The character of your existence is determined by the energies to which you connect yourself. (Hua Hu Ching: The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu, Chapter 24)
Way back, long, long, ago…in 2017 it seemed that most people I came in contact with were desperately trying to hold on to something stable. Change was happening at such a breakneck speed that we could not even begin to keep up with it. In watching the daily news, most people I encountered were just looking for a single day of stability. Most just wanted something…anything, to hold on to.
Last year’s instability for many people started with the national political turmoil. Many of the people I came in contact with felt that our country was collapsing from within…at a breathtaking speed. Most people, conservative or progressive have begun to accept that lying in politics is the norm. While it is nothing new to accept that many political leaders will say whatever it takes, the new level of distrust has catapulted as never before. Unfortunately, it appears there is no end in sight.
Following heavily along with the political storms were the natural storms. Just ask the people of Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands about storms. There was nothing “normal” there. People were literally holding on for dear life.
For those in the West, it was firestorm after firestorm. Western Montana was on fire almost all summer. For most of the summer, it seemed that no Western state was spared from the long days of toxic smoke, and even in some parts…the fear of being burned alive. In Northern California, the tragedy of the Sonoma and Napa Valley fires has been record breaking. Instability was but one spark away.
Then more, Southern California experienced the devastation of flames. House after house was destroyed. Where will these people live? What will they eat or wear? Stability…gone!
Now, within the past few days and with breakneck speed we have witnessed walls of mud encasing the homes and bodies of people living in Montecito, California.
Lately, many people in my practice have experienced numerous anxiety disorders. Some even suffer from full-out PTSD or pTSD (milder levels of PTSD). So, whether it is about the unstable political world we live in or the instability of a natural disaster, the point is that many obsess over the immediate problem or the possibility of a future problem. This hypervigilance can be a desperate search for stability. We become flooded by anxiety.
Attachment is one common psychological defense against instability. It is a tricky and dangerous process. Recently, I have found many people becoming almost obsessed or addicted to the media. They are quietly hoping for something to be different or better at the next viewing.
Back when the towers came down on 9/11 people reported watching the airplanes crash and towers collapse dozens of times; because they kept watching the constant replays. Perhaps they were unconsciously hoping they would magically see something different at the next viewing. It appears that something similar is occurring today. We watch and listen, hoping for good news in what appears to be a world in chaos. We become attached to the trauma. This can lead to an “attached life”. Ironically, while attachment may bring immediate gratification, in the long term it often brings suffering.
So what are we to do? Rather than holding on to whatever the “it” is with some sort of death grip, we can choose to begin letting go of our frenetic grasp…to loosen our sticky fingers. The “unfortunate” reality is that the old saying, “change is the only constant” appears to be spot-on. We can try (unsuccessfully) to hold on to the status quo with all our might, or we can accept the reality that “this moment” too will pass into the next moment…and the one after that. Any success at holding on to what we have will only prove to be a temporary illusion.
A willingness to not have an answer to some of our deepest questions may be a great asset. Being in “student mind” keeps us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually flexible. Not knowing can bring terror or peace, depending upon our perspective. It brings terror if we are closed to the unknown. It brings peace if we are open to the unknown.
Does this mean we don’t appreciate the weather, our house, or love our mate? Does this mean that we don’t become frightened when fire, mud, or madmen are upon us? Of course not. It just means that having “sticky fingers”…GRASPING for the unreachable past will likely bring us more sorrow than joy. Everything is fleeting…that we can count on.
Thank you, Tim, for these pearls of wisdom. Really enjoyed reading this.