Posted by Michael Finkelstein | December 14th, 2020
Ending the Year, WELL!
While most of us are probably happy that 2020 is coming to an end, the current climate is largely unchanged, the fatigue associated with holding on grows that much greater, and there’s no clear end in sight. By itself, this is ominous, if not depressing.
I think it’s also fair to say that the rise in cases of the current “existential threat”, i.e. COVID, over the past month is a result of several factors, including the colder winter months; but fear and fatigue have to be understood properly, as significant contributors to personal risk. Indeed, this can be said of any condition one could mention, from heart disease to cancer. So, interestingly, while the focus is on COVID, the recommendations for prevention apply more broadly; and the more you do for yourself, the less you will be inclined to worry, and the stronger you will become. It’s in that way that things could turn around. As daunting as this time might be, it may actually be your moment to take back some control. Indeed, this could be good news, if you are prepared to meet it head on.
At the same time, another interesting question begs to be asked, as I observe people’s response to the pandemic. Why are more people not taking better care of themselves? As I’ve written previously, even if vaccines help, they will be of only modest benefit, perhaps helping with the current crisis, but doing very little for everything else. If you want to improve your odds, all things considered, you have to improve your health overall! I’ve written previously about what that might mean on a practical level and there is also plenty of advice out there; regarding diet and exercise, supplements, lifestyle and even important conventional medical recommendations. But, it’s curious, with all the good information out there, so many people seem to be locked down by fear. I’m actually thinking that more information is not what you need.
Today, I want to take a different tact and broaden the perspective.
Today, on the cusp of this last lunar cycle of this extraordinary year, I want to introduce something deeper to ponder, something I feel has more potential than any discussion that will help you live to 100, or even just to survive the next year. Today, I want to address the requirement to live well, in order to live long and mostly, to have a meaningful life, whenever the end comes.
For that, I want to draw your attention to something else: the context of your life — appreciating your existence beyond merely physical parameters, and the opportunity in front of you to make the most of it. Without being overly dramatic, it’s certain, and without any effort, surely, death will come. On the other hand, it takes wisdom and considerable self-discipline in order to shift your focus to embracing life and making the most of every opportunity, especially in the face of mortal threat.
Put in another way, if death is certain, the only real question (at least the only part of the equation you have control over) is “how do you want to live?” That’s the choice right in front of you, and is worthy of taking a moment to pause and contemplate fully in order to chose your path as wisely in that context as possible. The fact that you are reading this, and can ponder the question, is already a good sign, so stay with me.
Unlike all other creatures, humans (including you!) are imbued with consciousness – the self-awareness that we are thinking and actually have choices. For all other creatures, there is no ability to recall the past or project the future, all that is is the moment, the now. Instincts direct the animal, in order to survive, physically. Long term “interests,” such as the weather next week, or what happens after death, are not on their radar.
Many spiritual teachers, speak of this concept of now, and similarly suggest we live in the moment; but I think that is confusing to many. For many, the word “now” reflects a moment in time. But that is not the right context. The now referred to by the greatest thinkers is timeless. In fact, it is the only moment – no past, no future. If we misinterpret the now using our colloquial verbiage, we constrain ourselves to a very limited paradigm in which we will lose our bearings, for that special awareness that differentiates us from the animals points us to a timeless, spaceless and formless existence. A strict focus on the temporal and material world will require us to arbitrarily ignore a greater reality.
For humans, with expanded consciousness, time is nothing more than a convenient reduction of the totality of awareness to suit material existence in isolation of the broader context, better understood as consciousness itself. So, the now, if narrowly defined, is a misplacement of focus and the point of the suggestion, to be free of suffering (due to perseveration of past or present concerns,) will remain elusive.
What we must do is to appreciate that our context is different than the animal, as we are uniquely afforded the ability to grasp an expanded reality beyond time and space. Therefore, the essential context for the relief of suffering, and thus our ability to ride out the wave of anxiety regarding any physical peril, is recognition of the whole of existence — a timeless, spaceless, formless world, in which our survival (as conscious beings) is guaranteed. With that perspective we are offered a different strategy in our pursuit of wellbeing – instead of a desperate and monocular focus on the avoidance of disease, a full embrace of our consciousness and what it can offer.
To be in that “now,” means to see the material context as part of a greater whole, and thus not be limited by it. Once we go there, we can put our physical existence into proper place as a rather limited perspective, freeing us up to pursue something greater.
So, how does this help you today? Stop worrying about disease and death. Instead, if you are going to worry, worry about giving up this precious opportunity to see beyond the body. Yes, take care of the body, don’t neglect it’s needs. But, for certain, resist the fear that keeps your consciousness contained in a 3-dimensional world-view. You are more than the animals. Once you embrace this deeper truth, you will see another path altogether. Very likely you will need a teacher who can help you out of the darkness, and you will benefit as well by finding a community that supports you in that pursuit. But, beginning today, at the very least remind yourself to be grateful you have the awareness to make this choice, and then seize the opportunity now.