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COVID-19

Ten Thousand Days

The Light in the Fire

June 1, 2020

Photo: Logan Weaver

Day 2112 – Day 2116

Black Lives Matter.

I’m not a preacher and I’ve got no answers to the world’s problems but if you don’t agree that black lives matter, then this probably isn’t the site for you.  You might want to find another.

When I saw the photos a week ago, I was sick.  I’m sure that if you’re still reading, it sickened you as well.

I have been purposely undertaking a Covid news blackout for my mental heath, aside from a daily scan of headlines.  Last Monday, I looked at the news.

Around the world, inequality is killing millions of people.  In India, the migrant workers are STILL not home.  Sheltered under bridges, on the side of the road, or rounded up and detained in crowded conditions, their situation, in a pandemic, is a death sentence.  I know these people.  They are poor villagers who went to the city in hopes of earning some money to send home to support their families.  When India suddenly locked down the country with only a few hours’ notice, they were stranded without shelter, food or money.  Even those who can make it to their state by walking across the continent are being turned back at state borders.  The poor are being left to die.

In Colombia, government funds to help fight Covid-19 and to support the people have been embezzled, and widespread corruption means that World Bank funds have again been funnelled into the Swiss bank accounts of the elite, while the poor hang out red cloths from their windows, a symbol that they are in desperate need and are facing starvation.  Venezuelan refugees, caught in Colombia, like the migrant workers of India, without a home in which to shelter, are facing starvation in similar inhumane conditions as those in India.

And a friend in Brazil is looking forward to the birth of her first child.  I reached out to her this week to see how she was faring – fearful for her, in a country that is run by a dictator who refuses to lockdown the country or make any provisions for the pandemic.  Widespread deaths are needlessly occurring as grave diggers have to be creative and create high-rise vertical grave sites to keep up with the need.

Inequality is killing millions around the world.

In the country that is my neighbour, 40 cities are under curfew tonight and the leader is nowhere to be found.  For days I have been unable to sleep.  I’m sure you’re not resting easily, either.

I question the narrative that the media is piecing together.  People burning down their own neighbourhoods?  No, this doesn’t seem right.  But who will get the blame? The black man.  Same as it ever was.  And who will die, if there is a spike in Covid cases from a justifiable and righteous anger that has not been quelled by a compassionate leader?  Same as it ever was.

When journalists are being targeted, arrested and shot by the police – despite identifying themselves as press – and when peaceful protesters, with their hands in the air, are approached by police and have their pandemic mask ripped from their face so they can be pepper sprayed, I have to wonder how anyone can doubt that police brutality is an overstated phenomenon.  Institutions have lost the trust of the population and when this happens, historically, coups follow.

I fear that martial law will come next and if so, I challenge my readers to pay careful attention to which citizen’s militia are allowed to join the forces that are restraining the population.  The time has come again for the privileged to form a resistance to help protect and empower targeted populations.  It feels like we, as a human race, have been here too many times even in this century.  Oh Lord, same as it ever was.

In my Sufi lineage, we have been warned of the darkening of the world for as long as I’ve been sitting with the teacher (15 years).  In my Christian tradition, we are warned of the worsening of life on earth that signals the End Times.  Are we in the End Times?  I don’t know.  It has been pretty bad in Rwanda and the Congo, in Central America and in the Soviet Union in my lifetime.  To think it is End Times just because it impacts me is a bit of white, Western, privilege.  But, End Times may have been upon us for a long, long time.  I do not know.  What I do know is that I have been feeling the darkening of the world for at least as long as I’ve been sitting with the Sufis in meditation.  The job of the mystic and of the Christian – in good times and bad – is to hold and build their spiritual light and to encourage others to do the same.  It does not have to be the same as it ever was.

Hold your light, my friends.  Have faith.  God has not forsaken the world.  If you don’t believe in God, then look around you for the helpers.  Goodness has not left the world.  There is so much goodness in the hearts of humankind.  It is our job to stand up, show up and speak up.  It is also our job to meditate, pray and fortify the soul.  Only by building the light in our own souls can we vanquish the darkness in the world.  Without our light by which to read our moral compass, all our works are easily corrupted.

I’ve done all the studies in strategy, politics and economics.  I’ve worked with governments and corporations around the world.  I have no answers but to build the light and be the light that the world needs.

I am grateful for my ability to listen with an open heart and bear witness to the pain of those who are not as privileged as I am.  I am grateful for all the resources that are available to me to support those seeking justice and to unlearn my privileged view of the world.  I am grateful to my spiritual communities around the world with whom I can connect as we do our individual prayer and meditation and I am grateful that our work benefits the collective.  I am grateful for the activists – friends and strangers – who remind me to walk the walk of my values at times like these.  I am grateful for this platform where I can say to you that I feel, in one sense, as helpless as you may feel, in the face of the world on fire.  And I am grateful that perhaps you trust me enough, now, to join me in building spiritual strength to combat the darkness.  What each of us does is no longer for our own salvation.  It is for the collective soul that we must do our spiritual work. Let us rise to the spiritual battle of our lifetimes, even as we fight to end inequality and injustice in the material world.

Have faith.  The good shall prevail.  Be the light in the world on fire.  Stay well, stay safe.

Photo: Austrian National Library

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

For Every Number, There Is A Name

April 7, 2020

Photo: Tim Mossholder

Day 2056 – Day 2061

Yesterday started out great.  It was sunny.  I was up early.  I wrote a post that I knew needed work but I had time to fix it.  I made a nice brunch to enjoy outside and I made a video.  Things were looking pretty good.  Good, if you ignore the fact that what I wrote was unpublishable.  Great, if you also ignore the fact that, for a 3-minute video, I recorded 42 minutes of me, talking to the camera, about how I wasn’t doing okay.

Maybe we’re all doing less great than we want to admit.  I try to be of service by offering inspiration but even cheerleaders get to rest between games.

I have been watching underground news since January and planning for the worst-case scenario at home and for the company where I work, since early February.  I’ve had the heaviness of how bad things could get resting on my heart for a very long time.  It was a burden that many people mocked back then.  I think many people are still in denial.  Last week I wondered why every nation isn’t flying their flags at half-mast.  The fact that we are not doing this seems like a sign that we really haven’t grasped the tragedy that has been unfolding, for months.

I don’t think we should all be falling apart and unable to get out of bed, although after my 42-minute soliloquy, I did have to lay down, for most of the day, under the weight of things.  For me, there is a sense of alienation that is not the result of living alone and having no in-person contact with another human being for more than 2 weeks.   As happened during 9/11, I feel a chasm opening up between myself and so many people.

Humour and positivity helped me to face being sick and to adjust to my circumstances, during the first 2 weeks of my quarantine.  But it seems to me that much of the humour I see on my Facebook feed and elsewhere just focuses on first world problems (I’ve been guilty of sharing and even making some of it), when the tragedy is a global one and it impacts the poor and vulnerable, disproportionately.  Humour can help us cope, that is for sure.  But humour can feed denial.  I think humour is a way to help us process tragedy, when circumstances are temporarily difficult.  It helps us bridge from the time before to the time after, so that we can resume our lives.

The thing is, I don’t think we can resume our lives, as they were.  Systemic change is here, whether we like it or not.  Personal transformation, for those willing to be moved, is available to all of us as well.   The number of people whose lives have been impacted in all but 9 (as of this morning) countries in the world is almost impossible to comprehend.  Never before in my lifetime has the entire world been impacted by threat and tragedy, at the same time.  For every number there is a name.  For every name there is a story and a decision of how they will bear witness to the greater story that is unfolding.

I have the unwelcome gift of being an empath as well as some weirder gifts that I only discovered in 9/11.  When so many souls are leaving the planet at the same time, the energetic and emotional toll is heavy on me and I’ve been running from it.  Until yesterday, I had been able to get by with partially armouring my heart.  I would sit in meditation, listening to the birds, but not truly meditating.  When I sat on Sunday, everything caught up with me and I was shaken.  I felt unbalanced and began to unravel.  Yesterday, I knew I had to stop running, open my heart, and just grieve.

I can’t be a cheerleader today.  It is right for me to cry.  It is right for me to have a shattered heart.  I can’t talk about a pandemic in abstract terms.  And I really cannot laugh about it.  For every number, there is a name.  For every name, there was a final moment, alone, somewhere.  Last words of love that are forever unspoken.  Souls left wandering, in shock.

I can’t continue to cheer us on,  like we’re all going to be okay.  Because if we are okay when 1.4 million people have officially tested positive for the virus and 76,000 people have already died, then who are we?  If, as a species, we can be okay when the UN warns that 2 million Bangladeshis could die, and globally, mortuaries have been unable to cope with the volume of the dead, then I don’t want to be a part of this species.

I know that may sound judgemental to some people.  Maybe it is.  I am pretty firm in some of my core values, which is out of fashion.  In our work as spiritual beings, let us not condemn others for being who they are, and for feeling what they do.  But, let us not forget that a spiritual life is sacred and having discernment in one’s companions honours the sacred.

I’m so grateful today for the friends that went through 9/11 with me, in New York.  On a smaller scale, we have been through a way-of-life changing event together, already.  There is an unbreakable bond that forms with the people who survive a trauma like that, together.  I’m so grateful that many of them are still in my life, even though we are scattered far apart from one another.  I’m also grateful for my spiritual circles, from New York to India to London to Vancouver and to online circles.   I have many friends but I feel that if I can’t bring my spiritual self to the table, I’m only bringing a shell of myself to the relationship.  I don’t want to do that, anymore.  It is essential for me to be able to be authentic and fully present. I am grateful to the young and handsome man for bringing his gift of wounding to the places where I most need to heal, even as I need to slow down my evolution to a manageable pace.   As much as it hurts, I am actually grateful that I’m able to feel all this global pain, instead of being shut down or in denial.  I think we will all get to the sadness part of the cycle of this grief, in our own time and in our own way.  Right now, it means that I need to turn the dial up my self-care.

Last night I listened to Jesus Christ Superstar.  I listened to the various versions till I found the one that was circulating in my house when I was a child (Murray Head/Ian Gillan, I think).  I went to Catholic primary school and religious studies was part of the curriculum, but  I truly did have a first impression of the gospels as being sung, Rock Opera style.  Music is a great salve and they say that the sense of smell is the most linked to memory but for me, listening to that album took me back to a young version of myself – somewhere around the 11 year-old mark.  She was a very open-hearted girl and was in love with Jesus.  Tapping into her spirit and to the passion of Christ made the tears flow for the suffering that fills the world, today.

For every number, there is a name.  I could not sense every individual, but I started witnessing their passing and, where needed, gently helping some of those thousands of souls on their onward journey.  There is more to come.  I have a headache this morning from it.  But, my heart feels more malleable and at peace.  I’m ready to meditate, to pray, to have strong boundaries and to practice good self-care so that I can serve again.  It may look like I’m doing nothing when I sit in prayer and meditation for most of the day, topped off with time for mourning, but I know that this is the best work that I have ever done.

Photo: Aaron Burden

For what are you most grateful, today?

Love, Ten Thousand Days

Love in the Time of COVID-19

April 1, 2020

Photo: Leighann Blackwood

Day 2047 – Day 2055

I spent the late afternoon on my balcony garden, watering my tulips with my tears.  Today, the first person I know (that I know of, at this time) lost his battle with COVID-19. To be sad at the passing of a life from this world into another is a very human response.  He was not really my friend, in fact.  He was the husband and essential person in the life of a woman who is a very dear friend to me.  And it is for both of them that I cried.  It is a hazard of love that our heart will break along with those hearts for whom we have love.

When my heart breaks, I am nearer to my Beloved Divine than when I’m coasting through life.

I see memes and articles about how it is hard to be single during this time of self-isolation.  I think this is the perfect time to be single.  The world has reduced love to a swipe screen of photographs like an online shopping cart as if we can fall in love in the same dispassionate way that we can decide if we want carrots or broccoli in our weekly shop.  I think for all those that meet on apps and make a life together, there are a dozen more encounters that were terribly empty.

I am a romantic.  I have always been a romantic. When I was a child, my first love was a man in white who came to me in my dreams.  I had a spiritual call very early, and my path was to be the path of love.  In difficult times, my faith is fortified not because I can make sense of the world and what is happening, but because I turn my heart, and the Heart of Hearts turns to me.

About a week ago, my good friend WRDSMTH posted one of his WRDS and it really struck me.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the repeating numbers that I was seeing – specifically 11:11.  It is said that this is the number of the Twin Flame and it also represents a spiritual gateway.  I knew, when I wrote the piece, who that twin flame was.  It took me a few weeks of seeing the numbers and scoffing at the idea that the person who first came to mind might be my twin flame, but eventually the gravity of that awareness rested within me.  I know who it is.  I knew him before he came into my life.  I realize that I painted him out of my subconscious, 2 years before I ever encountered him.

I don’t know how to incorporate this idea of a twin flame into my existing belief structure.  I don’t even know if it is a real thing, or what it means.  What I can tell you is that I’m aware of a deep connection to someone on every level, but most certainly on a spiritual level.  I first connected to him over spiritual issues and then became aware that I could hear him in my heart.  We have an awful lot in common but that is just surface.  I hear him, in my heart.

Yes, that sounds crazy.  I’ve even asked professionals if I might be crazy.  I’m not crazy.  The fact that we question the spiritual at times like this is crazy.

The path of the mystic is that of the madman who must trust, and dwell in the not knowing.

Even though I don’t know what to say about it, what it is or, really, anything, I don’t believe I’d have happened upon and have been made aware of this relationship if it isn’t the will of the Divine that I know it.  And if the Divine is making me aware of something that seems weirdly magical, I’m going to do everything I can to remain open to whatever happens.

I’ve spent weeks and months trying to talk myself out of this and telling myself it is crazy.  I still struggle to trust my own knowing of what I know.  But there is one thing that I know.

I know exactly who I love and where I want to be.

Love rejoices in the truth.

As I witness the brevity of earthly love, in the passing of my friend’s husband, I want to call out to he that lives inside my heart: “Don’t waste time!!! We could be dead tomorrow. Let’s ground this in reality, now.” But I must learn to trust in Divine timing.  Maybe it will happen when this quarantine is over and all the souls have been released.  And maybe it will not happen in this lifetime.

Love is patient.  Love is kind.

Knowing it may not happen in this lifetime, I can’t let my wishing it could be so be a distraction from the spiritual awareness that it has brought to me.  And then there is this: just because I am aware of this connection, it does not mean that he is aware or welcoming of the crazy-making awakening that this brings.  All gentle gestures I have made toward him, in the real world, have gone unanswered.  I have to respect that boundary.  The heart longs for spiritual companionship but it also yearns to fulfill the wishes of the one that is loved.  Maybe I’m not what he wants, in the real world, in this lifetime.  And so, I need to learn to walk the line between remaining open and stepping back.

Love is not proud, rude or self seeking.

This year, I have been ruminating on the link between gratitude and love.  And, I’ve been called to begin to tell the stories of love. We may never meet.  Although I would prefer to be with him, as crazy as it sounds, I know we are together, on the inner planes, always.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

I am so grateful to be awake to this love.  Whether he walks with me or not, I will gratefully burn in the fire of this spiritual love and allow a quickening.   I am grateful that the spiritual work that either of us does seems to benefit the other.  And I am grateful that this love is a taste of the sweetness and the madness that is being lost in the love of the Divine.

This is my first story of love.

This is love, in the time of COVID-19.

 

Ten Thousand Days

Fragile

March 23, 2020

Photo: Antonio Poveda Montes

Day 2040 – Day 2046

Last week I was talking with a friend and what has struck me with the way things have gone down this week, is how fragile we are.

We have become a world that is pretty smug with all our machine-learning and virtual assistants.  We have more inequality than we have had in modern times, but we are a more affluent world than we’ve ever been.  We’ve gotten used to everything on demand and innovation solving all our problems.  We are pretty self-satisfied and we think we’ve got it all figured out.  We see people acting in a certain way and we think we have their number. We have built skyscrapers and driverless transportation systems.  We fly through the air, stopping here and there and having weekend breaks to Vegas, Vienna, Barcelona, Zanzibar and beyond.  We’ve got it made and we are the Apex predator.  We’re the big cheese, the big man/woman/person on campus.  In our smugness, we have forgotten just how fragile and precious this little life we have been gifted really is.  And we have not only killed God.  We have become God.  When Oppenheimer quoted the Baghavad Gita in reference to the testing of the first atomic bomb, we should have learned our lesson about replacing God with technology.  As Oppenheimer said, quoting Shiva:  “Now I have become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

The fact is that right now, our faith in technology is failing us.  There are not enough ventilators, beds, or PPE for our medical staff.  We are running out, globally, of a key chemical used for testing. We believed in the myth of technology but planned for Amber risk.  We never planned for Catastrophic scenarios, because technology would save us first.

And the second fact that is salient right now is that with all our technology and all our wealth, we are but a fragile bit of sentient organic matter.  Our worth to the world, if we boiled down our elements, would be just a few dollars.  With all our knowledge and all our money, all our perceived power over one another, in a swift movement across the planet, an organism 1/1000 the size of a human hair is taking us out by the thousands, perhaps the hundreds of thousands, or millions, before we’re done.

Woah, wait, you came here for gratitude, a bit of joy, to feel connected and served.  Well, if we can dwell in the sublime truth of our fragility we will see, without hesitation, how connected we all are.  Only by honouring our connection, being laid out in stark detail in every ER in the world, will we survive this moment in history.  Never before in my lifetime has it been so clear: What I do, what you do, affects the rest of the world.

Maybe the profound truth was revealed to some of us early on.  But the herd? Well the human psyche is fascinating. When faced with our powerlessness, the first thing most of us do is to deny reality.

As late as mid-week last week there was still a cultural story here in Canada that we had to somehow waste energy and precious time managing the threat that those who called in sick could be taking a free ride, bunking off of work.  Within two days our city was in a state of emergency and everything but essential services were supposed to shut. There are fines being imposed for failure to apply social distancing and self-isolation.

Borrowing from Kubler Ross, when a threat comes upon us we go between panic (bargaining) and denial for the first while.  Because of the denial, we are often forced into situations we didn’t choose, for our own good.  I think of the way lower Manhattan, where I lived and worked, was closed down to anyone but residents/first responders during 9/11.  Some people were still in denial, heading to work, even as people were fleeing the area below Christopher St/4th Ave. The police, and then the National Guard, turned people back.

Denial can look a lot like a good sense of humour.   I am all for a good laugh – even gallows humour.  The laugh fortifies us as we slowly let the truth sink in.

What comes after our panicked bargaining response and our denial (which seems to resurface as we bounce between emotions) is probably depression.  This week, when I have tried to meditate, I find it incredibly difficult.  My heart is so heavy with what is happening in our world.  In case you haven’t noticed, they’ve stopped leading the news with global statistics.  The numbers are just too big for us to process in this COVID-19 pandemic.  The last time I recall it being the lead, we were talking about just over 100K cases.  I found today’s numbers.  We are over 400K, globally, of all the cases confirmed.  I would not be surprised if the number of presumptive cases for which tests are not offered is an order of magnitude higher.

Denial will kill so many people.

What worries me is what comes next.  When the anger hits us all, how then will we cope?  I can only hope that we will remember our humanity, then.

I’ve seen some people out and about, taking social distancing and isolation very lightly, even in the midst of a state of emergency.  Non-essential businesses are still open.  When I’m fighting to breathe or my friend or family member is fighting to breathe, how will I forgive that person who just had to go skiing or go to the island for a weekend getaway, or congregate with friends at the beach to watch the sunset, or take their car in for servicing – all during a state of emergency or disaster?

My anger is already here.  I’m locked in my house and I’m going to give into it with a full force so that I can work it through and move on to acceptance.  I’m grateful for a lifetime of personal growth work that gives me the tools and the resilience to meet my dragon and let her rip, without smashing up someone’s car, their reputation or a friendship.  Well, let’s be honest here.  If you are someone who was cavalier in this crisis, the fate of our friendship is already sealed.  Perhaps you will be right and I was over reacting.

I would love to be wrong.

And let’s not even begin to talk about whether our unsustainable lifestyles have had a part to play in this, when so many of us have been sounding the alarm for decades.  I can’t talk about it, but I will feel it and move through it.

I’m grateful to have seen societies with weak infrastructure, many times.  I have seen how fragile are the systems on which we rely.  I’m grateful to have studied complex emergency and been a Risk Manager/Business Continuity and Crisis Manager in a global organization.  I know how to plan for the worst, even if it is unlikely to happen.  I know how to escalate response.  I know all this and even I was thrown by how fast we went from business as usual to High Risk with preparations for a Catastrophic scenario.  I’m grateful to be humbled.

At the moment there is not a lot of joy in my life except in being able to come together with others in solidarity and to attempt to be of service to others.  I fear for the world when the anger hits.  My hope is that we can all remember our Oneness and move through the anger and sadness without violence.

Our bodies, our psyches, our world is fragile.

If you are feeling it like I am, and you are being crushed under the weight of what is happening, if you are saddened or furious, I invite you to go deep into it and feel it.  Feel it for all it’s worth and let it give you the wisdom that is at the heart of every phase of our collective grief.  But, please, don’t take it out on those around you, no matter what jerks they’ve been.  I invite you to bring your darkness here, and let it rip in the comments. Bring it here, lay it all down and let it go.  My comment section can take it.  Your partner’s face, your neighbour’s car – they’re off limits.  Use my comment section.  I won’t publish it if you want to vent. It goes into moderation already; I’ll clean it up later.

As we said, in Manhattan, in the days following 9/11:  Take care of yourself.  Take care of each other.

In our lifetimes, the stakes have not been higher.

 

Photo: Filip Mroz

 

For what are you most grateful, today?