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
THE TALE OF MOUNTAIN GROVE: A restoration of democracy
There was once a great village called Mountain Grove. And in that village, people from all walks of life lived and worked together in peace. A spirit of compassion and love was at the root of the village’s century-long tradition of harmonious cohabitation. Consequently, all the villagers shared an unwavering faith in their fellow man/woman and a commitment to follow what was best for everyone in the community.
This age of tranquillity went on, until one day, a village-wide vote was called to address an unprecedented crop failure that was the result of a devastating drought. As was the custom in the community, all males and females 18 years of age or older gathered in the town square for three days and two nights to discuss, debate and deliberate what should be done to respond to the crop failure.
Due to the severity of the crisis, tensions ran high. As the deliberations evolved, it became apparent that the community had hopelessly split into two groups. The first camp adopted a more conservative approach, and put forth an immediate rationing plan to avoid depleting the community’s emergency reserve before the next year’s harvest.
Meanwhile, the second camp took a more laissez-faire approach to the crisis and opposed the rationing plan. Instead, they proposed that the village should tap the reserves and increase trade with neighboring communities to make up for the shortage.
After much passionate debate, the time finally arrived for the village to cast their votes. As was also the custom, each man and woman came forward and placed their stone into the bucket of their choosing. Consistent with tradition, each one of the five members of the revered council of elders (who themselves did not vote) monitored the integrity of the process and counted the stones to verify the result.
When the final votes were tallied, the plan to implement a rationing system passed by a thin margin of 444 in favor and 398 against… not an overwhelming majority, but a legitimate one, nonetheless.
Benjamin King fans the flames of resentment
In the days following the vote, tensions boiled over in the village, as many people on the losing side continued to peacefully vent their frustrations with the rationing plan that would soon go into effect. One man by the name of Benjamin King fanned the flames of resentment against the decision. And quickly, he became the leader of a growing post-vote rebellion.
Only two weeks before the rationing plan was to start, King started delivering a series of fiery speeches in the village square, denouncing the vote and accusing the council of elders of “fixing” it. Despite having no evidence to support his claims, this self-serving narcissist began to draw a steady following. Within one week, he’d captured the support of around 75 percent of those who’d originally voted against the plan.
At his twice-a-day rallies, Benjamin King repeated his completely unfounded claims of voting fraud, and accused the council of elders and his opposition of nefariously trying to silence him. Only five days before the implementation of the food crisis management plan (as it came to be called), the firebrand speaker’s audiences grew to overwhelm the small minority of anti-rationing voters who had come to accept the results of the vote and urged respect for the time-tested traditions of their democracy.
Meanwhile, the council of elders and others within the victorious block looked on nervously, as the revolt continued to grow in numbers. But the wise group of esteemed and compassionate elders encouraged supporters of the rationing plan to remain calm. The council of five expected that faith in the legitimacy of the vote, as well as the villagers’ deep-rooted respect for one another, would ultimately prevail in the end.
A secret plan
With each passing day, Benjamin King’s rallies grew more outlandish, and his audiences swelled to encompass nearly 90 percent of those who had voted against the plan. Finally, only three days before the rationing program was to begin, some of his most militant supporters decided it was time to act. These violent agitators organized a secret plan to kidnap the council of elders, and kill them if they refused to publicly admit to the village that they had rigged the vote.
As tensions reached a feverish pitch in the community, word began to quietly spread, among those in the ranks of the revolt, that the day of forceful action was ahead. On the day before the start of rationing, the conflict reached its climax when a contingent of about 180 of Benjamin King’s supporters converged on the village square, armed with rifles, and readied themselves to march to the house of elders.
In an absurd scene fitting of a shameless demagogue, King stood to the side of the militia, shouting incomprehensible words into a megaphone while his supporters prepared to fight his illusionary battle for him. The foolish but heavily armed militia marched, unopposed, straight through the village and toward their destination.
The village was eerily silent, as if a mass exodus had just taken place. But when the militia arrived at the humble residence of the council of elders, they were taken aback by what they saw.
Nearly 500 unarmed men, women and children stood directly in front of the entrance to the house, blocking access to the elders. Word had gotten out about the raid, and the village had joined to protect their beloved wise men and women.
The militia members surveyed the scene of their own peaceful brothers and sisters who were willing to lay their lives on the line for what was right. The angry and ignorant mob then aimed their guns, as Benjamin King excitedly yelled, “Stand down or be shot!” into his comically oversized megaphone. The defenders of tradition stood defiantly, as the militia prepared to pull their triggers.
A thick and mysterious blue mist
But in the split-second just before the first shot could be fired, a thick and mysterious blue mist suddenly enveloped the militia, and an old woman appeared in front of them. The strange mist then lifted, and the violent rebels were shocked to discover that they were no longer holding their rifles. Their arms had disappeared into thin air!
Each of the protectors of decency and all of the militia members fell instantly to their knees in homage, as the old woman took three steps forward in the direction of the only person still standing… Benjamin King. The old woman stared straight into the tyrant’s eyes and spoke:
“It’s a great affront to the wisdom of your ancestors and traditions to act in the disgraceful manner that you have. But it’s an even greater affront to the spirit of your creator that you’d be willing to harm your own brethren to fulfill your sick desire for control and power. “
The old mystic woman placed her right hand on her heart, and through an unseen but profoundly felt power, finally brought the leader of the would-be massacre to his knees. She then spoke once more:
“May your soul find the healing that it so desperately needs, and may your dark desire to inflict harm on others give way to the light of spirit, truth and righteousness.”
The old woman vanished as fast as she had first appeared. The dazzled villagers stood, with tears in their eyes, and looked off in the direction of the village farm with disbelief. The fields were bursting with fresh vegetables and grain, as far as their eyes could see! A season of crisis had miraculously transformed into a season of abundance and gratitude. Partisans on both sides rejoiced, as the village unified, even stronger together than before.
Following the day of “many miracles,” as this sequence of events became known, the entire village unanimously voted to banish Benjamin King into the forest for the duration of a year. With ample provisions provided, the divisive and egotistical leader submitted to his fate, and left for the forest to mend his heart and set his soul right.
Karma has a funny way of catching back up with us. Sometimes, its response is immediate. Examples of instant karma include the carjacker who crashes a stolen car, leading to his arrest, or the selfless working person who wins a lottery ticket just moments after giving away his last dollar.
However, for most of us, karma is not delivered in such a swift and dramatic fashion. Rather, it usually takes days, weeks, months, decades and even lifetimes to manifest completely. When karma finally does emerge, its presence can be quite painful, and seemingly unbearable.
In short, one cannot run from their own karma! It is the direct reflection of our thoughts, intentions and actions, put out to the Universe in vibrational form.
While we cannot hide from our own karma, we can all learn to become more mindful of the cosmic interplay between it and the impact that our thoughts, intentions and actions may have on the world around us.
Something else that we can all practice is to not lament or resist our karmic events as they occur. The unpleasant experiences that we endure, because of our karma, only become more extreme when we fight against what is.
The best thing we can all do is practice acceptance, when we find ourselves caught in a karmic sequence of events. This allows us to become both a conscious witness and a knowing participant in the encounter. And, in turn, we can engage karma the way it is intended: to learn from it and grow.
We cannot hide from karma
Karmic events provide us with invaluable opportunities for personal transformation and growth. They can teach us a great deal about those things that are established qualities of our earthly existence. The more uplifting qualities include compassion, acceptance, forgiveness and love. Some of the darker qualities include anger, fear, jealousy and hate.
What makes karma such an outstanding teacher? Karma instructs us by reflecting our own vibrations of thoughts, intentions and actions back onto us. Only the Universe could devise a scheme so ingenious as to make us all co-directors in the unfolding of our own cosmic screenplays. We all have the choice to reorient our behaviors and reactions, in response to our karmic predicaments.
Unfortunately, in Western culture, karma is not always esteemed as the great and venerable teacher that it truly is. If it were, then our society would not cast such a selfish and misguided vision onto the world. We would understand that our actions have consequences, and that what we put out, we receive back.
The plundering of Mother Earth, senseless wars of aggression and the stubborn pervasiveness of greed, centered on the almighty dollar, would all end. A people mindful of karmic law would heed the wise words of the “Golden Rule,” which famously states: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Deep down, what each of us badly yearns for is to know and experience love. So, let us spread positive karma by treating the Earth and all her beings (including our fellow humans) with peace, respect and affection. If we each make the conscious choice to be mindful of our own karma, it will not be long before it positively comes back around tenfold!