was their daily concern. In the Industrial Age the question shifted to economics and improving one's lot in life. In an age dominated by science the question shifted again--people asked every day how they could keep up with progress and add to it. As times change, so do people's vision of what is important, and usually they thought they had a better vision than the one which preceded them.
Yet if you back away to see the bigger picture, each age had one thing in common, and it wasn't God, economics, or progress. It was the fundamental idea that life is well lived only if you have a vision. Without one, purpose and meaning are limited.
It turns out that the one question you should ask every day is this: How can I fulfill my vision today? Whether they put it exactly in these words, this is the secret behind the greatest success stories. Someone dedicated his or her life to a plan, project, or set of values larger than any individual. A worthy vision, I think, needs to fulfill certain criteria.
“If you can dream it, you can do it,” is a famous quote attributed to Walt Disney or one of his staff.
As I wrote in my book The World Is As You Dream It, this concept is also expressed by Indigenous shamans around the world.
One of the themes in my new book Touching the Jaguar: Transforming Fear into Action to Change Your Life and the World is that our perceptions mold reality. There are no religions, cultures, countries, corporations etc. until people perceive the idea of these, accept certain values that define behavior supporting that idea, and then take actions to manifest it. When enough of us accept a perception or codify it into law, it changes reality.
An audience member at one of my talks objected to this, saying, “the dream of a prisoner for early release does not necessarily come true.”
“That’s where actions come in,” I replied. “The prisoner starts with the dream, but then has to set in motion actions that will facilitate his early release (for example, perceiving ways to convince authorities that he should be freed ‘for good behavior’ or perceiving methods to obtain new evidence of his innocence). But you raise an important point,” I continued. “The dream does not change reality; rather, it inspires the dreamer to do things that will change reality. When we ‘touch the jaguar,’ we confront our fears – the obstacles that have convinced us that we can’t change – and use them to energize and empower us to take actions that will alter reality.”
When you stay focused on your goals, productivity comes naturally.
Of course, then those pesky distractions come in to mess up your workflow and throw off your schedule.
If your day is anything like mine, you’re probably constantly being thrown distractions that limit the amount of work you are able to get done.
After all, you only have 24 hours in a day and no matter how you try to stretch them, they always add up to the same amount of time.
Learning how to tackle your problem head-on by limiting your distractions, can help you focus on what’s important—your goals.
Start with these six ways to stay focused on your goals and streamline your attention right this minute.
The drop of ocean teaches us about integrity and faith because, no matter how churned up it is, it never loses its transparency or its ability to go clear. As transparency and clarity are intrinsic to the true nature of water, integrity and faith are intrinsic to our true nature. Regardless of how churned up we are, restoring our transparency will enliven our integrity, and restoring our clarity will enliven our faith.
As one drop of the sea contains the entire ocean, each human being contains all of humanity. When churned up and full of trouble, we are disconnected from this living heritage and things always feel worse than they are. When transparent and clear, we reflect and reveal all of humanity and are able to draw strength from the living heritage we are a part of. This is why we need to discover and inhabit a personal practice of transparency and clarity that will return us to our true nature by restoring our integrity and faith.
All the spiritual traditions offer rituals and practices, including all forms of meditation, in order to support us in our ongoing task of returning to our true nature when the roughness of living challenges our assumptions. How do we personalize these practices? How do we create our own? What is your own history of being churned up? What are the ways by which you have restored your own transparency and clarity? Who and what helps you return to your true nature?
Are we there yet?
Relax, you’ve arrived.
We spend so much of our time trying to get somewhere.
Part of this comes from our biological nature. To survive, animals – including us – have to be goal-directed, leaning into the future.
It’s certainly healthy to pursue wholesome aims, like paying the rent on time, raising children well, healing old pain, or improving education.
But it’s also important to see how this focus on the future – on endless striving, on getting the next task done, on climbing the next mountain – can get confused and stressful.
It’s confused because the brain:
- Overestimates both the pleasure of future gains and the pain of future losses. (This evolved to motivate our ancient ancestors to chase carrots hard and really dodge sticks.)
- Makes the future seem like a real thing when in fact it doesn’t actually exist and never will. There is only now, forever and always.
- Overlooks or minimizes the alrightness of this moment – including the many things already resolved or accomplished – in order to keep you looking for the next threat or opportunity. (For more on how the brain makes us stressed and fearful, see Buddha’s Brain.)