It’s now early April, 2020, and it’s likely that you’re staying home most of the time, unless you’re choosing or obliged to be working. Despite our differing circumstances, or risk to our health or finances, we’re surely all “in this together” more than at any other time in recent history.
Yet, we are all experiencing it differently, just as they say everyone grieves in their own way. What’s more, in every moment our reactions and behaviors are based on our conditioning and circumstances. Isn’t it fascinating?
In fact in the sense of the spiritual warrior, nothing has changed with COVID-19. Still the best thing we can do with our life is use this precious opportunity to see our own patterning at work and attempt to wake up. And when dealing with each other, as Karen McAllister pointed out on Clear Sky’s Tuesday morning live call last week, our first responsibility is our own state.
Inspired by Karen’s teachings last Tuesday, then, here are some approaches we can use when faced with difficult states.
Option 1 – Replace the story
How do we stop negative or bad states, or our stories or emotions from leading the way? How do we get out of a stuckness or sticky emotion?
If you are familiar with mantras and the Tibetan deity practices, this is a time to call them up.
We switch whatever is on our mind with a mantra and visualisation. So, switch fear to the groundedness from a great connection with nature (Green Tara, green light). Switch annoyance or judgement for compassion (Chenrezi, pink light). Switch thoughts of interpersonal conflict for purification of the karma between you (Vajrasattva, white light).
These deities are wholesome archetypes that we can call up instead of our own conditioning patterns.
You may not have these tools at your disposal, and yet you could still experiment with the colors or a positive affirmation that you think would be a useful antodote to the poisonous state you’re experiencing.
Another option is to consider what constitutes a good state, and then find ways to get back there. Key to being able to do this is awareness that this is not a state we want to continue or feed.
Option 2 – What is a good state, anyway?
With mindfulness or awareness as the fulcrum, then, we can take further steps to improve the state. Certainly, bringing awareness to the situation has already helped. Next, we can work with one of the factors that we think is lacking, and this will shift the state. For this we need a list:
Karen: “You just have to love the Buddhists because they name everything for you…”
In this excerpt from last week’s call, Karen is referring to the Seven Factors of Awakening, below, one of the many Buddhist lists which in this case constitutes a pristine state of being from which we can awaken.
“There’s three passive on the left hand side, there’s three active on the right side and then there’s the mindfulness piece that ties it all in. So the first one, ‘calm’ – if you’re being triggered by something, triggered by your partner, triggered by the situation, there’s a fear state that comes up you can use this to see, okay in this particular state I’m feeling, ‘what’s Missing?’
“So if you’re around a fear state you’re certainly not going to be calm…there’s not going to be equanimity, certainly not going to be joy. But what you could do is, you could investigate the fear state that you’re feeling.
“You could look and say, well where is this in the body, does it have a color, is it hot or is it cold – you could get really interested in that fear state in the moment. Be the observer of the state, do not let the state rule you, or lead you, or control you.
“..So you could say, okay so fear coming up, where is it in the body and use this beautiful questioning to calm yourself down, to self-soothe because the COVID-19 is going to delight in spreading itself to fear states, right?”
“In modern life we tend to work pretty hard, we harden then fall down and crash. The system is set up for us to be unbalanced… and particularly in times of crisis, trying to know where am I under-efforting where am I over efforting, where’s the balance of my energy?
“So maybe as you’re trying to get well, what you just focus in on is… what’s the rightful effort right now?”
Our first responsibility is to our own state
With a grounding of mindfulness, we can see which of the other six factors could give us leverage back into a good state. And we put “right effort” into increasing that wholesome factor of being.
If you’d like more support in these times, we invite you to join Tuesdays with McAllister, 9am MDT Tuesdays.