We are sometimes faced with historic and apocalyptic events (fire, flood, tsunami, earthquakes, etc.) produced by Mother Nature, which could devastate sentimental values, financial security, the well being of our families and at the worst, our very survival. While this kind of devastation may not be threatening us at any one time, what would we do if it did? Such events may make us question our spiritual strength, and the values we hold close to our hearts. The intellectual mind might say, “Sell your land or opportunity, give up your family heritage, get out now, it’s too risky to hold steady.” Or, the spiritual mind might say, “Trust… trust in spirit and no matter the outcome all will be well.” How does humanity reconcile this inner conflict in a way to bring peace and rest to the spirit and mind?
(Kathy W., Boulder, Colorado)
Humanity – like all human institutions, families, societies, and countries, etc. – is made up of individuals. For you, having just lived through historic wildfires in Colorado, I can imagine this question is deeply personal. It is also universal, as any of us could have our lives and households threatened as you recently have. Thank you for inviting us to join you in the exploration.
“That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” (Nietzsche)
We are the lucky ones, for whom these experiences – brushes with death or the threat of serious loss – are rare events. This is, I am increasingly aware, a luxury many in the world do not have. For all of us, these events offer the opportunity to rediscover and commit to what we value most.
Whether or not we are undergoing personally what you describe as apocalyptic events, I think most would agree that life today is becoming increasingly intense. Not all times in life allow for rest; some require intense, prolonged effort. Though we might not choose the difficult path, this effort makes us stronger.
“Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel.” (Middle Eastern saying)
For me, being human is being a bridge between heaven and earth. We each make our unique contribution to Life’s evolution by making our values manifest in the physical world. We hold both points of view – the eternal and the finite – within us. A sense of conflict is natural.
As I write this, I am in Dubai. I see the diversity of cultures, religions, value systems. It is not always comfortable, but both mind and spirit must have their share. Each aspect of our humanity needs care, attention and nourishment. Our work is to find our integrity, to re-integrate ourselves through our choices.
In my experience, the solution you seek is not a short-term one. If the muscles of peace and rest are not developed along the way, they will not be there for us when we need them. This is the discipline of the creative process, as represented in Station 11 (Pruning) of the Wheel of Creativity. Coping with tough times is made easier or harder by what we do day in and day out.
“We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
The Wheel of Creativity describes the human experience as fourfold: mental, spiritual, physical and emotional. The energy we embody in the world flows differently through our bodies, minds, spirits and hearts. Inner conflicts emerge when we are unaware of or uncommitted to the things we hold most dear, when mind, heart, body and spirit are out of sync. Catastrophic experiences assist us in awakening by revealing to us what we hold most dear, and what we are willing to lose.
In order to reconcile these conflicts, I propose developing two daily habits of self-care, within and without.
- Feed yourself. Feed and strengthen all aspects of your humanity daily: your body, your mind, your spirit and your heart. Any neglected area puts you out of balance and makes you vulnerable to overreactions when times get tough.
- Nurture your connections. Whether it is religion, family, creativity or volunteerism, identify what gives meaning and purpose to your life. Nurture your connections in the good times, and your way will be clearer through difficult times.
Intensity in any form calls us to define ourselves and to sink our roots more deeply into that which grounds us. It is our way of life, practiced on a daily basis, that gives us peace, no matter what kind of circumstances Life brings. Whatever the choices that confront us, all options have consequences; neither is right or wrong. In the end, whether we stay and fight or let go and surrender, Life (in the eternal sense) goes on. And we go on with it.
P.S. Post your questions on the Wheel of Creativity Facebook page, and I’ll answer one here every Friday.