Being Here Now
Stepping into the void of inner quiet, with courage and conviction
Here we are. Where is here, exactly? We’ve lifted from the threshold of the familiar, many of us painfully stretching to keep the tips of our toes in a tender kiss with the known world. Knowing, at least on a subconscious level, eventually we’ll have to let go.
In my last (for a while) in-person therapy session last week, I pondered the stark difference between a singular human death and the extinction of an entire species. A subject I’ve been contemplating for years as I’ve grown better educated about the grave outcomes humanity faces if climate change is not abated. My brilliant therapist responded with, “We all yearn to leave a legacy. Pain stems from the idea that human extinction means our personal legacies will be erased.”
What I see at the mysterious threshold of the known and unknown worlds this pandemic has conjured is an opportunity to reevaluate our legacies — as individuals and as a species. We’re in the big questions now. All of us, together. This togetherness brings with it all of the complications of acute trauma and fierce individualism. I recognize in humanity today the kind of chaotic scurrying ants do when an unanticipated obstacle has impacted their mission. In a short time, the ants find their way back to order, back to their mission. Humans have much to learn from the cooperation and intuition that guides the ant colony forward.
Soon, we’ll settle into a new routine once we get beyond the shock and inconvenience of it all. We’ll begin to tap into the quiet space each of us carries deep within, a quiet many of us have spent our lives avoiding. When Internet outages make work and socializing even more challenging, and house projects become difficult to complete, this quiet will grow to a dizzying crescendo. At first, it might sound like a high-pitched squeal. A buzzing that will attempt to make up for all the noise we’ve grown accustomed to — noise we associate with life. It will eventually fade, granting access to the interior part of the psyche few people regularly visit, if ever. It is the space of being, not doing. Expansion, not production.
The quieter you become, the more you can hear. — Ram Dass
This internal quiet space is the place where the spirit, heart, and body meet to form the mind. The wellness of the human mind depends on the balance and healthfulness of each. When any one of these essential aspects is neglected, over-indulged, or otherwise misaligned, dis-ease and illness arise. When we understand wellbeing as a sum of all parts — the interconnectedness of the mind (spirit, heart, body), people, and nature — we liberate from the suffering of ignorance, loneliness, and projection.
In late 2017, I had the humbling gift of time in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, working with Shipibo healers, plant medicines, and other seekers. When I arrived and settled in, my ears nearly bled from the seemingly out-of-tune cacophony of nature’s orchestra. The clicking, cowling, calling, and crowing of the pitch-black rainforest kept me alarmed the first few nights as I slept alone in my rustic cabin with spiders the size of my hand and thin mesh screening for walls.
I went to the Amazon tightly wound with modern-day worries, phobias, and fears of discomfort. I went seeking relief from the pain I carried in my mind — pain sourced from an imbalance in body, heart, and spirit. Necessity guided me to a refuge without Internet, electricity, cell service, familiar faces, plumbing, or other modern conveniences. And there, in the place where the planet breathes, I found wellbeing and a new way to listen — amid the swirling, once alarming, symphony of unbridled nature.
When I returned to Lima, Perú, I was sickened by the shocking onslaught of noise, pollution, and hurriedness — the familiar ways of the West. So sick, I ended up in the hospital hooked up to an IV. Eventually, my husband and I made our way out of the noise to the calm coast, where I found respite in nature once again and returned to a state of wellbeing — spirit, heart, and body realigned.
I share this as a personal case study in wellbeing, anchored by the uncompromising human need for quiet. While the quiet space within each of us is constant, our ability to access it waivers. The world, leading up to this pandemic, has been building to a mind-shattering apex disconnecting us from ourselves, each other, and nature. We’ve grown so accustomed to the noise, we seek it out and shudder to consider its absence. This modern chaos is not the noise of life — as we often misattribute it. It is the noise of cracks forming in our collective story — cracks in humanity’s legacy. It is the pinnacle of willful ignorance and egoic arrogance. This pinnacle is the size of the head of a needle; only a few will find themselves firmly at the top before it all crumbles down.
There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.— Leonard Cohen
We’re being forced to look inward. To reacquaint with quiet. Regardless of belief or lack thereof, education, culture, or societal programming, most humans on this gracious planet are in a time-out. It will be easier for some than others to ask the big questions of themselves — to speak into the inner void as if we are communicating with the master architect. Others will struggle to let go of the threshold of the familiar, regardless of it burning their toes — it’s the devil they know, after all.
This uncomfortable place we find ourselves — here — is the space between stories [Charles Eisenstein]. It is the place we decide our legacy as individuals and as a species. It is the place we determine if our collective tale will end in just a few short chapters, or if it will continue through new chapters, full of possibility.
Where the story of humanity has been leading us thus far comes to a definitive end in just a few lifetimes. If we stay this uncooperative, unconscious, and willfully ignorant course, what might our legacy be to species who claim the planet millions or billions of years after we’re gone? After the planet reclaims our biodegrable pollution — will we have left only a legacy of mass consumption and self-interest?
I’ve had my share of time in cynicism over the years — thinking the planet would be better off without us. But, my tune has changed. I want to see what kind of miracles we’re capable of. I want to contribute to writing future chapters of this book, keeping the story alive and stretching beyond our limited doors of perception [Aldous Huxley]. In my lifetime, I want to experience the remarkableness of humanity, our pulling together to redirect our sails towards promising new horizons.
The first step is into the quiet — into the vast expanse of our own intimate stories where we can grow self-aware and emotionally resilient. In this quiet space, we can illuminate what has been shamed into the shadows for far too long — shadows currently at the helm of humanity’s ship. We can befriend our broken pieces and quiet the noise we’ve made to drown out our yearning for unconditional love and connection. We can feel into the ache of our physical distance and welcome oxygen to the dwindling spark between us.
This challenging time in our quiet spaces offers nothing short of ascension from one plane of consciousness to another. When we emerge from our COVID-19 chrysalises, we may find that the inner work we’ve courageously tended to has dramatically transformed the world for the better. If not, at least, we will be transformed.
What story do you wish to tell? What legacy do you want to leave?