I watched the sunset yesterday, it was glorious: the huge orange sun slowly sinking into the pink horizon. I happened to notice it just at that time in the evening when the world falls silent for a moment. The birds were waiting for the right moment to sing again and we were all suspended in the eternal few seconds of stillness. I felt so comforted by this as I felt that we, for once, are becoming part, even if an unwilling one, of this “giving space” to the universe to perform its wonders.
I haven’t really been sitting around reflecting on what the current situation we are living means for us. I have just been adapting to it, creating a little routine that helps me use my time productively and go through each day without feeling desperate. Every morning, I meditate to find my centre and not get knocked off by the turmoil around me, and I imagine sending waves of love and light to all my loved ones, and to all the people in the world. I do read the news from around the world every day and allow myself to feel the grief and powerlessness that seem to me the normal response to the daily death count of thousands of people and to the inaction, the lying, and the inadequate response of governments all around. But, knowing myself I know that if I let myself dwell on all the sadness of the situation, I will get consumed by that sadness and will not serve any purpose either for myself or others.
There are moments, like yesterday’s sunset, when we get an insight into reality. Not the reality of us stuck in our homes or of those infected by the virus, but the reality of a Universe infinitely bigger than us, of which we are part and which is always there for us to see when we come out of our minds and of our relentless train of important activities. In moments like those, we can but acknowledge the fact that there are two different dimensions in which we live simultaneously: The Personal and the Universal.
At the Personal level, we are who we are within our bodies and with our particular set of experiences, thoughts, and emotions. At this level, we focus on our past, present and future, we worry about how this virus and all the circumstances coming with it will affect us. As part of this level we also feel the connection to our tribe, our family, our friends and loved ones, and all the people that we feel we belong with. Our personal level is all about our basic needs, and the safety of ourselves and our tribe. This is the natural expression or our survival instinct and therefore necessary and an intrinsic part of our make-up. However, an excessive focus on the Personal level can make us feel entitled and righteous, and oblivious of the bigger picture. We may go from being able to accept those outside our tribe and having concern for nature and life itself, to feeling entitled to take all we want from nature and seeing “others” as a danger to our safety who may take away our food, our jobs, our security, or the toilet paper that are rightfully ours.
At the Universal level, we are part of a whole and who we are, what we think, feel and do, has an effect on our larger realm. This is much larger than our tribe, it refers to the whole of humanity, to nature itself, and to all that exists. At this level, my personal experience is less important than what is happening to the whole and I worry more about the impact of my individual actions on the whole than the other way around. When we focus on the Universal level, we try to do things that we regard as positive contributions to the wellbeing of everyone around us, of the whole of humanity, and of nature itself. However, excessive focus on this level, and I have known some examples of this in my life, can make us oblivious of our families and those closest to us, or negligent of our responsibilities towards our bodies or towards our tribes.
Perhaps it is not possible for normal humans like us to be aware of both of these realms at all times, but it is quite urgent for our human family that we increase our awareness of the Universal aspect of our existence. Our excessive focus on the Personal level is at the root of much of our individual suffering and of all that is dysfunctional in our planet. The lack of awareness of the impact that we have – both as individuals and as part of a consumerist society subjected to globalisation- on the whole of humanity and on nature, is causing our own destruction as well as endless suffering to living beings around the world.
If there was ever a right time for an exponential growth on consciousness, it is probably now that we have been forced to stop and listen. Interestingly, as we stop and listen, we are getting delighted by beauty all around us, beauty that we would normally not see or appreciate fully. This beauty is always there, even if we are not looking. Let’s just sit and watch it. Let’s watch it until we feel part of the scene, even just as spectators. Let’s become part of the scene and dare ask how we can collaborate with it rather than try to direct it or change it at our will, which is what we are constantly doing. Let’s dare ask the scariest questions: How can I continue to live in this world without destroying it? How can I collaborate with life instead of hindering it? What does it look like to be a person aware of their impact on the world, on the lives of all humans and all animals, and on the health of my home the Earth? What does it look like and feel like to be a human being with integrity and awareness? Let’s wait for the answers, perhaps we will get them in our dreams, perhaps the neighbour unwittingly will tell us something over the fence and it will be it, perhaps we will turn the computer on and a video will pop up and tells us things, perhaps we will open a book we have never read and it will open our eyes, or perhaps we will wake up one morning understanding what the birds are saying.
I cannot deny that sometimes my hope for humanity wavers, but there is something inside me that tells me that we have in us what it takes to turn this world around and make it become a welcoming and nurturing place for all who live on it. There was a time when our distant ancestors had immeasurable wisdom, they lived in communion with their surroundings, had awareness of their connection to the Universe, had respect for other species, and had reverence and humility at the magnificence of existence; we have many indigenous communities still living on the planet who testify to this. If our ancestors had the capacity to live like this then surely, we must have at least some of it. Let’s take advantage of the time we have been forced to take and, at least for five minutes every day, let’s try to forget the very real fear of the epidemic and the worries that we all have about paying our bills and keeping our jobs; and focus on the bigger us, the “I’m part of this wondrous whole” us, and see what comes out of that.
May we grow into the people who can make the world a better place for ourselves and all who live on it
In hope and with love,