Staying Centred in the Face of Worldly Disasters
Jason’s Monthly Message
I am sure that many of you are still processing the awful news about the terrorist bomb that killed over 20 children and young people attending a pop concert in Manchester. Many caring individuals on Facebook immediately sent prayers for all the victims and their families and urged everyone to stay strong and united in love and not to give into fear or hatred. So, rather than add belatedly to these beautiful sentiments, I thought I would challenge you this month to dig a bit deeper in response to yet another atrocity in our troubled world. It may seem as though we are living through particularly dangerous and crazy times, but if you delve into any history at all, you realise that wars and conflicts and disasters are the norm in our world. Periods of relative peace and prosperity are actually pretty rare on Planet Earth and so we all live in constant fear of death and destruction.
So what to do? We long for our world to change for the better. We sincerely wish for an end to all wars and all terrorism. We pray for world peace and harmony. But I have to tell you that whilst we are still imprisoned by the egoic thought system that rules this world aggressively and cruelly, we long for a better world in vain.
Most human beings can feel compassionate towards the innocent victims of violent conflicts including those who have lost their children in the latest terrorist attack in Manchester. But violent conflicts never end, partly because we still cling to our strongly held egoic beliefs about who is right and who is wrong in relation to our religious and/or political beliefs, and partly because we have not yet looked deeply within our own minds and hearts to see, and then release, all of our own stored anger, hatred and aggression –much of which is hidden in the subconscious layers of our minds. Above all, we cling to the belief that we are separated, vulnerable, selves who are born to die, and this core belief causes us tremendous suffering.
The core of all our endless suffering is actually not terrifying external world events, but our deep, existential fear of losing our own independent existence. Even if we are incredibly blessed to live in abundance and peace throughout our lives, we all know that our little life is hurtling towards its end at great speed – and as we grow older, that rush towards death seems to speed up exponentially.
The only way to stay truly peaceful and unshaken for the rest of our lives is to begin to dissolve our attachment to our own egoic-self. Great saints and bodhisattvas can ‘sacrifice’ their own lives for others, because they know without a shadow of a doubt that their bodies are not ultimately real. So, we have the story about the Buddha, in one of his many lives, giving his body as food to a starving tiger. We also have stories of Christian Saints giving up their lives to save others. One genuine story from our modern era is that of Maximilian Kolbe, a Catholic priest, who offered to be killed slowly by the guards in the place of a Jewish man when they were both in Auschwitz.
We tend to really admire those who sacrifice their lives for others, but we are not sure that we could do it ourselves because we are still so attached to our bodies. We spend an awful lot of our time looking after our bodies, decorating them, and worrying about them when we think they are going wrong. Our modern obsession with healthy diets is just one recent example of our endless concerns about our physical well-being.
But the only way to become a truly brave spiritual warrior, who is unshaken in the face of the worst that human beings can do to one another, is to keep meditating and to keep studying and practising deep spiritual truths, until we come to know without a shadow of a doubt that we are not our body. We have to reach the point where we completely understand what A Course in Miracles means when it states: To be without a body is to be in our natural state. (ACIM lesson 72)
Now, knowing that our physical bodies are just part of a dream world that is a long, long way from our real home certainly should not mean that we are indifferent to the suffering of grieving parents or to those killed or terribly injured in any kind of violent attack!
But rising above physical consciousness, and connecting to an out-of-this-world eternal love and light, should mean that we are less frightened for ourselves when faced with some kind of atrocity. Without being fearful for our own safety, we will have much more capacity to hold the light for others. When we truly know that all the nightmares of our physical existence are, at heart, just a passing dream of no lasting consequence, we can stay really strong and centred whilst all around us are panicking. We can thus become a real help in our frightened world, rather than constantly worrying about our own safety and thus becoming just another part of the problem.
But please do not worry if you are not yet so enlightened that you experience virtually no fear in response to incidents such as the Manchester suicide bomber. In fearful times, just start by bravely looking directly at your own fears about your personal safety, or the safety of your family members. Then, cultivate unconditional love and compassion for your frightened personality-self. Once you have done this, you should find it relatively easy to extend the same love and compassion out to all suffering sentient beings.
What we practise, we become. So the more you practise staying centred in love and light whilst the world around you is in chaos, the more you will be able to hold the light during particularly troubled times. Then, because all minds are linked, you will make a real contribution to the well-being of the whole of humanity.
Peace and blessings,