You can’t bear the bite of a flea: how will you endure the bite of a snake?
In appearance I am ruining your work,
but in reality I am making a thorn into a rose-garden.
Fear doesn’t just kill our capacity to think clearly and rationally, it also freezes our heart. It constricts our ability to care and feel for others. When fight-or-flight is activated we shrivel into survival mode and this has its own ancient mantra of “Me, me, me.”
When our perceived comforts are threatened, we panic and this blinds us to the bigger picture. If this threat is amplified by the media, then everybody panics. This is the power of the herd mentality, where everyone reinforces everybody else’s fears.It can make rational human beings revert to instinctual animals in a matter of seconds.
As the corona virus pandemic sweeps across the world, we have seen examples of both selflessness and selfishness. Perhaps how we respond to uncertainty depends upon the amount of fear we carry in our lives. The degree to which we’re afraid of the unknown reveals the degree to which we’ll fight over toilet paper.
But of course, unless your house is on fire right now, you’re actually ok. If you’re not living hand-to-mouth right now, you’re actually ok. If you’re breathing right now, you’re actually ok.
All of our perceived comforts are simply that – perceived comforts. We have been sold the notion that life is unliveable without our luxury goods and our time-saving technology. And as we mentally, emotionally and physically rot from all of this luxury, we forget that our minds and bodies are infinitely more powerful and resilient than we have ever been told.
It’s the challenges and changes which allow us to test our mettle and grow beyond our own pettiness of mind. Yes, we are all born as human beings, but how many of us can actually behave as human beings when it really counts?
This is spirituality at its most practical level.
Fear is urgent and consuming, it shuts us down and locks us in. It cannot see past the (perceived) terror of now. When we live in this way, we make a prison of ourselves. But there is a different kind of Now, in which everything is allowed to be exactly as it is, with each new moment of the universe blossoming and fading before our very eyes. It’s a place we respond from, rather than react to. It’s spacious enough to include the wants and needs of others, rather than viewing them as obstacles.
All civilisations eventually crumble, all cultures are shaken apart, all the structures we cling to are always a hairs-breadth away from collapse. Lost the storms of the world and the chaos in our minds we feel helpless and can offer no help. But we can choose to take a step back and discover the hidden gifts of challenging times. We can begin to reorientate ourselves to what really matters, and wake up to the myriad ways in which our attention and energy are sucked away by the distractions we’ve become blind to.
We can step away from the herd mentality and finally think for ourselves. What do I really want? What do I really need? Is it possible to live from acceptance rather than fear? Is there something within me which already accepts things as they are? What am I afraid of, really? And then there’s the ultimate question, that royal road home, the question that nobody asks but everyone should ask: Who am I?
Tomorrow, the sun will rise as it will always rise. You will take your next breath. The sky will not fall. New moments of the universe will spontaneously appear. The birds will sing and the grass will continue to grow. This mystery we call life will flow onwards revealing answers and solutions we cannot yet grasp.
Don’t hope that things will somehow change, simply notice that everything is already changing.
The precious toilet paper we hoard for our own comfort can then be used for something far more profound and productive: to wipe away our own fear, greed and delusion.
Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash.