Pandemic Awakenings – Week 14
Emergence from the Lockdown
From Darkness into Light
There are many who engage on an inner journey where the healing that they so earnestly seek always seems beyond their grasp. Deeper questioning often reveals that this journey has been undertaken without a fundamental commitment to self-acceptance. This is akin to building a house without first putting in foundations. Any engagement with the inner journey entails an encounter with our dark or shadow side. It will inevitably be our negatives that will come to meet us before the positives. The negative emotions and painful experiences will be closer to the surface than those that we feel comfortable and at home with. It will only be by journeying through the darkness that we will arrive into the light. This is where the commitment to self-acceptance is crucial. Unless the foundations are laid and the corner stone is in place everything negative that surfaces will be used as ammunition against ourselves and reinforce our poor self-image. Self-acceptance is the cornerstone of healing.
Real Presence – Fully Present
When we speak of real presence we all may be thinking of something different. How often do we think about being really present to ourselves and to others? The pre-Corona pace of life for so many was so fast that very few of us were present to either. We were literally passing ourselves by and had outpaced our souls. The subsequent emptiness created meant that we had to become even busier to alleviate our loneliness and circumvent our sense of emptiness. A mother who was a real busy bee and always on the go was shocked to the core when her eight year old daughter said one day; ‘Mummy I really miss you, even when you are at home.’ Clearly in the little girl’s experience the mother, even when she was with her, was already somewhere else. It is never our physical presence but the quality of out presence that really matters. Could it be that what the Spirit asks of us more than anything else now is that we simply learn to be present to ourselves and to become more conscious of how we are present to others?
It is very likely that the children of this generation will become known as the children of the lockdown and it is an event that will be told to their children and their children’s children. A worldwide pandemic leading to a global shutdown is really the stuff of movies that six months ago our minds could not have comprehended.
Gratitude is the Attitude
Every day life invites us to feast at a banquet. It offers us sunrises and sunsets, moon and stars, rocks and trees, mountains and valleys. There is a delicate balance between light and darkness, joy and sorrow, solitude and companionship, words and silence, stormy weather and calm seas. This is the table of daily life that love prepares for us each day. Often we are so focused on something we perceive as not having that we fail to see what we have.
When we get up each morning before we ever adjust our hair (provided we have any) perhaps we need to adjust our attitude to one of gratitude. When we are grateful for the blessings of life we are much more open to seeing just how bountiful they really are. Similarly when we are grateful we leave little room in our hearts for moaning and complaining. A person filled with gratitude is always a delight to be with and uplifts our spirits. Here is a word to make your own and not just for today; Gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for truly living.
Give Thanks in all Things
St Paul taught the early Christians to: ‘give thanks in all circumstances for this was the will of God for them’. The word ‘all’ makes us stop and ask could he really be serious? This sounds like a step too far. Or could he be pointing to a spiritual principle that enables us to always move forward and not get stuck in the more unpleasant things of life? As a child growing up on a farm that knew lots of hardship and setbacks I remember being shocked by my mother’s response to yet another loss: ‘Thanks be to God’ or ‘Blessed be the will of God.’ This just didn’t make sense to me. How could she be grateful when a horse or cow was found dead!
With the wisdom of the years I can now see that by adopting such an attitude she was enabling herself to move on in life and not remain stuck in resentment that this had happened or in feeling sorry for herself. It is only in the acceptance of what is that we can move forward, otherwise we simply remain stuck in a victim mode.
When we Suffer
Just as night and day are inseparable so are joy and suffering. The ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ as Shakespeare once called them are an inescapable part of life. While all too many become crushed by suffering others become ennobled with their souls having blossomed in the process. We can see how it recreates some souls and gives them the face of Christ.
We ask what is that courage that enables people to suffer so well? What is it that makes some able to embrace suffering in such a way that they are lifted up rather than crushed? What is this seed of mysterious energy that is planted in all our hearts? Some learn to embrace suffering in a way that makes it beautiful while others allow it to embitter them. Yet we are all formed out of the same kind of clay. What makes us so different? The level of support we have coming through a difficult time has to be a factor but at a deeper level could it come down to our attitude of whether we accept our crosses with love or reject them with disdain? The cross has the potential to either make or break us.
– Reflecting on Lockdown
Gannet in reflective pose. (Notice the two birds) – Sight and Insight
The way to gaining wisdom in our lives is not just to have experiences but to have reflected and learned from them. Otherwise they just get wasted. Some of life’s most valuable lessons come wrapped in very unattractive wrapping paper, so much so that we just want to put them out of sight and never even open them up. There will be so many who will try to resist everything that the past months have been teaching us and try to get back to an old normal without ever asking if it worked for them in the first place, or if it was something they couldn’t even keep up with. For others it will have been a life changing experience that will have enriched their lives, allowed them to look at things differently, and even forced them unto a different path.
Thile Corona has been the teacher of our age what have we learned from her? Corona placed us into a position of enforced reflection where we had no option but to sit and simply be with ourselves. ‘To be or not to be’ was the age-old question posed by Hamlet and we had chosen not to be. We had become more human doers than human beings and had come to value ourselves and others in terms of how busy and productive we were rather than the kind of person we happened to be.
What the lockdown revealed to so many was the bankruptcy of our own inner resources and that we had been running on empty for so long without ever knowing it. This was where so many began to really pray for the very first time and searches on Google for prayer and spirituality just shot through the roof. Likewise the number of people tuning into online masses and other religious services exceeded all expectations.
Day 7 – Time to Catch Up
The lockdown came just a few weeks after Ash Wednesday, a day meant to be a reminder that everything will one day turn to ashes and that nothing in this world is permanent. That’s fine as long as its thousands of years in the future but this year it was just two weeks away! Almost everything we were so familiar with turned to ashes. All our escape routes were closed off and there was nowhere to go but within. We were forced to be with ourselves, and many of us found that we weren’t too impressed with our own company. Many who were appearance-conscious were now buying ugly facemasks and nicely manicured nails were covered with surgical gloves. Where what I did and the role I played was important, suddenly most of us were now out of work.
It is very likely that this pandemic will have heralded a pandemic awakening to deeper realities because never before did we realize that outer supports could be taken from us so fast. How that awakening will pan out and what form it will take may not be clear for many years. I would suspect that conversations about spirituality and such matters will now become the norm rather than the exception and that there will be a far greater openness to things of Spirit.
John Moriarity, a great Irish story tellers and something of a mystic used to tell a story that seems so relevant to what we have all been through and in its simplicity it may be teaching us the essence of what Covid has to say to us.
The story concerns a group of explorers who were trecking through a forest in South America to meet with their ship on the coast. They had hired a group of natives to help with carrying supplies and equipment. Every morning before setting off they would begin with ritual and dance. For days they made excellent progress until one day near the end there was the usual ritual but then no movement. All the workers just sat lazily around. Their leader was approached and asked why the sudden halt. The response: ‘For days we worked hard, we travelled far and fast. We made great progress, but this is the day when we need time for our souls to catch up.’
Nature certainly needed time to catch up and to begin breathing again. We too had probably passed ourselves by and perhaps Corona was affording us the time we badly needed for our souls to catch up as well.