Mindful Musings: Dec 16

“To Be and to Love”

By Forrest Rivers

One day during the height of the pandemic, I was sitting with Clay, a very dear and infinitely wise 72-year-old friend of mine. The two of us were basking in the spirit of Oneness and talking about our connection to creation. At some point during the discussion, Clay turned to me with a great big smile on his face and said in a knowing tone that the point of life was “to be and to love.” The meaning of life, he explained, was really that simple. According to my friend, there is never any need to over-intellectualize or philosophize about our existence. Rather, all we have to do is to be and to love. Clay’s words were such a revelation for me, that when I got home that night I pulled out my journal and tried to sincerely recall all the times in my life when I experienced the bliss of just being and loving.

I thought back to the innocence of my childhood days joyously playing capture the flag and basketball in the front yard with my friends without a care in the world. I thought of a poignant moment minutes before a high school track race when my father stood close behind me with love and support. I thought of three profound psychedelic experiences that introduced me to aspects of my “higher self” that I had never before been aware of. I thought of the day when Abbie, my beloved dog, and best friend, first came into my life and how I felt strangely certain that our meeting was more like a reunion of souls over many lifetimes than the introduction it appeared on the surface to be.

I then thought of the countless times lying in bed with my beautiful kindred spirit, Rose, after making love and feeling overwhelmed by the incredible energy and warmth flowing between us. I thought of dancing at my first reggae show and feeling so connected to the music’s sweet and soulful vibrations that I entered a spiritual trance-like state. I thought of the mystical and almost unbelievable moment when Rose and I exchanged multiple blows with a deer while on a walk in the forest. I thought of numerous hikes to the top of rarefied peaks in both the Smoky and Rocky Mountains—- the two magical places where I have lived for most of my 30’s. I thought of my first synchronicities meeting with Myrtle, the wise and godly Cherokee elder who would become my close friend and beloved teacher. I thought of a past trip to Maui, Hawaii, and how that island’s mesmerizing sunsets and transcendent beauty had opened my heart and awakened my spirit. I also thought of the chance encounter that I had with a red robbed monk in the middle of a Nashville, Tennessee green way and the remarkable presence of compassion and equanimity that he radiated. Many other untold moments passed freely from my consciousness to paper as I reflected.

What was it about those moments, I asked myself, that had made them so memorable? Each of these moments brought me into the totality of being fully present with my heart wide open to the wonder of existence. In those precious instances, it is as if my mind stopped clinging to what the next sequence in life would be. Instead of my mind being someplace else, I was just here, swimming in an ocean of pure awareness. In the words of the great teacher, Alan Watts, these moments helped me to “become who I really was.” Though we all experience them, our acknowledgment of these kinds of profound existential snapshots in time have become exceedingly rare. This is due to the fact that in our hyper-rationalist culture we tend to emphasize doing and acquiring over being and loving. However, learning to be and to love is exactly what we need right now if we are to transcend the suffering that this pandemic has inflicted on humanity. Becoming who we are, in an age when all of our vulnerabilities are laid to bare, can feel especially daunting and heavy. But being and loving allows us to meet our deepest fears and anxieties with a certain quality of joy, lightness, and acceptance of what truly is. This way of relating to the world can help us all get on with our healing.

Do you find yourself consumed with worry that another pandemic may soon emerge after this one and claim your own life or that of a loved one next time around? Just focus on being present and genuinely show love to everyone you meet and you will be able to embrace whatever comes your way with calm acceptance and understanding. Are you concerned that the economy will take another nose dive and leave you in desperate financial straits? Just focus on being present and genuinely show love to everyone you meet and you will find that no amount of financial hardship can truly disrupt the eternal seed of stillness that resides deep within your soul. Has all the COVID-19 related social and political unrest left you feeling afraid for the fate of the human race? Just focus on being present and genuinely show love to everyone you meet and you will recognize that all the current divisiveness and outrage are all passing show. One day soon, the peaceful and loving world that we all know is possible will become a living reality.

When we look back on this chaotic, strange and unsettling period in our lives, it is likely that the first things to be remembered will be external events like the shutdowns and social distancing, the economic collapse, the controversial responses to COVID(from both sides of the political aisle)) and the Black Lives Matters protests. However, let us also remember the manner in which we, in the words of Ram Dass, used this “fierce grace”, to grow in our inner capacity to be and to love. Truly, this is the moment of our spiritual awakening. Take a deep breath and revel in the fact that you chose the most remarkable and inspiring time to be alive!

Cheyenne Prayer for Peace
Let us know peace.
For as long as the moon shall rise,
For as long as the rivers shall flow,
For as long as the sun shall shine,
For as long as the grass shall grow,
Let us know peace.
– Cheyenne Prayer

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.