It seems to happen every year this time of year. This year is no exception.
It started when I decided to beef-up my YouTube channel. I wanted to create some free, helpful, supportive, and inspiring videos, figuring that people really needed the support and encouragement right now. With this desire came a sense of urgency. Now is a potent time, I thought. Now more than ever, people need help remembering who they really are and how to access the peace that's innate to their own Beingness!
So I set about trying to make some professional-looking videos. They needed to be well-framed, well-lit, and audibly clear. I needed to remember everything that I wanted to say and do so clearly and concisely, without seeming stiff or forced. Also, my hair needed to look good.
In no time at all, my neck started to hurt, I felt a burning between my shoulder blades, and I felt grumpy and resistant. All the while I was remembering a conversation I had with a writer friend a few years ago. We were talking about the creative process and how free it feels when we let Consciousness flow through us. And then he said something like, "But if you're not having fun, there's something else going on."
Well sure enough, I had stopped having fun. I couldn't get the lighting right: the stupid weather wouldn't cooperate. I couldn't remember what I wanted to say, so I made copious notes, which I mostly memorized, only to end up sounding stiff. I looked at the stupid camera like a deer looking into headlights, and my hair looked like shit.
I tried really hard to hang in there and "be positive," but the pressure kept building and I eventually had a meltdown. But this meltdown wasn't the kind of little-Shelly, pain-body-got-triggered meltdown. This one was different. I raged at myself. I'm so sick of myself! I hate myself! I'm so sick of this shit! And I wondered, Who is the self that I hate, that I'm tired of, and who is the I who is sick and tired of her? I realized that I was sick of the one who was all about push and effort and trying to make things happen. And the pain that I felt was the fury-filled, gnashing-of-teeth pain of inner resistance, an epic inner battle, a fight to hold onto my ego's agenda versus the need to let go, and I thought of Jesus: Take this cup away from me and how they say he sweated blood. And then I realized that I was dying - not literally dying - but that my big fat ego was burning up. Burning up as I laid on the bed suffering. And as bad as it felt, it somehow felt right.
I had told myself that my desire to make a positive contribution via these videos was noble and that I was correct and on purpose. But somewhere along the way, the purity of my desire was hijacked by the ego. Buddhist teaching says that fear and desire are the root of all suffering and that the death of fear and desire is freedom. Well I've done a lot of work on the fear part, but this desire thing is trickier - for me anyway.
And I think about what's happening now, in the world and in our country. As a culture, we tend to avoid the topic of death. We mostly shutter away our old and dying so that we don't have to be reminded that we are all going to die one day. Death is the ultimate loss of control and the human ego hates to not feel in control. The human ego loves to feel that it's accomplishing, moving forward, and making progress.
As Americans, we are intensely identified with achievement - what we want to do, have, and get - and our belief that we are masters of our own fate. But one thing this virus has taught us is this: maybe we're not. And maybe the way that we've been going about our lives isn't actually fun. It's just that we're scared to let go.
And so I can't help but wonder if, like me, we were collectively sick and tired of ourselves, but didn't even know it. Maybe a wise place in our collective psyche said, Enough is enough. We are tired of pushing so hard, striving so hard. And maybe we knew that in order to save ourselves from our self-created, collective unconscious suffering, we needed to get sick - either literally or metaphorically, physically or economically. Maybe countries are like individuals: sometimes we have to feel worse temporarily, before we can create more lasting healing.
How this Jesus-In-the-Garden experience, this crisis, will play out for us collectively we cannot know. How it plays out for us individually will be as unique and varied as we are. Some of us will sweat more blood than others. But this I know, by the example of the man who showed us how: if you can stay present to it all, even if your friends are falling asleep, your suffering will be your glory, and rebirth shall be your reward.
Much love to you all,