A pandemic, such as a coronavirus, reminds us that life is not an equation.
One of the biggest ironies in life is we live like no one is going to die while we are terrified of the same. The workaround is to stay too busy. All the energy-sapping distractions we engage in are ways we deny this fear.
Change is challenging because it reminds us of impermanence. Sometimes we hold on to persons, places, or taught beliefs even when our gut is screaming something is not working. It could be a relationship toxic to our emotional well-being, a house that no longer lines up with our day-to-day needs, or childhood religious beliefs that cause us to become intolerant of others. While these ideas seem like a no-brainer to change, we often choose discomfort instead.
Most of what we base our life on, we borrow from outside of ourselves to tidy up life like an equation to be resolved. Learning that way is useful when the topic is something objective, like math. For instance, the equation of a straight line is y=mx+b, no matter who investigates.
A pandemic, such as a coronavirus, reminds us that life is not an equation. It is a messy process absent of fairness, justice, and formulas. One moment we are going along as we usually do, and then something happens that pushes us into a new normal, also known as a radical change.
Like other collective awakenings, such as 911 in 2001 and the global financial crisis years later, people may still survive what is happening no different for the hardship. Survival is deep sleep, and somehow we find new distractions as a constant dose of the right amount of sleep medication. We are amazingly agile in our ability to distract ourselves and then wonder why we are exhausted.
The diversions that anesthetize our fear receptors also numb our feelings. Our feelings are not meant to be suppressed; they are the canary in the mine, giving us an advanced warning something is off. Our feelings point to where we are unhealed, where our beliefs are not aligned with our inner truth, and where our lives lack meaning.
I recently read a news article on what is useful to stockpile when we were in quarantine for COVID-19. Things like canned food, beans, and grains were on the list. We are inclined to stockpile when our survival is threatened, but what we collect doesn’t always make sense. Many witnessed this phenomenon with empty toilet paper isles. Similarly, we also store feelings when we are in survival mode. Without the resources to process what is occurring, we learn a variety of ways to avoid feeling, even though they don’t go away. When our stored feelings surface, it is often with such power, usually out of place, to what is occurring at the moment. No wonder we don’t trust them.
Years ago, I learned in therapy how to sit with my feelings. By then, I had amassed my own storehouse. It got to where I stopped feeling anything in order to live with all the emotions I suppressed. That door was bolted shut. There will always be that experience that gives us a chance to catch up, busting open that door, exposing too many feelings clamoring for our attention at once. Sitting with them was so painful that I thought about killing myself to escape the pain.
Staying in the discomfort of painful emotions until they pass is how we access our truth. There is an abundance of inner wisdom available to each of us. It is not coated in fear and has nothing to prove. Sometimes it even tells us the opposite of what we think, since a lot of what we believe is not our truth.
It is not possible to be in touch with that part of ourselves all the time. First of all, we are in love with our thinking mind. It is hard for us to conceive that thinking about the problem is the problem. Second of all, we must be active in navigating through life. For these reasons and more, we have to make a conscious and disciplined effort to go there.
Meditation is good practice sitting still. It doesn’t matter if we are only there for a few minutes, as long as we go. Once we get past the painful feelings guarding the gate, the moments in the stillness build on themselves, beaconing us to return. If we can string together those memories, we can create a life on purpose.
Getting underneath the layers of mind chatter is part of how we build faith in ourselves. That whisper, which is only audible in stillness, is our mustard seed. The more faith we put there, the more mountains we can move in our lives–versus spinning in the same discomfort, drama, and peace-stealing thoughts and activities.
A door opens anytime we look deeply at our life, whether that door takes the form of an opportunity, a resource, or a fraction of peace. Life is always on our side when we choose ourselves. Sometimes it takes an earth-shattering experience to get us there, such as a pandemic. It is all part of the process.