[Yeah — “contd.” Please bear with the word vomit, if you’re back here to see that I still have more words to share about this dichotomy I’ve been living with.]
When the energy spikes, and the good days strike, I get thinking about the hows of continuing in the world, the changes I want the most. But if I’m being honest, it’s nearly impossible to do this with any degree of specificity. Practically speaking, everything is so hazy. Because I’m not just talking about habits and lifestyle and actionable things. I am thinking a lot about how to build empathy, the place of love and hate, how to build bridges with people I know are in camps at the diametric opposite end from where I am. These are very nebulous ideas, complex issues and I’m in very nascent stages so this is very much a WIP. I have such a long, long, long way to go.
Mostly thoughts exists in a cloud, with clarity that sparkles just for brief moments now and then, in my head. It feels enough for now, because it gives me a lot to chew on and work off of.
Again, this is not something I’d have stumbled on if I didn’t have the opportunity to dig deep into this fertile time. I couldn’t have anticipated this turn in my spiritual growth, if it hasn’t been for this strange season of our times.
I’m hopelessly aware that the opportunity to have this time be spiritually “useful” is an incredible luxury and a privilege. It has taken me a great deal of effort to move from just feeling guilty about it to actually confronting that guilt and allowing for the pain that came when I accepted it.
This is the truth. I am immensely privileged. And not accepting it doesn’t make it any less true. Neither does staying paralysed with guilt. This shift came about when I began to feel frustrated with the passivity that came along with my guilt. It just didn’t feel useful to stay stuck. And merely acknowledging the guilt, speaking or it, expressing it just stopped being enough.
I realised that not moving forward was beginning to feel inauthentic. I feel grief stricken still, especially in context to the shit fest that is COVID-hit India is at the moment, and continues to be with no end in sight. But acknowledging the fact that my personal, inner experience has not always uniformly mirrored the miseries of the outside world has been medicinal.
It was soothing to give myself permission to stay close to my inner experience, which has been divine and enriching a lot of the time. Acknowledging that truth, of what has been peaceful and beautiful for me, doesn’t negate the horrors of the outside (and vice versa), or how I feel about it. Again, the two states can absolutely coexist. I had to liberate myself from the belief that feeling enriched, blissful and like honey on toast even while worrying intensely about the world being ripped to shreds doesn’t make me a fraud.
Displaying solidarity by staying in a state of guilt-induced misery all the time, not acknowledging the full delight of what has been simultaneously happening with me, just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.
I’ll also be totally honest and say I have often stumbled on the odd social media handle and seen what I judgementally call ” people in a bubble” where they’re continuing their influencer life to the hilt, dressing up, posing, doing full photo shoots with jewellery and make up in their homes, or constantly living in #TBT mode, with nary a mention of the mildest undulation in their mental states, let alone the havoc the pandemic is causing in the world. I have had conversations with friends who don’t seem as perturbed by things as me and some of my other friends are, and this too has disturbed me.
But this has also made me acutely aware that I hold a judgement around this. That somehow, I’m also holding myself up to the belief that there is only a limited number of “right” kind of reactions to have. And in the process, I am shrinking away from the opportunity I was being offered, to deepen and really sink into the urgency of what I feel called to.
When I confronted my guilt, and really questioned if it was useful or helping me move towards this after world that I am being called to, a future I am dreaming of, it didn’t take long to realise that it isn’t.
What good has really come from the guilt-struck misery? From shrinking away and not allowing myself the joyful imaginations of a world after, that I am most definitely feeling brewing within me? Why do I believe that I can cancel my privilege and guilt by playing at always being a deep, brooding, feeling person, deeply engaged with the problems of the world? And is it possible to be that person, without the embargo on joyful dreaming, expansion, deepening happiness that has only come from leaning in to my (spiritual) privilege?
I had to swallow in huge gulps the fact that I have a judgement about privilege. And the thing about judgement is, what you judge in the world outside, you almost always judge within yourself.
And so I began to think of what could be possible alternatives to feeling guilty? What are my options? Because the thing is, this invitation to question How To Continue begins with the individual. Systems and structures only change when individuals do. And true, constructive change that can have an impact on shaping a future reality can only happen when you account for the bright positives, as much as the murky dark sides of ourselves.
Even as I rage and froth at inequity pervading the structures that bind and govern us, I’ve become so frustrated with my own passivity and futility in expecting change to come from outside of me. All this, while knowing that the curve to moving from passivity to activity is long. Longer than anyone will have you believe. And how the state of action takes shape is different for everyone. We can’t all be one kind of SJW. But we can do what we can by staying true to ourselves, and leaning in, close to the values we feel deeply about.
I feel keenly that the only way to explore or find possibilities for a
better different way of continuing in the world, is to start with exploring our inner worlds. As individuals. Our own dark sides.
It’s the only way to awaken into a life that is lived openly and fully. To cultivate curiosity and a questioning temper. To master intentionality and find alignment with our values. So when we meet suffering and pain, fear and grief, we also have the capacity to dig in and fill ourselves of surrender, love, wisdom and balance that we have cultivated within.
This feels urgent. This feels specific. Far more than practical answers to how life will move on post Covid. I have seen how bringing intentionality into my life has changed the way I meet suffering or challenges. It has made me deeply aware of the resources within me. And it’s only thanks to the last few months that this process has been brought alive.
Having nowhere to go, no way to escape myself via a busy life, I’ve had to confront my fault lines, as much as discover my very own wisdom, love, instinct and capacity to heal.
So when I imagine a world after Covid, I find it hard to think of a world that will slip back to “normal”. I hope that many things will be changed forever. I hope that we live in some fear of what we have caused, and that which is absolutely not in ur control to be overpowered.
I hope we really internalise and remember for a long time to come, that the old way of living simply isn’t good enough. That thinking about furthering only some parts of humanity will come at a huge price. I hope we’ll remember the contemplative grief that many of us felt at the way in which destruction split us open and showed us the dark shadows of our culture that we have kept under wraps.
Which brings me back to where I started. I don’t know if I’d have realised this in such a wholesome way, if it weren’t for the experience of this distraction-free intense period of loss, grieving and simultaneous exponential spiritual growth.
Would I be here without this privilege? No.
It is from meeting pain — not just in the world, but also the pain of seeing the darkness within me — that the creative resources that give shape to ideas and habits of the new world can emerge. The two coexist. I can straddle grief and hope all at once. And I feel new things a-brew because of it.
Edited to add: I write this post in a fit overthe weekend and scheduled it in two parts. But today, I came across this post that articulates so simply and impactfully, one part of what I‘ve gone around in circles trying to grasp at.
Particularly touched by the use of the word “dream” here because that’s what I’ve been feeling so viscerally. And urgent dreaming up of worlds currently out of reach.
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Knowing what you don’t want or what you’re against is not enough if what you’re interested in is creating new and different ways of being in the world. Anti-racism, Anti-capitalism, Anti-oppression… all serve the purposes of resisting, dismantling, divesting, and destroying, which are all natural parts of the creative process, but there’s more… In order to create new and different ways of being, you’ve got to not only know what you don’t want or what must change… but there is also the necessary work dreaming, imagining, envisioning and answering the questions: What do I want to create in the world? And am I willing to be responsible for creating that?