March 24th, 2020

The Work of Realizing What We Truly Are

I missed an opportunity.

Several months ago, perhaps approaching a year now, I happened to tune in to one of Tara Brach’s videos via Facebook Live. I arrived in the middle of it, and she was talking about loving and having compassion for others. I tuned in right about the time she said, “As soon as you perceive threat . . . the reptilian brain goes into fight-flight-freeze; it happens quickly. So we get angry or hurt or afraid and contract and we get cut off from the parts of the brain that are responsible for compassion. So that’s one way that we get blocked [from experiencing love and compassion]: when we perceive threat.” (Emphasis mine)

A few days later, an awareness entered consciousness in me as I was driving. It was not preceded by a conscious recollection of Tara’s words. But it was in response to them. It appeared all at once and was essentially this:

If it is true that compassion does not tend to be activated unless we feel safe, then those of us in relative safety are on the front lines of evolution: It is our job, our fierce and immediate and unrelenting job, to love. To love right now. To love everybody. With everything we have. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, there’s a part of us that doesn’t understand and doesn’t know how to do that. But that is our calling right now, and it is of utmost importance. If we are in a position of privilege that allows us to not perceive a direct threat right now (e.g., American citizens, white, cisgender, straight, currently financially secure, and/or many other manifestations of privilege), then we are the ones who must lead the mantle of love, do the hard work on the cutting edge of the evolution of humanity. We cannot lay this burden on people who are not actually safe right now—the LGBT community, those who aren’t white, those wishing to run from violence and instability to a place they have heard has less of those things—and must attend to the immediacy of the threats they are under. This is our job. Right now. And indefinitely.

I felt compelled to write about and share that at the time, and many times since. For some reason I didn’t.

Alas…circumstances have shifted, and now it appears none of us is safe. Fundamentally, this is always the case (and on another level, what we truly are is always safe). In the circumstances of the perceived external world, however, right now there is an imminent existential threat in a form related to, as a friend recently put it, “the great equalizer” of the health of a human body. No one is immune (literally) to this potential threat to human wellness and life.

I was remiss in missing the opportunity to write in more detail about the above when it presented itself. This is what is presenting itself to be written now.

There have appeared to be different responses to the current phenomenon around the world. One of the most disturbing came recently from Donald Trump and is outlined in this article. I quoted and commented the following in response to my friend’s posting of it on social media:

(From the article) “The problem is that the political right, along with centrists like Blankfein, don’t want such a heavy intervention in the economy. As a result, they indulge in a truly grotesque display of self-interested reasoning and argue that there can be a quick and easy end to quarantines, shutdowns, and social distancing campaigns.

“What they are arguing for goes beyond Social Darwinism and is, in fact, a kind of cult capitalism. The existing [economic] system is viewed as so sacred that it is worth sacrificing innumerable human lives to keep it going.”

(My comment) This is breathtakingly horrifying in a way that feels almost quietly surreal. It is an epitomization of the unconscious distortion and shadow prevalent in the human species right now…as well as exactly what we are called, right now particularly, to evolve beyond.

That Donald Trump has modeled inhumanity is not surprising to me. I do not say that lightly or flippantly. Simply sincerely. Since my relative introduction to him (I knew who he was when he first ran for president but had never paid attention him), I have rarely, if ever, observed in him a concern for humanity in general. Generally, I have observed the opposite.

So this was not completely surprising, but of course it is horrifying. Further disturbing to me is that, as a perceived authority figure, he has appeared to influence some of the citizenry of the United States into perceiving things from an economic standpoint rather than a humanitarian standpoint. As I see it, this framing represents a fundamental way the human species is being invited to evolve right now: will we continue the oblivious and arbitrary unconscious distortion that has manifested as the worship of the concept of money, or will we awaken (at least more) to the connection of all living beings?

I’d like to note a subtle distinction here. Subtle, but essential: I am not saying that the choice is between economics or humanity. Economics is a social science, and like the rest of the social sciences, offers fascinating material for study, creativity, learning, historic assessment, and opportunity. I am not talking about economics, the social science, inherently.

I am talking about our current economic system.

It is that which has manifested from and continues to perpetuate one of the deepest shadows of the human species right now: a system that literally worships money, places it as the unquestionably highest priority on the planet, makes the pursuit of it the greatest goal of many egoic consciousnesses and the lack of it (which, importantly, is often arbitrary and virtually impossible to overcome in both this country and many places in the world) the cause of profound suffering. It is because of this system that people don’t get what they need, not because of some inherent conflict between economics and the well-being of collective humanity.

This perspective, this focus, this allowance of the concept of money being the ultimate priority of existence, is the shadow. It is also abominable.

And it is not inevitable.

The social science of economics will likely continue to be with us. But it doesn’t need to look like it does now. Economic policy could look different, in a way/ways we likely can’t even conceive of right now.

The public policies of the United States and the human species will not shift until the consciousness of the people creating the citizenry and the leadership does—more specifically, until the consciousness within each of us expands and awakens. Were it to do so, there would be a paradigm shift that our current ego consciousness literally cannot conceive of. That inconceivability, by the way, is important—it’s why our public policies have not ultimately addressed or resolved our challenges. Because those policies are being created from the same egoic level of consciousness from which the distortion creating our challenges arises in the first place. As the quote attributed to Albert Einstein says, “Our problems will not be solved by the same minds that created them.” I understand this to not refer to the literal minds of specific people but rather to the level of consciousness of those (our) minds.

So when I say our ego consciousness cannot conceive of how economics in the human species might look different, I mean it, because that level of consciousness sees things the way we have historically seen them; and worshipping money, for example, has been an unequivocal part of that for a long time.

A shift in perspective is required for a shift in public policy. Put simply, we have to care about each other. Right now we don’t. You may be thinking that of course you care about people! You care about your family, your friends, occasionally people you see in the news for whom you feel sympathy. I appreciate that. And in fact, I should articulate what I mean more specifically: We have to understand our connection. Only when we recognize that we are all one, that the separateness we perceive in the external world is ultimately illusory, that when any being suffers, the collective of life (which includes all of us) suffers, will we actually recognize the obviousness of wanting no one to unnecessarily suffer. Until we see this, we will simply be perceiving the limited level of externality and separation and trying to “fix” things on that level, which does not recognize the larger one of intrinsic connection and oneness.

Which brings us to another quote of this kind that is well-known and frequently not truly appreciated: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Often perceived as a platitude or metaphor, that is a recognition, on the contrary, of a perspective that recognizes the connection of all beings. If it helps, picture for a moment the earth as a human being—and see that we are all cells of that being. Our waging war on each other and neglecting each other and ignoring others’ suffering would be similar to the cells of our liver declaring war on the cells of our skin, for example, and hailing a great victory when they “won.” What are they doing? Destroying, willfully and unconsciously, something they are unequivocally connected to—destroying, indeed, a part of themselves. (When we disregard and attack the planet itself, we are doing a version of the same thing: destroying the very organism that allows us to exist.)

You may be wondering how one becomes conscious of the inherent interconnectedness and oneness of life? I’m glad, as it’s a fair question. Please know something very important about it: you do not “grasp” this. You do not “convince” yourself to love everyone and grudgingly recognize our connection so you can feel like a better person. You do not “choose” to see this or effort your way to it or pursue it like a goal that you finally attain and then move on. The recognition is not on that level of awareness.

But not to worry—the awareness is always available to you. And whether you recognize it or not, the oneness of the universe is simply the case. How each of us perceives anything related to it does not change it at all; it simply influences our own experience. So how do you become aware of it? You work on yourself. You go deep within yourself, let go of what isn’t really you, ideally receive support releasing past trauma, sit, breathe, be, practice…until some moment, with no attempting or expectation, you suddenly and unexpectedly recognize it. You see it for yourself. You’re instantly aware this oneness, this connection of and with all life, was there all along. And that you always had access to it, but there were other things in the way, past pain filtering your experience and perspective that you have now kindly, fiercely, carefully supported yourself in working through and releasing enough that you see it. You see the oneness. You see what you truly are. What we truly are.

And that they are the same.

And then you care. You care in a different way than you ever consciously understood before, but that you again realize was always there. You care in a way that allows you to see the sometimes severe unconsciousness in people and feel the pain of it and not suppress your feelings and the anger and frustration and sometimes rage, while still recognizing the inherent love they are. Even if it’s way beneath the surface of tremendous shadow that requires much work for them to dismantle and release—having worked with yours, you understand and feel more compassion for the struggles of working on oneself and one’s shadow. And you know that needless suffering feels virtually unbearable to you, and you know now that on some level it does to everyone and that they just don’t see it yet and that one of the things you want most in the world is for them to recognize it so we can release it as a collective and focus on supporting the thriving of every being in the beauty and vibrancy and joy of the extraordinary opportunity of life we have right now.

Perhaps most importantly, you see all of this because of the degree to which you have awakened. And that awakening has put you in a prime position to support awakening in all others as well.

From here, we can begin.

All love,

“‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word and love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night and love dares you to change our ways of caring about ourselves…”
-David Bowie and Queen “Under Pressure” (also beautifully performed by The Used and My Chemical Romance)

3 Responses “The Work of Realizing What We Truly Are”

  1. Thank you for your profound wisdom. I’m grateful you chose to speak it.

  2. Emerald says:

    Adriana, it is a complete delight to see you here. Thank you for reading and for your comment.

    I hope you both are well and am wishing you all the best, always.


  1. Reckoning says:

    […] all may seem unrelated to the assertions I have made on this blog of the importance of love and caring about our interconnectedness. It is far from it. In fact, it demonstrates once again the essence of the importance of those […]

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