Another Virus Weakens Solidarity

The invasion of Ukraine by Putin is a virus that will injure and kill countless human beings and continue to debilitate our sense of agency and unity. This attack is particularly egregious because it comes on the heels of COVID which has weakened tolerance, trust and energy globally. It is incumbent on us to address feelings of powerlessness and find ways to cultivate individual and collective agency. We can’t let this act of aggression distract our resolve and work to bring in a kinder, gentler world that is balanced and in harmony with nature and inner peace.

While viruses are recognized as a natural part of our ecosystem, the transmission of illness and disease can also be attributed to human behavior and activities such as health and well-being, sanitation measures or polluting. Similarly, while an invasion of a country or war may be accepted as a ‘normal’ in world history, they can also be perceived as indicative of destructive patterns of thinking.

Our perspective matters. Perspective influences how we respond individually and collectively. If we think an illness or an invasion are natural or inevitable conditions of humanity rather than something we can prevent or control— we may not feel a sense of agency. We may not take responsibility.

Social media, technology and news reporting have made it difficult to assess what’s true and what’s happening in the outside world. Still, we are effected intimately. Information about the pandemic or events surrounding a war can appear both clear-cut and elusive depending on how it is presented, but still, we are effected intimately. Extreme contrasts lead to confusion, feelings of powerlessness and greater division in society because we distrust what we can not see, we retreat.

How can we gain perspective at a time when we are faced with global conflicts that are complex and appear life-threatening? How can we mitigate feelings of powerlessness and continue to exercise agency?

Consider these strategies that can help keep your mind clear and focused on what matters:

  1. Balanced Technology
  2. Micro-Macro Thinking
  3. Seek Connection Novelty

Balanced Technology: Turn off your devices for a significant amount of time daily. This is not to say bury your head in the sand. Circumstances require you keep your eyes and ears open and that you read, however, information overload neutralizes sensitivity and our ability to discern the truth and the best response to a happening. Think about going into a perfume stop and trying on several fragrances one right after the other. Eventually, you can’t distinguish between scents. This is the same with information. Turn off your devices and replace moments with deliberate silent activities. Sit in meditation. Go for a long walk. No talking. Disconnect entirely from information bytes and input.

Micro-Macro Thinking: Make connections between what’s happening in your personal life to what’s happening in the world. This requires introspection. Pay attention to the fine details of your daily life and become aware of how you absorb and process your present experience. Then, slowly observe how similar patterns of thought and behavior appear reflected in situations in society. Ask: How does my personal experience (micro) show up in the collective space (macro)? What can I learn about these similarities?

Seek Connection Novelty: Do something new or spontaneous that involves another person. Connecting with a person (a friend, acquaintance, colleague), especially if they come from outside your ‘main’ circle– can be reaffirming that cultivating soft, kind and empathetic relationships matter. Often, when we’re bombarded with negative news, information overload or grappling with the stress of ongoing, confusing global events that make us feel pitted against each other and vulnerable–we stick in a closed circle, we shut down, we become repressed or defensive, we isolate and forget how to connect with others that may be different than ourselves. We need to practice simplicity and fearlessness with other people from all backgrounds. The novel experience can be as simple as getting together and telling an awkward truth, taking an unexplored route together, attending an event or simply breaking bread.

Change Agency from a Light Tower

“There is no loftier mission than to approach the Divinity nearer than other men and to disseminate the divine rays among mankind.”

Ludwig van Beethoven

What do we owe the world if we are healthy and happy? How do we feel in the presence of a joyful human being? What does a person who is not suffering need? I’ve been contemplating these questions in the time of the Coronavirus.

I remember living in Abu Dhabi during the Egyptian Revolution and the Arab Spring. At that time, I wrote a piece called, Losing the Middle East. It starts:

Forgive me, God- for I am writing this from the comfort of a five star hotel. While young men and women are battling each other for freedom on the streets of Cairo, I am taking a jog around a manicured Abu Dhabi, a safe haven while I toil with all that has become undone.

In the time of the Coronavirus, there are those who are sick and dying. Amen.

There are others who are fortunate and distancing. Some are outside protesting and dismantling unjust things. Others are waiting it out or stuck in survival-mode routines. And then, there are those who are healthy and happy and exercising agency from a light tower of their making. What does this mean?

It means that the world has changed and continues to change rapidly since the Arab Spring. Human beings are responding to change differently and each response is acceptable and worthy. More importantly, there is evidence to suggest that there is a growing number of people emerging, a new consciousness, if you will, moving toward a revolutionary activity I call Light Agency.

Lighthouse, Ríos, 2015

Light Agency is about letting go of fear and anything that makes us feel small, powerless, guilty and worried. It’s about choosing to live fully in the present moment and dedicating time to manifesting. It’s about revolutionizing the world by reviving the circuits within and then holding the live circuits open. It’s about sitting and basking in light, making a moment-by-moment commitment to focus on love, happiness and vitality. It’s about applying reiki to the world by paying attention to how you move your body through space-time for healing. It’s about infusing yourself with light because you know that nothing travels faster than the speed of light and you want to disseminate this feeling everywhere, to everybody, all the time.

Forgive me, Father—for I wanted to see the pyramids so badly! I had read about the energy, the power underneath! 
Forgive me, God— for today is Friday and from the comfort of my terrace, I see the white mosque over on the other side of the bay. It just floats out there as if it were being held magically over the water. And I am here with a fire in my heart.

Over the holiday, I sat with my sister holding her baby daughter who is a precious jewel. I observed the light bouncing off her eyes as they mirrored each other; it was the miracle of life and motherhood, infused with lightness of being, a sense of gratitude, peace and purpose. Delighted by this light, the curious teacher in me wondered: What can I say that will help my sister in this moment?

That’s when I fumbled and missed it.

I want to kneel down beside the barefoot men 
who are inside praying to you, our father.
But I choose to stay here and write.

Ageless Mind Body

To be yourself and act fully in the moment is to be young.

We are born authentic, curious and engaged. Children are this way naturally but as we grow older, we absorb knowledge and the perceptions of others, we integrate life experience which translates into fear and insecurity. These things weigh heavy on the mind body. We can age crooked, tired and sick. Or, we can age gracefully. This is the topic of ageless mind body, thinking about how we can we preserve youthfulness and vitality as we grow older.

I am walking down a long, wide road. It’s early fall and I breathe in the cool crisp air. My gait is easy. I feel gentleness and a window opening. I’m both wise and adolescent simultaneously. I wander into a jewelry store and consider an item that has a secret meaning. My eyes moisten with memories of the past, but I am fully in the present and there is a future Self hovering over me. I’m standing at the intersection of time. I am ageless mind body.

I pass by an old toy store. I marvel at the puzzles and charming puppets. I want to go inside and touch the colorful figurines. I’m aware that my feelings about toy stores are changing. My children are no longer with me. I am now the old man behind the counter. I am nobody and somebody. There is timeless magic in an antique store filled with playful things.

We can prepare ourselves for a youthful, vital old age followed by a peaceful death. We can relax our face and body scars. We can heal old wounds and feel well. We can let go of excess weight. It is our nature to be authentic, curious and engaged—to be ageless, happy, light and free; to choose healthy, deeply satisfying activities that will have a positive impact on our mind body.

There is a man who has one shoulder lower than the other. Further down the path, a woman with a hump on her back. I think, these are medical abnormalities. On the other hand, I feel like it’s the burden they carry. In response to this scene, I watch my step and begin to walk mindfully. I feel each step aligned in weight and balance. To my right, a woman jogs with robust legs and she has laugh lines just like me. Beyond, there is an elderly couple holding hands and I estimate their age to be somewhere between seventy-nine and ninety. They are petite and lovely.

El Retiro, Madrid, 2021

When we break with routine and monotony, we are refreshed and exhilarated. When we change our environment our eyes open anew. These are small leaps into youthfulness and vitality; we become aware of different worlds that exist beyond our small world and that moves us beyond our daily suffering.

We become aware we are not our body, that our mind is a tool of perception. We learn that ageless mind body is a mindful feedback loop in which perception impacts behavior and behavior impacts perception and this sheds new light onto our bodies.

I engage with the butcher when I go to buy meat for dinner. I am aware that I am younger and more relaxed when I open up to him and share something beyond my order. Something relaxes in my face and eyes and I see this in his face and in his eyes. I become a magnet with my lips and with my eyes and with laughter. It’s not that I don’t see age, I do. I see wrinkles, I see folds on elbows and thinning hair. But there is something else there– humor, curiosity and irony. That is ageless mind body.