Crisis

How sad that most of us do not realize the little daily acts such as drinking coffee or picking up a piece of paper constitute the core of life

A crisis is a tender time. And we all endure trials of varying degrees–loss, pain, sickness, separation, birth, death, the ravages of war.  A crisis can wake us out of our doldrums. Thrown into the depths of extreme pain or anxiety, our minds place our bodies on crisis alert: it’s time to defend and protect our territory. Hyper arousal here and now is normal and expected. We are programmed to make sure the present danger does not lead to more pain and anxiety, the amount and duration of which we believe is out of our control.

At the same time, hidden deep within the battlements of an acute crisis lies a gift if we choose to accept it, the opportunity to release the iron grip we have on our feelings, our need to control them. The gift of a crisis is insight. We can see how attached we are to controlling the outcome of any conflict. Exhausted by our ineffectual efforts to deny or control the pain, we may be temporarily unavailable to the gift. However, any given crisis may serve to reinforce its own special, inherent message. The message of the crisis of death, for example, is that life is precious. If we face the crisis head-on without indulging our opinions about it, we may feel more deeply alive even in our pain.

If we are willing to stop, breathe, and simply attend to our experience, something deep within us opens up. We discover our capacity to face these feelings just as they are. And that capacity has been with us all along.  By attending to our feelings, we do not cling to ideas about them. Our fears begin to slip away into a new spaciousness. We find creative and practical solutions to these crises by dropping some of the age-old armor against fear.

How sad that most of us do not realize the little daily acts such as drinking coffee or picking up a piece of paper constitute the core of life.  Each moment offers an opportunity for the complete expression of true nature, pervading past and future. Why can we not grasp this truth?  Obviously we don’t get it because we are stuck in the past or trapped in the future. These are the two ways we avoid truly living.  Instead, we do what we humans do best: we concoct schemes and strategies to bolster us against crises and numerous insecurities.  We put so much energy into trying to protect our personal images as popular, agreeable, assertive, successful and secure, that in the end we are half dead.

As an integral part of our makeup, we are conditioned to develop these strategies early in life. The poet Wordsworth said that all too soon the prison house closes in on the child.  Think of the little boy who postures like a man with a gun, or the little girl applying her mother’s lipstick. We grow up afraid to cope without artifice and imitation. Spiritual practice teaches us to step up and face avoidance patterns. Through mindfulness practice we learn to cultivate the willingness to peacefully abide right in the middle of them, which means in part directly looking at the ways we avoid life. This means facing our fears. The fear of a crisis can be said to be the fear of death–the death of control, of any idea of self or of the body. Beneath ideas of being a body/mind, fear is really fear of the great mystery.

We say people connect to a feeling of aliveness in the throes of a crisis. In emergency, our defenses against life in the present moment break down. Our sense of self is temporarily suspended, and there is absolutely nothing left to do except live fully this very second.  This second is not about me: it’s just, Oh!  Right here. Right now. The pain and anxiety do not necessarily abate, but without the burden of me, it matters not if negative feelings stay or go. This is waking up. And as soon as we flip back into our normal defensive state–which we invariably will–we can realize how much we really want to wake up.

Waking up infers that we see our situation as hopeless, hopeless in the sense of wanting the situation to be other than what it is.  When we fully live this second, unfiltered by our opinions about it, we receive the raw sensations of the moment, no matter the circumstance.

Hope is something I would never want to take away from anyone. Yet at some point on the spiritual path we realize our hope to control outcomes prevents us from living in the present moment. Through this realization, often precipitated by a crisis, our perspective shifts. This shift is rarely permanent, but as we diligently attend to the moment, we let go of habitual avoidance strategies.

We cannot, nor do we want to, avoid the reality that we’re all moving toward death, toward the ultimate mystery. We can learn to appreciate the wonder of death to the extent that we let go of our notions and ideas about it. In one sense we’re always on the brink of crisis. Everything is always changing. But in another sense, when we see that death and crisis are basic ingredients for life, attachment to our desires and fears around them become no big deal. When we are willing to simply trust just this moment, we shift into reality, into living our life free of attachment to our defenses. This shift affects everyone we meet, and is perhaps the most profound way we can help change the world.

 

 

 

8 Responses to Crisis

  1. Shirley August 9, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

    I loved this post Uncle Rog. It reminds me of the Tassajara cookbook that Rick and I have been using. To feel out our left hand, our back, our toes, to feel our breathing, our movements, our stance,
    to savor the taste of a radish or a fresh fig, this is our freedom, this is our
    wisdom.

    • Roger Hawkins August 10, 2017 at 8:34 am #

      Thanks Shirley,

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the book, mindfulness of sensations gets us in touch with the life force that is giving us everything.
      I’m looking forward to seeing you soon!

  2. Padma Dyvine August 9, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

    Crisis is opportunity~ and I so appreciate your focus on attending to what is without the filters of judgments, preferences and even hopes. The importance of working with ourselves first and then it moves outward. Such challenging political times, as the 45th president threatens nuclear war. I am reminded that the best thing I can do is feel my fears and all the other feelings, discover what the moment is asking of me, finding an equanimity that guides me towards the next right action. Thanks for this post Roger.

    • Roger Hawkins August 10, 2017 at 8:41 am #

      Thanks Padma,

      As Reb Anderson said, Helping others entails learning how you are helped. In order to heal others, you must learn to heal yourself. Learning how to give to yourself is part of learning how to give to others. If you are stingy with yourself, you will be stingy with others. When you understand how everything is given to you, you will be able to give everything to others

  3. Piro papa August 10, 2017 at 3:02 am #

    Great saying Roger. I see your blogs getting deeper and deeper.
    Love and light Piro

  4. Shokai August 10, 2017 at 7:53 am #

    Once again perfect words of wisdom for me about life and how I respond to it on a moment by moment basis. Gassho, Shokai

    • Roger Hawkins August 10, 2017 at 9:25 am #

      Thanks Kathy,

      That which is actually responding to life is the power to transform suffering. The problem is our deep conditioning to believe it is we by ourselves who respond to life, and that is we by ourselves who have to transform suffering.

  5. Roger Hawkins August 10, 2017 at 8:55 am #

    Thanks Piro,

    A crisis gets us in touch with the depth of our actual source, while showing us our resistance to living from there. The depth of the source is present on the surface of our life, and we need to allow the release of our ego attachments to allow the source to transform our suffering.

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