If you go into a room and the door is locked from outside
it’s called a prison.
it’s called a prison.
If you go into a room and you lock the door from inside
it’s called solitude.
it’s called solitude.
So what have we got here?
It goes without saying that we are facing unique circumstances worldwide. There is no-one anywhere not affected by it. And it’s early days yet. Early days to tell what is going to happen over the next few days, weeks, months, years. But also early days to tell what kind of effect this is going to have on each one of us. This is a very substantial game changer in every way.
I’m assuming that those of you who come to this blog have an interest in the value of the inner life which is at least equal to what we can achieve in outer life. Because although of course there is substantial change in our day to day life the change is potentially going to be even greater in our inner life. Let me explain.
There is a growing suspicion, an unease, a hidden current of thought, a stifled cry of pain, that life as we know it has been becoming more and more unsatisfactory. In yogic terms the equilibrium necessary for life to flourish is getting increasingly out of balance. It doesn’t need spelling out here, the evidence is all around us, and it’s been becoming increasingly clear that it could not go on like it has.
Nature is equilibrium! Nature does not tolerate imbalance from within. Nature is the arbiter. It is the external manifestation of the Divine. Nature is the universe; the sun, moon and stars; the mountains and oceans and forests and deserts; New York, Beijing, London and Sydney; art, music, writing and acting; Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, the dear president of the United States, and of course you and me, and our pets, etc etc etc... and this virus. Nature is everything.
And everything is divine, even if that is hard for us to see right now. Because we can only view Nature through our own eyes and with our own understanding, which is human and limited. Next to the Divine we have to accept that as true, unless we too consider ourselves divine. And of course the Divine and Nature do not ‘think’ with a human mind, like us. Nature is mysterious, inscrutable, ineffable. But one thing is for sure, Nature does not for long tolerate imbalance. Yoga calls the rectification of imbalance karma. But that’s another matter.
The virus is nature, absolutely neutral, which is why everyone is affected. It’s not subject to race, colour, country, sex, religion, culture or beliefs. The virus is lethal, but not excessively so, but still, enough to throw every mind back on itself virtually forcing a deeper look into places we might not have been to for a long time, if ever.
It has brought existential questions from a long way back in our consciousness to front and centre, predicated on the one fundamental, Am I going to die; are those I love going to die? Not consciously maybe, but that is the undercurrent of fear that no-one can deny except out of a kind of wilful self delusion. It says it’s time to face these things: What is my life worth? What have I done? What do I do now?
Then there are the necessary requirements to combat the virus. In a few words: separation, isolation, aloneness, loneliness, boredom; as well as challenge, opportunity (see the first lines of this piece), a kind of fruition. Many are now faced with time to ourselves, with ourselves, like never, that is never, before. What to do?
First of all let’s assume that there’s only so much TV, streaming, online surfing or chit chat one can take. There are two obvious ways, which can also be combined.
The first is to operate profitably in the external life, however limited it becomes. Most essential: have a purpose - having a real life purpose is essential to a life of satisfaction - and it doesn’t really matter if it is significant, like actually working from home, or seemingly unimportant, so long as it is meaningful to you and you can lose yourself in it. Keep the conscious mind well occupied and it will not miss what boredom would say it’s missing.
Exercise well. Find a way to use up excess energy by channeling it through the body, somehow. Be inventive and make yourself do it if you have to, because the rewards easily outweigh and outlast the effort by nautical miles. And of course this is the time when yoga asanas and pranayama really come into their own.
Then we come to what this is really about, and the theme that runs through this blog, summarised by its title Power of Awareness. I’m not going to spell out the fundamentals, but here are other posts if you want to read them:
With the catalyst of the underlying anxiety of a world gone wrong in general and this virus in particular, and then the ‘forced’ isolation, more unexpected or unusual thoughts during the day, and dreams at night, will almost certainly come into mind, eventually. You receive into conscious recognition thoughts, impressions, memories from deeper within, with their associated emotional baggage. Even so they are there for a purpose. Every memory is stored with the best intention, to be useful - this worked once so store it away, it might be useful again…
Then long after their usefulness, they can get catalysed, like now, to return in a quiet moment to reaffirm their usefulness. You may get pleasant thoughts and memories, you may get unpleasant even horrible thoughts and memories, but they can all be accepted and treated equally, they are part of Nature and Nature does not judge.
The actual power of awareness is the act of impartial self observation so that the imbalance of stored impressions are managed by observation, not by either indulging in them, or suppressing or rejecting them out of hand - both strong temptations, both to be avoided.
So in your private space view all reactions equally, without hesitation. Be overconfident, be anxious, whatever it is, feel it fully without restraint. And you find that what is seen, experienced and acknowledged in this way is understood more fully, and by that knowledge these things lose their power to influence. It’s done just by facing yourself, accurately.
This may sound counterintuitive. But you set up an inner environment where whatever comes can be thought, fully; felt, fully; relived, fully, but without claiming them as my own. In this way think of anything as being in me but not who I am. Because in the bigger picture all impressions are temporary no matter how firmly fixed they appear to be. And when the awareness lines up accurately, the proof of that is seen by the observer itself, which is you - you are nearer to yourself as the observer than as an experiencer, even as both are fully present
This turnaround from identifying with all these things to viewing every experience as an observer is the active power of awareness. All that needs to be added is: it takes time, practice, patience, and putting up with myself, exactly as I am, for some time, maybe a long time. Or, although it's accurate, we end up 'proving' to ourselves it isn't. There never has been and never will be a short cut to self knowledge. So in this game the only failure is not responding to what you have realised to be inaccurate thinking.
Change is now
The upshot is, if we can make profitable use of this time to investigate my inner nature, to face and know myself more fully, then when we return to a more balanced status quo we will see things in a different perhaps wiser way, by understanding more deeply what a loss of balance is, and how everything is included in maintaining that balance, both individually and universally.
Maybe you know all this, but reminders are necessary, particularly now, and just remembering is a substantial part of awareness. Because there's a significant difference between an intellectual understanding and putting it into practice.
There’s no doubt we have to readjust the way of thinking that has brought us to the present state of society worldwide. Consciousness has to be raised first before substantial change can happen. Occasionally we have the choice to face the opportunity, or shirk the responsibility. This current situation is reminding us that we are all one in some fundamental way, as well as recognising we are all unique and inevitable in our own individual way. So are we in prison or in solitude? It’s just a way of thinking.
I’m a hesitant promoter (not because of any lack of vanity) but because times have changed, what is in this blog is going to appear more relevant and therefore be more accessible than before. This is ancient wisdom which I’m just passing on, and you can do the same by passing on this link to anyone you think might profit from it.
I don't know about the accuracy of the science, but the signifier of the the times is that my wearing a mask does more to protect you from me than it does to protect me from you. In a word selflessness
Stay safe and may we see the Divine in Nature, even in those places we least expect