When I began this workshop in the summer of 2019, the virus responsible for COVID-19 did not yet have a name and no one knew what would happen when it jumped into human lungs. Today, our world looks very different. The way we live, work, shop, and stay healthy has changed. Even if we and those we love are not directly affected by the coronavirus, we may never experience life quite as we used to. The question is, will we give up and become cynical, despaired and discouraged, or will we be inspired to commit more deeply than ever to health at all levels, including inner peace—for our own sake and for the good of all? Both options are available to each one of us. The power is in our hands.
This spring, around the same time as the lockdowns first took effect all over the world, we started a new chapter in this workshop, looking at what it means to have a peaceful mind. We each have the potential for the radiant steadiness of a calm, clear inner lake. Yet somehow, especially in times of difficulty, our minds feel more like a turbulent sea. This is because of the sorry stories that disrupt our clarity, such as the following:
• “NOT GOOD ENOUGH”: To perceive ourselves as not good enough is to believe we are separate from the natural world and the universe, in which we are born and grow. Yet these are each bountiful and compassionate. In this light, feeling not enough is understood as a lose-lose and a self-fulfilling prophecy that will only perpetuate feelings of scarcity.
• “NO ROOM FOR ME”: To enable the “no room for me” sorry story means that at some level, we feel that we don’t have the space, or even the permission from the universe, to be our most natural self. But as we have been exploring, nothing could be further from the truth.
• “GOTTA GET IT RIGHT”: The “gotta get it right” sorry story can be used an excuse to justify lack of engagement today. While fantasizing about how great life will be in the future once you get your life right, you miss the richness of what is before you. It is a proud bravado that often masks a deep sense of weakness, agonizing loneliness and brutally low self-worth.
• “I SUCK”: We may rationalize or minimize this tendency, thinking that negative self-concepts are better than being excessively proud, or that they only hurt ourselves. But neither of these is true. There is essentially no difference between “I suck” and “I’m so great”, because both are expressions of our ego.
• “HAPPENING TO ME”: When we identify with this sorry story, we mistakenly believe that other people or situations are the cause of our pain. This thwarts our growth. We blame. We resent. Rather than making positive changes in ourselves, which lead to making healthy decisions in the world, we revel in struggle and act out our suffering on those around us.
When we understand that these sorry stories are based on the illusion that we are not within a compassionate and supportive universe, we can witness them playing out in obvious and subtle ways. In gratitude for the opportunity to see and heal from these painful tendencies, we consciously choose to let them go.
To integrate what we have learned so far, consider the following:
• Is my mind clear and calm? How much of the time?
• What do I need to do to support a calm, clear mind on a regular basis?
• What are the sorry stories that keep me most stuck?
• Am I clear about the three steps of understanding, witnessing, and releasing, and am I practicing them moment to moment?
• When I apply this process to my sorry stories, what does that look like?
• Am I open, ready, and willing to do that as often as I need in order to feel greater inner peace?
From my heart to yours,