Sitting Still by Frank Vogt

Posted on 3/27/20

Many positive evolutions throughout human history were set in motion in times of crises and difficulty. Technical advances made during different phases of the Bubonic plague changed the world in profound ways. In 1665, Isaac Newton was sent home from Trinity College, Cambridge during a pandemic outbreak only to discover the theory of gravity. Crises forge change, forcing us beyond our previous capacity.

So while most of us will not create life-changing inventions or theories in the upcoming weeks or months ahead, we do have a rare opportunity for personal growth and self-actualization. I am thinking more about subtle internal changes rather than that of our outer worldly achievements.

I believe there are good reasons for turning the focus within. We live in a hyperactive society where we continuously look for ways to attain self-made personal goals. Busy with work, social networking, physical fitness, entertainment, even personal wellness. We like to be in the ‘doing’ phase of life. But this shift I am suggesting is not about doing more but rather about retreating from our ingrained ways of doing things.

Imagine a universal game of Simon Says where Simon is a compulsive cleaner! The mindful attention that strict hygiene protocol requires is in itself a meditation practice- wash all parts of the hands/don’t touch the face/wipe clean the doorknobs/take clothes off as soon as I come in and don’t touch anything, all this requires mindful dedication. The mindful game has huge stakes in flattening the contagion curve and could work no other way. This level of attention to detail raises our consciousness to new heights that works as a type of superpower. Once this mindful muscle is activated it will want to be fed. After the virus has abated we can focus this energy in many other compelling ways. This is perhaps one of the reasons that disaster often seeds invention - sheer concentration is amplified.

Concentration is to the mind as compassion is to the heart. Think of all the changes we have made to protect the people of the world. Anyone can get really sick from the Covid-19 virus and we all know that some are more vulnerable than others. We are willing (with some prodding) to temporarily suspend our way of life to protect the health and lives of others. What an extraordinary act of compassion! The Sanskrit term used in many eastern spiritual traditions call it “Maha Karuna”, big love, big compassion, big heart.

Compassionate behaviors change how we are in the world. While it may not be seen immediately, as we are currently physically isolated, imagine the magic of the next time we congregate without anxiety. How wonderful it will be to be in the company of our loved ones. Partly because “distance makes the heart grow fonder” but also partly because we have opened our hearts to the welfare of the world.

I predict a profound change will be cultivated by the emotional discomfort we may be feeling through these hard times. When we are comfortable we tend to only shift in micro evolutions. Uncertainty shakes us out of old habitual patterns and awakens new perceptions allowing us to redefine our personal mission and reevaluate the beauty already present in our lives. No one would choose this health threat as a means to instigate change. All we can do now is choose how we cultivate our mind and heart around it. Perhaps we owe it to ourselves to challenge and adjust the way we live. There is no doubt our world needs any positive transformation right now. Meditation practice is my best solution for cultivating a system that allows those shifts to take place. Meditation is not to control the mind or attain some perfect state of mental focus but rather a way to unpack and unwind the resistance we have to change. By expanding beyond our habitual and egoistic mind states we can get out of our own way and facilitate an open approach to the present. We do not know where this evolution will take us. We need to let go of the known order of things and expand beyond them with a sense of intuitive goodness and compassion for all. We are now presently in our own cocoon state perhaps starting our own personal evolution into something that expands far beyond what we were before.