Coronavirus and the inevitability of change

Things are changing, this much cannot be denied. What I have realized today is that many of these changes that are being required of us as humans take days to weeks to months to adapt to… and things are happening daily. So there is such a need for grace and a recognition that my emotions and my sense of adaptation will likely be coming down the road in a week (or more) from now… and this is okay. Being present in a time like this is so hard but absolutely essential. Hope in a time like this can be quite detrimental. But knowing the difference between presence and hope could be the thing that allows change to lead to transformation. Let me explain…

First, a word on truth. Truth is difficult for almost anyone. I would almost be willing to bet that if it sounds too good to be true, or it is a quick-fix reassuring escape from this regular suffering… it likely IS too good to be true. The reason being, is that truth is completely impartial. If something is true, it is true for all beings in all times. For instance, it is true that everyone will die one day and no belief will save us from this. It is true that all life is dependent on many things outside our control. It is true that things have to die for us to live and that we are sustained almost entirely by things we don’t deserve. There are many other things that are true, but they very much differ from beliefs. Beliefs are things we hold to that give us meaning, but we are not entirely certain of them. Beliefs change, but truth doesn’t. If something is true, it doesn’t matter what you believe about it. Truth cuts like a knife and causes us to think twice about what we believe. It is not debatable.

The amazing thing about truth is that fear is dependent on it. Fear is generated by our response to that which is true, or that which IS. If we do not want to accept what is true and cannot muster up the courage to say “I don’t know if this is true,” fear is a likely result. Our entire civilization and culture is perhaps generated by a response to truth. Humans have a strange reaction to that which is true because we can think about and choose how we respond. As far as we know, other creatures don’t wrestle with truth, or the way things are, in the same way. They live out of their essential being, and they go with it. They don’t complain and they don’t wish it to be otherwise. Beyond fear, freedom is also dependent on our response to truth. To be present to what is, to have gratitude for what is, to rest in what is… this is possible for us and leads to freedom and transformation. It takes a great deal of courage to accept things for what they are. Let’s acknowledge and affirm this. It means we have to accept that what is real is impartial and is happening whether we want it to or not.

So what about this time we are in, with a global pandemic at hand? My attitude has transitioned from an attitude of compassion and curiosity to one of compassion and fascination. Many of us are restricted in our perceived freedoms, told we can’t go out, we can’t touch people, we have to be careful, we could die. People get angry about this and they claim certain “rights” that they held so strongly to only weeks ago. It’s amazing how quickly these things can change!! This begs the question whether they were really true after all. Many opt to blame another country or another political party, they get angry at those who don’t comply (or those who comply too strictly), and they get depressed about what may happen or how long this will last.

Coming to terms with the truth can be incredibly depressing, but depression does not have to be the end of the story. It may be just the beginning, really. Coming to terms with truth is the pathway to transformation and freedom. And this is why hope can be such a hindrance. What do you hope for as you wait at home? What do you hope for as the economy crashes? What do you hope for as you venture out to the gas station or the store? And how do all these hopes line up with what you fear? Maybe there is hope that things will return back to normal or the way things were before (because things were “normal” before?). Maybe there is hope that you don’t get sick (though, I’m sure every person who has gotten and will get sick hoped they wouldn’t…). Maybe you hope that the money you lost will be recovered in the next couple of years (but what if it is gone and what do you really need now that you have less money?). It is likely that your hopes arise as a result of the present not being okay… what IS is not good enough. You want what is true to be different in some way shape or form, likely better than what is happening now.

We do not have to be hopeless, however. Hopelessness is thinking the future will be worse than it is now and that the future is not tolerable, either. See, if the present is not tolerable and the future ought to be better (hope), and the future is not tolerable or is worse than the present (hopelessness), where does that leave us? The future is not real! It hasn’t happened yet and we have less control of it than we think we do. This is true, and one of the true things that causes the most distress. This is why being present and acknowledging what is happening now takes so much courage! It is honest and it is humble. I can acknowledge my current limits, my frailty, my lack of control, my strengths, and my needs for support. I can acknowledge how dependent I am on others. And while I make good decisions to be safe for myself and others, I can also acknowledge that much of what happens to me is outside of my control. This can either cause great fear or great freedom. Maybe you are sensing that these days.

What is true is that the virus is going to do what a virus does. It’s going to spread. It does not have malicious intent, it is not an enemy, it is not here to destroy the human race. It is true that human-caused conditions likely made the virus more prolific and human-caused conditions will make it spread more rapidly or more slowly. It is true that humanity’s impact on the world has been detrimental to much other-than-human life to increasing degrees up to our present time… and that our stepping back and slowing down has had almost instantaneous benefit to other life on the planet (as can be observed by animal activity and pollution levels). It is true that the earth has weathered much worse than this virus, things that have caused much greater harm to all life on this planet. It impacts us, especially because of how connected we are globally, but it will not destroy us. It is also true that some reading this may get sick, or may be sick while reading this without knowing. We live in uncertainty… but isn’t this the reality we live in? We can either do everything possible to mentally remove ourselves from this reality or we can engage in the presence and acceptance of this uncertainty. The latter is far more sustainable and transformational.

I would encourage you to not “hope” for things to return to “normal” or the way things were. There is no normal… and I can think of nothing more heartbreaking than the vast majority of people returning to whatever state of sleep they were in before this time of uncertainty. Trauma, tragedy, and crisis are incredibly clarifying experiences. My guess is that there will be many who do race back to life as it was, doing whatever they want, buying whatever they want, and doing what is best for their family, country, or species. I also can imagine that many will even regress to earlier stages of consciousness, self-protected and self-focused. But there will be a few, maybe even many, who will wake up because of this (maybe even against their will). They will see how much we need each other. They will see how dependent we really are. They will recognize that they are not in control nor should they be. They will learn to be present to what is happening now. And they will see how Nature is waking up as humans slow down and prioritize what really matters. What will your response be? Now is the time to decide.

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