Suffering is the distance between what you want and what is. Be ok with all outcomes and you will be at peace.
My son is a college bound freshman. This morning he was getting a good dose of the news (never saw him be interested in current events before) and the reports on the virus were not good. “Maybe I should go remote”, he said.
Now, when this whole thing started I had rooted for schools to open. It was my strong feeling that they should. Part of me was looking forward to empty nesting again, part of me didn’t want him to miss out on any more important life experiences and fun. Part of me was just angry at COVID and wanted signs that we were ok. COVID has come in stages for me. First there was fear, then anger and blame, then optimism (or denial) coupled with anger at anyone's pessimism. Just as I was getting my footing, BLM upended everything again. I went back into anger and confusion. I spent most of quarantine in resistance to everything around me. So when my son mentioned his desire to study at home, it came as a surprise to me that I had no reaction to it, no thought about it, no investment in it one way or another. I was fine with both options. I was at peace - sublimely powerful, wholly free.
I attribute my non-reactivity or new response to reading The Power of Now and to our weekly group discussions. It has been a godsend. With the support of my friends I am discovering and anchoring in my peace. I am relinquishing attachments to what life should look like. I am resting in the present rather than trying to plan and predict what will be. I am staying out of the past and observing the brain's striving to go back to normalcy. Through surrendering to the now and accepting what is, I can finally allow everything to be as it is without having it be otherwise. Gone is the compulsion to fix, manipulate or change anything. This is the point where peace resides. And it is not just me, other members of the group are having similar experiences.
The lesson for COVID is letting go of what was to allow for what will be. When we hold onto or attach to one outcome or structure over another we create suffering. A date on the COVID calendar will not relieve that suffering and by simply kicking the can we extend it - and now truthfully there is no end is sight.
But life is about choices. Waiting is also a choice. One that actually may seem preferable given our fear of making the wrong choice and compounding our grief. But it isn't. In truth there are no inherently right and wrong choices. All choices are neutral save for our interpretation of those choices. What actually brings us grief is our attachment to the 'right' choice and outcome and the inflexibility of needing life to be a certain way.
Enter COVID, which has stuck a giant sized monkey wrench into that way of living. It has shown us how precarious it is to rest our sanity and safety on life being stable and predictable. A few months ago, I was attached to my son going to school in the fall. I needed it. I felt he needed it. It had to be that way. I don’t need it anymore, he perhaps never did.
What captivates me is his calm. His decision is not being made in fear. He is not accepting defeat or feeling like a victim, he is wide open to the new experience. And my response is not coming from resignation or passivity either. It feels quite practical and we are both curious as to how it will unfold. As we move forward I will observe my brain's old tendency to judge or be skeptical each time an assignment is late, the video games are playing or the lights are on at 4am. I will strive to remain open and presence my peace within.
COVID is shining a laser beam from the sky on what is no longer working for us individually and as a society, what we nee to tweak and what we need to throw out altogether. The transformation available to us is unlimited and we are only at the beginning stages. One thing that for sure needs revamping is our personal peace process. Since the onset of COVID, the sign that we are 'ok' was to be our re-opening date. We pressure ourselves to hold on to that date. Then the date moves and we are plunged into uncertainty and have to mentally prepare ourselves again. In this model, peace remains in the future, not within, and hinged on an unstable prediction. The status quo prescription? Grin and bear it, it has to be over soon, then we will return to peace, safety, and stability but maybe just 6 feet apart with masks. This is not peace.
Arguably our approach has been a holding pattern rather than a healing pattern. And what we don't heal we drag out and at worst repeat. Waiting for something to change in the outside world so that we can feel better is so 2019. The clarity of 2020 is showing us how to move beyond being beholden victims of our circumstances to arbiters of our experience and our peace no matter what the circumstances.
So as a practice point, let’s say school is not opening this year. Get ok with that. If it opens you are good and if it doesn’t you are good. Know that however your kids may be presenting now (which is simply confusion and fear in all its forms), they are ok if school reopens and ok it if doesn’t. Now that you have reconnected with your inner peace and are seeing 2020 - you can take ownership of the choices and opportunities that are before you, heretofore unseen. How you would like to proceed in your life? Do this with all issues COVID is bringing to light for you - the state of your employment, where you live, the state of your relationship, how you parent etc… Blessedly, we can stop waiting for someone or something to rescue us. We are on it. This is true peace and true freedom.
Structure you say? Who needs the structure more, us or our kids? The loss of structure can be confusing at first and the pendulum may swing to all screens (or, in the case of adults, all booze) all the time. But eventually, if left unopposed, unresisted, unjudged, extremes will reach their saturation point and something new and creative will emerge.
For those that remain in resistance through this period of inner transition, you will not get any judgement from me, but you will experience suffering. The suffering is not because of what is happening in the outside world but because of our mental resistance to it. Once we relinquish our resistance, the suffering ebbs without the curve flattening, schools re-opening or the economy flourishing. The whole world will appear new just as it is - free of fear, judgement and conflict. Full of love, peace and clarity.
We have the power to switch this up. COVID is removing external impingements such as they were, and it is our job to not blindly take on new ones. We get a total do-over, so this time be sure that you choose what baggage, if any, you are bringing with you. Ours is not a journey back to normalcy. We are moving forward in glorious ways. Clumsy at first, for sure, but we can do this. We must do this, actually.
Peace and love,