Photo by Christiaan Huynen(unsplash.com/creative commons)
In our current fight against COVID-19, some hope has emerged with the development and distribution of multiple vaccines. The global rollout of these vaccines obviously holds great promise that one day very soon we will be able to put this pandemic behind us and return to some semblance of “normalcy”. However, as we begin to do so let us remember the profound spiritual lessons that we have learned during this challenging time. The past year has forced each of us as individuals to take a long and honest look at ourselves. The many hours that we have spent in solitude has afforded us with a rare and temporary respite from the hyper fast paced material world we inhabit.
Greater time spent in solitude has led many people to reflect more deeply on what holds meaning in their lives. More time alone has surely been a source of extreme mental suffering for some. However, for others it has been a fruitful time to quiet their minds and re-channel their attention from outward egoic concerns (like money, jobs, and social status) to the inner realms of spirit. Since the start of the pandemic, I have talked to many people who say they have used this time to start a regular prayer or meditation practice. I also have spoken with others who relate how this period has sparked a renewed sense of love and gratitude for the natural world. Still, other inspiring souls I have crossed paths with say that this pandemic has pushed them to follow their dreams and spend their time doing what they love. Over the past year, a very dear friend of mine has spent his time at home starting an uplifting you tube channel that now has nearly 25,000 faithful subscribers! Another close friend of mine has honed his love for woodworking and now hopes to abandon his office job and sell his wood work for a living. Other folks in my orbit have spent this time planting wonderful gardens, experimenting with off-grid living, and diving into various forms of creative expression. And in moving fashion, other beings I know have used this time to fully commit themselves to serving others. Of course, the spirit of service is perhaps the greatest spiritual practice of all.
Most profoundly, COVID-19 has taught us that we are all interconnected and that our intentions, thoughts, and actions have karmic consequences that impact us all. As one world, we have truly suffered through this trying ordeal together. As the world charts its recovery from this time of great suffering, the following question emerges: how will we incorporate the higher wisdom that we have gained from this shared experience? The fate and soulful evolution of our species hinges upon this question. Deep within me, I have a mountain of faith that we are all up to the enormous task of becoming the wisdom that has blossomed from our collective experience of suffering. Despite the heavy and tragic loss of life left in its wake, COVID-19 may soon be regarded as one of the latest light posts on the path of humanity’s spiritual awakening.
Forrest Rivers is a writer and teacher who lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His new book, COVID-19 and Humanity’s Spiritual Awakening is now available on Amazon HERE.
(An excerpt from my book COVID-19 and Humanity’s Spiritual Awakening)
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. In inspiring fashion, my friend and his wife have decided that there is no better time than now to pursue their dream and take a courageous leap into the unknown!
During this period of crisis, stories like John’s are growing with greater frequency. With far more time 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 dreams of becoming a wood-worker and 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 is 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 during these times 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.