Mindful Musings

“Dreams worth Chasing”

By: Forrest RiversThe Significance of Dreams John, 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.

Mindful Musings

“Let Go, Let God”: Words of Wisdom amid a CrisisRecovery Greeting Card - Let Go Let God | RecoveryShopBy: Forrest Rivers

Like many people, when the outbreak of COVID-19 reached North America I found myself glued to my computer following the latest news about the terrible virus. Many questions from the media’s early coverage soon arose in my mind:

  • Was the crisis being overblown by money hungry corporate news outlets seeking to turn record profits?
  • Have I already contracted the virus?
  • Will my elderly parents avoid getting sick?
  • Are world leaders really doing all they can to protect us from the pandemic?
  • Should we even look to our governments to protect us or would we better off shifting that responsibility to individuals, families and communities?
  • How can I help to alleviate suffering for other people during this time?

 

The questions went on and on and on. Consequently, From the second week of March (the start of social distancing) right on through the first week of May, I spent countless hours reading everything on the web related to COVID-19 to gain a deeper understanding of this historic and consciousness altering event. After many weeks of having near anxiety attacks brought upon by “news binging”, I finally realized that like millions of other people, I had become consumed by the endless emotion train of confusion, fear, paranoia and genuine sadness for the fate of humanity. On the one hand, it is only natural for us all to want to know every developing detail about the pandemic and its cascading effects upon society. After all, we are presently facing our generation’s greatest existential, public health and economic crises’ all at once! On the other hand, such heavy preoccupation with COVID-19 related news also has the unsettling tendency to pull us away from the present moment.

Every minute we spend obsessively surfing the web is a minute we waste living HERE NOW. Is it wise for our own and our loved ones’ safety to keep an eye on the latest developments? Absolutely! However, there is a balance that must be maintained. From a spiritual standpoint, it may be more beneficial for us to focus our awareness on soulfully rich activities that increase our overall sense of well-being. Establishing daily routines built around positive and uplifting practices like meditation, nature walks and creative expression can go a long way in cultivating a peace within ourselves that can effortlessly be shared with those who are suffering in these times. My old meditation teacher, Dave Smith, used to have an awesome saying that helped his students let go of their anxious and fear-based thoughts during challenging life events: “this is how it is now.” Simple, yet profound. Far from asking us to close our hearts in response to this crisis, such a statement invites us to fully open our hearts through truly surrendering to what is…. even if what we find is discomfort. For that emotion, too, shall past.

Sitting in front of the computer or television set day after day reading every little tidbit of news on COVID 19 will only fill us with anxiety and make us unable to respond consciously to this crisis.  When I sat down to write this piece, I became aware of my own hypocrisy on this point.  So, I made the choice to begin each morning with a 30-minute meditation rather than pick up my computer and work myself up into a frenzy over the latest frightening news. For me, this was an empowering decision as it showed that I can in fact control my mind (I was beginning to doubt myself!) and find some semblance of inner peace amid a fearful climate of sickness and poverty. If I can empower myself, then you can certainly do it too! Maybe, in addition to my beloved meditation teacher’s mantra we can also adopt a second one that is just as relevant to the times we live in…. “Let Go, Let God”.

Mindful Musings

“Choose Faith, Not Belief In these Troubled Times”

By: Forrest Rivers

Faith is a beautiful thing. It can be compared to a budding flower, intuitively growing into its purpose to inspire and give life. However, this inspiring quality is too often confused with belief.

Faith and belief are not the same thing. Belief says: Through my rational mind, I think all things might be one. Or, in the future, I think I will succeed as an artist. Faith says: Within my soul, I feel all things are one. Or, I know I am already a successful artist … the world just hasn’t yet found out.

Belief thinks. Faith knows. Belief is fleeting, and can easily be broken down at the first sign of personal adversity or crisis. Hence, this popular phrase following a trying life circumstance: “I don’t know what to believe in anymore.”

The reason why belief is so fragile is because it is a projection of the mind’s ego. One of the defining characteristics of the ego-mind is that it views the world through the lens of separation. And because it sees itself as separate from the one unified consciousness, its thoughts are not truly rooted in anything but its own delusions of how it ‘thinks’ the world is.

This lack of intuitive knowing may also explain why belief often produces intense religious and political dogmas. In the absence of a deeper understanding, one begins to question the certainty of their own convictions and sets out to convert others to validate their ‘truth’ for them.

In contrast to belief is faith. Faith is the conquering of fear through inner surrender. It is born through one’s intuitive knowing and is strengthened through heartfelt prayer and meditation. Faith also finds its expression through participation in authentic acts of love and kindness.

Faith is firmly rooted in one’s own direct experience and soulful reflection. Another inspiring aspect of faith is that it takes on an eternal quality of higher truth that needs not be spoken to convert would-be believers.

For a person of faith, it is enough to know, for example, that Jesus and Krishna are sons of God in the respective Christian and Hindu traditions. Similarly, it is enough for those from Native American traditions to know (through direct experience) that in both form and spirit, the Earth is a perfect expression of divine awareness. With faith, one has no desire to convert others, for what is known can only be arrived at within.

The desire to inspire others through sharing wisdom and baring one’s soul is a hallmark of faith. The desire to control another’s thoughts is a hallmark of belief. The former is the source of inspiration for the sincerest artists, counsellors and spiritual seekers. The latter is too often the motivation for politicians, religious leaders and captains of industry. Faith heals and unites. Belief injures and divides.

These exceptional times that we find ourselves in have been mostly defined by our attachments to extreme belief. For example, amid the devastating backdrop of the COVID-19 health crisis, there is an alarming number of people who strongly believe that this pandemic is grossly overblown, despite medical evidence showing how horrifying this illness really is.

  Faith vs. belief


woman with surgical mask in front of laptop

Until recently, I used to be one of those people who believed that this pandemic was overblown, in order for political elites to control the people in their quest for total tyranny. But then I began hearing direct encounters from doctors (including from my own physician sister, who works in the ER) who have witnessed, firsthand, the destructive impact of the virus.

Another manifestation of extreme belief that has emerged in these times is the view that this pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse are signs that the apocalypse has arrived. Internet posts on this very topic have rapidly multiplied over the past six weeks, while the world has been in shutdown.

Of course, the negative consequences of current belief systems are there for us all to see. A particularly strong example is that of the current anti-shutdown protests in America. These protesters are demanding an immediate end to the shutdowns, even though virus cases are on the rise.

Fortunately, bubbling just below the surface is a faith-based perspective that transcends the realm of belief altogether. Viewed from this vantage point, many people of faith are increasingly coming to see this pandemic through a lens of greater awareness.

This expression of faith regards COVID-19 and all the challenges it presents as humanity’s golden opportunity to move beyond the state of ego-consciousness we have been in. Such a perspective extends beyond all divisive political, religious and societal dogmas, because it has everything to do with our own collective spiritual evolution as one human family.

Remember: Belief injures and divides. Faith heals and unites. Let faith be your guide in these troubled times!

******This article was originally published on themindfulword.org