October 19, 2022

What the Pandemic Taught me about Being Awake.

During the last two years, we have lived through a global pandemic and the massive fallout that came with it.

This has hit us each in different ways depending on our mental state, personality type, lifestyle, living arrangements, and, of course, what we were doing for a living.

Doctors and nurses were among those who were suddenly working more—suffering huge amounts of mental and emotional stress.

Office workers had to work from home and became isolated in the unknown that surrounded us all. Hospitality workers, yoga teachers, musicians, and many more stopped working completely. Some lost a large part, if not all, of their income, and struggled to survive. Small businesses were swept away, and people struggled to feed their families.

The loss of life and the separation between loved ones was devastating. Many of us fell into deep anxiety.

The sensationalization in the media regarding the pandemic skyrocketed. Many of us started to spend more time online. And as fear turned into anger, the debates turned into arguments and love turned to hate.

We became divided.

We witnessed online attacks full of hatred—against those who got vaccinated and against those who didn’t. Everyone was right. No one was right.

Some people posted on social media about mask wearing and about how doing that could save lives. In the comments, many lively and informative discussions ensued. But my mind focused on the commenters who, before 2020, I had always thought to be infused with love and light—now chose to fly in and attack with hate, calling the mask-wearing poster stupid and other derogatory names.

Some of the spiritual commenters I followed and looked up to in my pursuit of light were turning toward darkness.

I saw this too many times.

Imagine a sweet, old lady living in a cottage with a little garden where she meditates every day and grows her own vegetables. One day, new neighbors move in next door. They have a big, expensive car, and their kids have a hundred plastic toys.

Imagine she approaches them disdainfully and accuses them of destroying the planet. How do you think they would react? They might go off and tell all their friends about the crazy hippy next door and steer clear of her in the future.

Now let’s say she invites them over for a cup of tea and asks them all about themselves. Then she explains to them how she likes to live and why. She does not force her beliefs on them. But she introduces them to new and different concepts.

They probably won’t sell their car and go and spend a year in an ashram.
But they are likely to talk to her again.
And her words might make them think.
Over time they might develop new habits like shop organically, cut down on plastic, and recycle.

Our voices are more likely to be heard when we aren’t shouting.

If you attack someone, they go on the defensive. This is how wars are started. This is how we become divided.

If we want true unity, we must start in the way we react to people—learn to understand them.

I know that there are reactive people on every side. I realize that maybe once, you tried to explain, to reach out, to get through in a calm and patient manner and got nowhere—and that is so frustrating.

We all get angry sometimes. But blind rage gets us nowhere. In fact, it pushes us all backward.
It breeds resentment and draws a bigger line between us—the people. We became divided.

There is a great duality in spirituality these days, and it comes down to love versus hate.

There are many out there who believe they are awake yet are still struggling to shake off the darkness.
I wonder if the path toward the enlightenment of our general—or just our local—population is simply through love and understanding.

One can spend years in an ashram in India.
One could be a vegan since birth who practices yoga for three hours a day.
One can spend a lifetime studying Buddhism.

But none of this alone will wake us up. The key lies within the love that we have for each other.

“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.” ~ Pema Chödrön

Your mind may be open, but is your heart?

Only when we can understand and practice this will we be on the path to becoming fully awake.

I am neither awake, nor asleep.

I am dreaming,

of a better world.

For all our children,

and for theirs.

With love

~

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