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Hibiscus, Kuawai, March 2020

 

It is easy to get caught up with the swirl of emotion that is gripping the world right now, and with what has recently taken place with the events surrounding Covid-19,  the George Floyd death and the fallout from that, it gets hard to keep perspective. I will say, though, that being impacted by what has been taking place in the wake of the events in Minnesota are important to be touched by. This relates to increasing your level of awareness about what the trials that others who are not like you in terms of race or class go through.  With enough people aware the sheer mass of numbers of people doing this can help press for change.  While this process may be messy and imperfect, here in the States it has become clear that we have not made the kind of progress that our sisters and brothers of color have needed. It is easy, though, to get caught up in the tornado of emotion and to get swept away by it, and then finally to find ourselves in a deep state of division. Everyone on both sides will have a reason for why that division exists and it has mostly to do with something about how values and beliefs are different between those groups.  Regardless of the side, the situation as it is right now often helps to encourage  fear and upset. I have seen a nation gripped by angst, upset, anger, and frustration over conditions in our country, some of which are not immediately changeable (like the President in office) while others are (like treating people unlike you with common decency).

I find it curious how much time my friends spend paying attention to tweets made in the middle of the night by our President and allowing themselves to feed on upset and triggers. Why would you spend so much time on someone who could be gone in a year?  Are you afraid he might win again?  Work to make sure your voice is heard and contribute to campaigns like I did.  I will note, however, that the two people I had hoped might win the nomination in our country did not.  I gave a decent amount of money to both campaigns.  I hoped it would bring change, but it didn’t.  I didn’t lose sleep over it because that is how it is going to go.  This is the direction we are going in. When you can learn to accept things that you wont be able to change, you will sleep better at night.  I hate how I know that gravity is going to make me look old, but I don’t let that worry rob me of sleep or peace.

It is important to learn how to cultivate calm.  Not forced calm. It is important how to learn how to be aloof.  This calm aloof nature does not mean that you don’t care, it means that you are not prepared to have your peace and joy taken from you because you dipped into the well of unresolvable human emotion.  The fact remains that a tweet by Trump will not itself resolve itself on your terms. I know he is a buffoon, so why would I act surprised by what he says?  It’s like hoping gravity will somehow be negated one day and everything will change because I wanted it to.  Pish! Nor will similar words of his spoken or written by others ever resolve in a way that you want.  No, clearly, it is important for being at peace to learn to find it on your own terms without having to rely on anyone to provide that for you. This is an inside job.  Only you can do it.  People will be people, the world will spin and events will unfold.  Are you willing to allow the upset of others and your perceived ignorance that they embody to turn over your own boat on what could have otherwise been calm waters? Do what you can do, help those that you can help, and then be at peace knowing you did what you could do.  If you tilt at powers beyond your orbit, you will tend to come up upset, you just will.

It is useful to consider this quote:

Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.

Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kind-hearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.
—Tao Te Ching, 16

 

I know how hard it can be to get swept up in fear and to have that fear rule you.  But what is your fear based on?  Are you afraid of catching Covid-19?  It could help to educate yourself about it, to read widely and to make sure that you are sourcing your information beyond merely mainstream media.  Why?  Some have come forward to point out that the deaths from Covid-19 are in fact more in line with flue and other deaths each year in he United States. On a pure numbers level, so far at least, the numbers and the severity of the pandemic has itself appears to have been hyped by many in the news.  I know how unpopular this assertion will be with most of you, and you might think that I am off base.  Now of course it is possible that we in the States will not act in a careful way as a group and the virus will spread more.  It’s possible.  Covid is real, and it is a real concern that we each need to treat with care and awareness, but this does not mean that it should rob you of your joy or peace.

When there was a lot of mixed messages being sent about Covid-19 in the early months of its spread, I was finding that there were those arguing about the efficacy of face masks.  Fauci himself has come forward to explain that he and others cautioned Americans against using the M-95 masks for fear that those in the medical industry would run out.  The problem here is that this caused news to spread that masks were not as useful as had previously been thought.  This then led to a debate about masks that continues to the current day.  OSHA recently released a statement explaining that masks reduce oxygen levels to what they consider to be unsafe levels and that this needed to be understood.  What all of this has served to do is to create an atmosphere of uncertainty for many people, and with uncertainty comes fear.  Keep reading, keep educating yourself, but expand your reading beyond mainstream media because as I said in my previous post, the mainstream media, now owned by about six billionaires, has its own financial interests that serve to keep them from reporting as truthfully about they news as we might need them to.

Absent this, after having traveled half-way across the world recently at the earliest stages of the Covid pandemic, I saw how I had been in airports and locations where the virus was actively spreading in large numbers.  I kept to myself, I washed my hands and I exercised care and awareness about touching my face and all of those very basic things. Had I gotten Covid?  As far as I can tell, no. Was I asymptomatic?  Possibly, but I wouldn’t know that for sure without a test, and the testing itself has been questioned in terms of its accuracy.  So I did what I knew was best to do:  I stayed home.  I made strategic trips and then relaxed and used my solitude to meditate, to do breath-work and to find my center of peace.  I found that this was an excellent opportunity for me to cultivate this peace I am talking about.  I allowed myself to be still, to do nothing.  This reminded me of many of the cornerstone moments during my initial awakening experience, say, five years in.  I had allowed my mind to become much more busy since then, cluttered, even. this was a call back to the woods of my deeper self.  What a wonderful opportunity! While the world seemed to be burning, I was finding calm.

I was able to go to my studio and work alone. Well, truth be told, this wasn’t all that different from before because most of the time I work alone.  I was able to get caught up on work, to focus on getting ahead post-pandemic. I saw the silver lining and how if I could be careful financially, I could turn this into a win.  Unfortunately, not everyone has been so lucky.  For some folks they are out of a job without a sense of what they will get when they go back to looking again.  Others seem to have sunk into a deep morass of sorts emotionally.  There is always hope.

Limit Your Social Media Exposure

One important strategy has been to limit my exposure to social media.  I run my business on social media, but I just found that by ignoring my own personal accounts, I could focus on my artwork.  There, it is an island of calm filled with beauty.  My personal page might scrutinize what this or that leader may be saying or doing, but I have this one island where none of this ever even comes up.  The people who follow me now seem to like that….a lot.  I get to be one of the messages on social media that is positive.  It isn’t that I am ignoring what is going on, I just don’t go there.  I don’t.  I know that to discuss it would invite discord and infighting.  I have seen a lot of it already.  People are on weird hair triggers lately, it seems.

The Power of Gratitude

There is a feeling, an emotion almost that I find is critical to authentic joy and that is gratitude.  By being able to find gratitude in any moment, the self is transported to an entirely different place.  Joy grows there.  By being willing to let others freak out and be in an uproar, I could allow others to feel what they needed to feel.  I just didn’t need to feel that range of emotion.  I didn’t need to tune in or tap into that well of uncertainty, anger, frustration, chaos and fear.  There is this sense in some people that if you aren’t caught up in these same feelings of others that you somehow don’t care.  No, that isn’t it.  I do care, but I have found that it does not good riding the same merry-go-round as everyone else because doing that never gets me anywhere.

So bliss swells within me.  I often feel more remote, alone, but I remind myself that the whole business of awakening is itself a solitary act of reclaiming my sovereignty as a person.  I don’t need to feel as others feel in order to understand what they are going through.  I just don’t need to have those emotions as part of my journey to awareness and innermost change.  I grow more simple, and I grow more happy.  I am so grateful to even be here seeing all of this take place.  I know that this will all lead to change most likely, and I place my mind on how I would like to see that change manifest.  I remain hopeful, but I will also accept what comes instead of railing against it.  If the change is not deep enough, then it just means that we keep pressing for change. The more of us all saying the same thing, the more likely it is to change.  There are forces behind our systems of finance who want very much to keep the apple cart upright, so it may not all happen overnight.  I am well aware of the strands of consciousness on the planet that would like to keep the system as it is for the simple reason that it serves their needs.  Chop wood, haul water: more work needs to be done.

Breathe

So breath work is an amazing tool to help alter how you feel.  It has the benefit of bringing you to a state of deep calm in short order if you do the breathing the right way.  Also, alternating nostril breathing, which consists of holding one nostril closed while you breath in through one nostril for a series of breaths (say four, for instance) and then alternating with the other nostril for another round of four breaths in can be amazingly helpful.  Also, the speed with which you breathe is important, too.  I have noticed that the breathing that creates the greatest calm for me is the same kind of breath that I take when I am sleeping.  I suspect that when you breathe like this you are sending a signal to the brain that you are in fact calm.  You might not be, but the trick in all of this is that you can trick your brain into changing all of the signals for chemical production in the body that will then support a calmer state.  This means dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and other feel-good drugs that the body produces.  The way you breathe is by drawing in a long slow breath in, hold that breath for a couple of seconds and then exhale long and low until your lungs empty of air.  Then, just like at full breath, you pause for a moment before taking the next lung-full of air. By breathing in this way, you set up the signals that you are calm.  And it will calm you.  In fact, if you feel upset and simply sit down and do this exercise for four or five minutes you may just realize that you have forgotten what it was you were upset about before!  If you do find yourself in just such a place, examine how you feel and that particular state you are in.  I bet you will find that it is sooo different from your usual form of focus.  Yep; being a little defocused can help you to be calm and at peace. The problem was that you thought you had to be hypervigilant.

Length of time is also another important factor in getting good results from breath work.  I have found three to four minutes will do it for me quite well when I am upset. That length is shorter.  Sometimes I can take just a few breaths and feel renewed.  Try it and see how you can put this powerful technique to work for you.

Change Your Mind

Learning to train the mind to not constantly obsess is also an important skill to have.  To do this, it will probably most often mean diverting your attention away from what is bothering or upsetting you, and then allowing yourself to feel differently.  I know that this might seem a bit like putting the cart before the horse, but really, it is just a firm decision that you make and then you use your imagination to get you there.  That’s right you heard me say: use your imagination.  The truth is, the way a yogi or yogini will change their state of mind is through posture, breathing, and also how they use their imagination. What does imagining yourself in a beautiful flower garden do for you?  What does imagining sitting on the beach do?  Begin to imagine your happy place and use that to help shift and change your desire to go into repetitive thought and emotional patterns.  You can do this, and once you try and begin getting results, it can begin to snowball.  If you keep with it regularly, you will find within a certain amount of time (it might take a few weeks so be patient) that your mind is more calm and you are less vigilant and feeling fearful.  We have been a population all worrying about a brick falling from the sky and killing us.  I don’t think that a brick falling from the sky would be something you would see coming, so is it really something you should be worrying about?  Covid is like this. Do what you can.  Be careful, wash your hands, wear a mask, do all the things that will lower your chances of getting the virus, but does it help you any to constantly worry about catching it?  I would bet that you may have even imagined what it might be like if you caught the virus, how it would impact your life, and how you might feel, circling the drain of your life.  There are far better uses of your imagination, I can tell you.  Drink up this life while you have it. Others are now long gone long before they should have probably died, and you are still here.  Celebrate that.  Some things will be out of our control, but practice what you can that is in your control and then stop letting the unknowns rob you of the present moment, which is the point of power in your life.

Eat Good Food/Sing/Listen To Great Music

Take care of yourself.  Eat simply, you can, on a budget.  Let the economic uncertainty be.  Cook beans and rice and dress it up from time to time.  Be in nature.  Burn sweetgrass, sage, and copal.  Write, sing, create art and music. Listen to music that soothes you, lifts you up, and helps you to flush your system of what might feel like toxic emotions. It will all help!  Express yourself however best suits you.  It is still a wonderful world and you can feel wonderful within it.

For me, this pandemic has been a wonderful opportunity for me to go within, to examine, and to work on my inner peace.  It’s been great and it has helped me to keep my head.  In every bad situation there is always something positive to come out of it.  After years of reading why it is so beneficial to invest in a down market, I finally was able to do so recently. Most often people try to catch an investment wave after it has already gained steam and as a result they often lose out, always chasing after one bubble after another. By patiently waiting and then being ready,  doing this one simple thing resulted in my net worth nearly doubling within a very short time. When you consider that many are in uncertainty economically, being able to have this one small silver lining is a blessing.  I zig when others zag.  I did that not out of emotion, but through a calm state of awareness.  You can do the same kinds of things with other events, too, and it can bring you a better result than if you were just carried away by emotion.

While others fear what they will be doing next year, I am working on building awareness of my business in a way I have never done before.  I am doing this cheaply and carefully, yes, but wisely.  I am designing new work, some of which is made to be affordable for my customers.  I want to help them, not soak them financially.  They will return the favor with their excitement and gratitude.  That is a good life to have, in my estimation. Doing what you love and living a good life filled with peace and gratitude. In time I have found that the more you cultivate this the less prone you will be to worry and fear.  Fear is the mind killer.  Isn’t that what Frank Herbert wrote in his novel Dune?  Isn’t it better to have a heart filled with gratitude and love instead of fear? It is all a choice, and you get to decide.  What you decide in the moment will tell the story of your life.  You get to write that script. You can change all of this at any time. You can even choose to ignore what I am telling you if you want!  How cool is that?

I hope the very best for you, I do.  If you find yourself in times of trouble, try putting a few of these practices into play and see how you do.  I wish you all the best! Once again I will provide you with the quote I used earlier as a reminder for how to be:

Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.

Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kind-hearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.
—Tao Te Ching, 16