By: Forrest RiversJohn, a friend of mine from Colorado, shared his dreams with me on a (socially distanced) yet inspiring hike through the mountains together. In the year leading up to the pandemic, this highly talented sound engineer and music booker spent around 80 hours a week working at a music venue. While he found his work satisfying, he confided in me that the long hours and breakneck pace of booking bands six nights a week and running sound for those same acts had taken a toll on him emotionally. Like many skilled workers in the entertainment industry, John suddenly found himself unemployed when all bars and music venues were forced to shut down as COVID-19 began its rampage through the United States. But he was one of the lucky ones. In contrast to the countless millions of frustrated and desperate laid off workers that would follow, John experienced a smooth transition to the unemployment rolls. He related to me that the time away from his job has provided him with greater balance and fulfillment in his life. It has also strengthened his relationship with his wife and filled him with more gratitude for all the positive things in his life. Most of all, his hiatus from the daily grind has given John the courage to chase his dreams and live life to the fullest. His dream is to move off to a remote and beautiful track of land his mother owns outside of Moab, Utah. Specifically, John and his wife want to live on that land in an RV that they recently purchased. In inspiring fashion, the couple has decided that there is no better time then now to pursue their dream and take a courageous leap into the unknown!
During this period of crisis, stories like John’s are growing in frequency. With far more time off to spend contemplating our lives, many people are coming to the realization that now is the perfect time to finally pursue their dreams. With death staring us in the face and with the highest percentage of people out of work since the Great Depression, this moment has carved out an existential crossroads that we are all being called to navigate. Some of the questions we may be asking ourselves are as follows:
Once this crisis ends, do I really want to rejoin the “rat race” once more?
How might following a different path enrich me spiritually?
Is it really too late to change directions and follow my dreams?
How can I contribute to the uplifting of the human race?
As more of us begin asking these questions, we will inevitably come to find our answers through spirited moments of contemplation. And in these precious moments, the answers we seek will become clear as day like it has for my friend John. Despite its tragic death toll, COVID-19 has also been something of a blessing for many people who have felt “trapped” in the capitalist machine for far too long. The conditions are ripe to pour one’s time and energy into pursuits that more meaningfully serve the highest qualities of the human spirit. For other people, like my brother soul Alex, this pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse has only confirmed for him that he wants to take decisive steps in the next year to leave his well-paying engineering job and follow his dream of co-founding an off the grid peaceful community with other like-minded beings. In his mind, the economic system has badly failed far too many people and he would like the opportunity to show that a better way his possible. He envisions a community that serves the dual aims of providing a space fully conducive to spiritual growth while being grounded in the spirit of service. A beautiful and noble dream indeed! So beautiful and noble, in fact, that I hope to co-found this very community with him!
It is fully within our power to shift our perspective of COVID-19 from one of “doom and gloom”, to that of seeing this moment as a rare opportunity to follow our dreams through the grace of suffering. If we can manage to flip the dial of our awareness from pessimism to hope there is no limit to how far we can evolve in our consciousness and in our union with the One that has been called by many names.
“Here and Now”
Then star dust
So much revealed
Through this world of forms
About our own awareness
But take a step
Beyond this world of forms
Into a state
As pure and empty
As the day you were born….
Without a care
For how others perceived you
And not yet aware
That life is a journey
To be traveled
With spirit and courage
You truly are nothing more
Then that new born
Free of words
Dwelling in a timeless space
Dancing in the clouds
HERE and NOW.
An eagle, a lion, a wolf, a deer and a bear sat around the campfire for their weekly respite from work. This week, their conversation focused on the foils of humanity.As the embodiment of freedom and the first messenger of the Creator, the Eagle was the first to speak:
“My brothers and sisters, the humans, seem to be deluded into thinking they’re free. They seem to think that one can achieve freedom through the mind’s subjugation of nature. Why, that’s preposterous! Is it not, dear friends?”
All nodded in emphatic agreement, as the Eagle continued to speak:
“Through severing itself from the sacredness of the wild, humanity has only enslaved itself. For all beings draw their physical and spiritual sustenance from the Earth. She is our direct access point to the Creator. No being can fully connect with the Supreme Consciousness without communing with the Earth.”
The Eagle paused for a moment and continued:
“So, humans can go on exploiting and desecrating the land with their towers of hubris, talking wires and toxic chemicals, but none of it will satisfy their desperate thirst for freedom.
“Man speaks much about God, but rare is the human who knows that the Great Spirit dwells within the forests, mountains, oceans, rivers and deserts. Sadly, with the exception of their wise native brethren, it seems that humans are destined to follow down their own self-inflicted paths of suffering.”
For several moments, the group grew silent as they nodded their heads in agreement with the wise and venerable Eagle. Finally, the courageous Lion rose to speak:
“It appears to me that freedom is not the only thing that humans are misled about. Humankind is under the mistaken assumption that true courage is to conquer through might, which by way of the Universal law, isn’t morally right.
“True courage isn’t sending young people to fight for the money and power of tyrants. Nor is it courage, to commission expeditions to far-flung corners of the world in pursuit of precious resources and minerals that should never have been dug up from the ground.
“True courage is to look within to the hallowed guides of our being for divine instruction and inspiration: The sun and the moon, the cycle of the seasons, the whispering chorus of the wind, and the ebb and flow of water’s epic journey to the ONE.”
The Lion paused briefly to clear its throat, before proceeding:
“True courage is to stand behind the divine principles of creation and to be shining examples of IT’s perfect heart in form and in spirit—even in cases in which our own moral uncertainty is present.”
Once again, all in the circle grew silent, until it was the loyal Wolf’s turn to speak:
“My brothers and sisters, it’s not just freedom and courage that humans lack. They seem not to comprehend the meaning of loyalty. Loyalty has little to do with one’s peaceful assimilation to conformist rules and structures. Nor does it have anything to do with the jealous guardianship of one’s dogmatic beliefs and lifestyle choices. True loyalty has everything to do with one’s dedication to spirited self-reflection and genuine service to others.”
The Wolf paused for dramatic effect, before completing its thought:
“In our wolf packs, we’re loyal to one another through thick and thin. We’re loyal to one another for precisely this purpose: we’re all on this same journey through the wisdom of form. As far as I can see, humans have yet to learn the depths of this kind of loyalty.”
All stared adoringly at the Wolf for a few moments, until the compassionate Deer assumed the mantle of inspiration:
“Friends, it’s quite apparent to me that the two-leggeds don’t appear to have an adequate understanding of compassion, either. One can’t live freely, be courageous or extend loyalty to others if they’re unable to open their hearts.
“Why, whenever we deer are forced to bury our kin in the ground, owing to another murderous sport hunter, I cry out in vain to the Creator and ask if man has a soul. For how can one kill their earthly brethren for entertainment? “
The Deer wiped a tear from its eye and continued:
“And it’s not just the murder of its own kind! Humans plunder one another in their petty contests for power and domination. How sad and senseless, indeed! The humans fail to understand that compassion extends both inwards and outwards in all directions from the heart, and washes over all beings without exception. True compassion, then, is to see the peace within oneself reflected in all creatures.”
To a jubilant chorus of “Amen,” the majestic Deer bowed to its beloved friends in the circle before sitting back down. At last, it was the faithful Bear’s turn to speak:
“My children and fellow teachers, I have sat here in a most grateful silence and listened to all your lamentations about modern man. I must say that I think your comments are wise and accurate.
“However, I would like to add that our lost human friends are lacking a fifth quality that fully explains why their conceptions of freedom, courage, loyalty and compassion are so sorely lacking. That missing quality is faith, and without it, they can’t understand what it means to be free, courageous, loyal or compassionate. “
The Bear paused for a moment to take a puff of sacred herb from his pipe. He then passed the instrument counter-clockwise and continued:
“Faith is at the root of our being. Think of the faith that bears must have each winter! For months at a time, we go into hibernation. We have tremendous faith that the wisdom of the universe will enable us to pull through the winter and experience the bounty of another springtime in bloom.
“Though mankind may lack a similar faith in themselves, it doesn’t imply that they won’t one day find it. We must not lose faith in humans and turn a blind eye to their suffering. For, as we know all too well, the ill-fated actions of man have an impact on our own quality of life. It’s up to us, the animals, to show them how to live. We must inspire them all to look within themselves.”
At the exact moment that the Bear finished speaking, the group heard a rustling in the forest. All turned in amazement as two human teenagers walked through the woods, with big smiles on their faces.
To the joy of all those gathered, the boy and girl proceeded to sit down in the Lotus position, next to a large stone. Hidden from plain view, the animals watched in delighted silence as the humans recited a moving prayer to the Earth:
“Great Spirit. Mover of the Cosmos. Lover of Morning and Night. We offer you, Mother Earth, our blessings and pray that you enlighten our souls with your compassion, peace and wisdom.
“You’re the essence of beauty and the source of all clarity. Your life-sustaining rain washes over us with all its soulful purity. Your mountain peaks make us humble and reflect the vastness of your inner presence. And in your sacred forests, we feel the truth near and have nothing to fear.
“Earth Goddess: We pray for your protection and for the illumination of our human family. Peace. Peace. Peace.”