Fear and Trust

We all live with both fear and trust inside us. Fear is the residue of past painful events and the emotional triggers that can make us relive them and think something similar may happen again. Today the entire world lives with the fear engendered by a global pandemic and the illnesses and deaths that have accompanied it. In addition, political discord divides our planet. Each of us handles such fears in a variety of ways: distraction, denial, depression, nervous apprehension, sadness. Or just allowing the feelings to flow through and accepting them. The acceptance arises from a trust that lives deep within each of us. We were born with it.

Trust is the spirit of life itself. It is a connection to something greater than the specific events of your life. Some call this God or Universal Consciousness, but it is beyond labels and even beyond human understanding. The longer you live, the more opportunities you have to remember this connection and open to trusting it.  Sometimes in the midst of a very frightening or sad experience, you may realize that acceptance is the only thing that brings peace of mind. A peace that sidesteps the mind’s attempts to understand and control the situation. Acceptance opens the door to trust. Trust that comes from the wisdom of the heart and soul.

I have had many opportunities to get in touch with acceptance and trust in recent years. I’ve moved from one part of the country to another and then back again, my sense of “home” in constant flux. A dear lifetime friend died unexpectedly, and I felt my heart break. I have also lived through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Each of these life events affected me immensely and ultimately taught me to let go at the deepest possible level. Cancer, in particular, was a teacher of the most profound wisdom with regard to acceptance. When I accepted that cancer was indeed part of my soul’s path for this lifetime, I was able to move through the experience with trust instead of fear. It has been a year since my diagnosis and treatment, and the deeper truths I learned inform my life daily.

Simultaneously, COVID too has been a major factor for me in living with acceptance. The specter of COVID and its variants forms the background for our lives now, whether we try to ignore it or think of it continually. Perhaps it has come to teach us on a grand scale that there are things we can’t control and that only acceptance will bring peace of mind. Whether it is a hurricane, a pandemic, or a physical condition, there are always events we just have to surrender to and do the best we can to live through consciously. Life is a drama that includes every extreme. At times it feels overwhelming, and we want to rewrite the script, forgetting that we designed our life path before birth.

Everything is happening for our awakening and expansion. If you can embrace this truth, it puts you in touch with the peace at your core. A peace that gently moves you through fear to trust. Trust in the events of your life, however they may appear, and trust in your self and your soul’s journey. You may think everything is chaos in your life, but your heart and soul know better. It is all a sacred passage into the light of peaceful awareness.

Don’t Lose Heart

Life on Earth is not easy. Sometimes it feels like we’re on an endless runaway roller coaster. The polarities of love and hate are constantly playing out: Woodstock and 9/11, rainbow lights on the White House and January 6. Celebration and crisis. Elections. War and peace. It can feel overwhelming. I wonder at times how we ended up on a planet with so much conflict and duality. Then, I remember why—to experience it all and be a bridge to our next evolutionary phase. The key is not to lose heart. Because our hearts are the entry point to everything.

A heart-centered life runs on the energy of love. It leads us to places and events we are destined to experience, people we are meant to meet.  If you are walking down the street, and a stranger smiles and speaks, your spirits lift. If you see beautiful flowers in a neighbor’s garden, you can’t help but smile. When a friend is in tears from a life event that causes them pain, a hug can help you both feel better. If you can reach the point of laughing together at some passing silliness, the world seems less sad and overwhelming. This is what it means to let your heart lead the way. 

What happens when you smile or laugh out loud? Your energy changes, your heart opens. Suddenly, your entire view of life shifts. That’s why it’s called a “hearty laugh”—it’s full-out engaged with life and freely expressed. These are the moments that crack the shell of negativity or mental downswing that we are often prone to these days as the world twists and turns with change. If you can smile, even in the face of fear, conflict, or crisis, then hope is not lost. The human spirit takes a deep breath and continues. From a soul view, everything is unfolding as it’s meant to. The soul is always smiling because it sees the big picture; it sees the evolution of humanity.

We humans often get stuck in the day-to-day dramas of life. We think that’s all that exists, and when we are feeling pain or sadness, we believe it will never go away. Yet emotions are always in motion; if we allow them to flow through us, they dissipate. If we are lucky enough to have a funny friend who makes us laugh in the midst of our upset, we see how everything can suddenly lighten up when humor is introduced. This is probably why comedians play such a key role on Earth–to keep us from taking ourselves too seriously. In truth, life is a constantly shifting reflection of your inner state. What you are experiencing is very much tied to how you see the world.

That may sound simplistic, but it actually plays out in a very real way. If you consciously shift your viewpoint, your experience of events changes too. And smiling and laughing with each other can be catalysts for that shift. Countless popular songs are written about smiling, laughing, or “singing in the rain.” Poets and wise teachers remind us that facing life’s challenges together, hearts linked, keeps our perspective lighter and more positive. So, no matter what is happening in your life or in the world, remember that your gentle heart is the wisest guide you could possibly have; keep it wide open and you will not lose your way.

“Stay gentle, keep the eyes of a child
Don’t harden your heart or your hands
Know to find joy in the darkness is wise
Although they will think you don’t understand…
Stay gentle, stay gentle
The most powerful thing you can do
Oh, gentle, unbreakable you”
—Brandi Carlile

Celebrate Difference

We are living through times of radical transformation. The reality we once knew no longer resembles what we are now perceiving day to day. Past beliefs and structures are falling away, sometimes rapidly, sometimes gradually—but undeniably. This is a good thing. The evolution of the human soul cannot be stopped. All that came before was merely a prelude. The pain of the past, in which differences separated us, will eventually educate our present. We can live with greater awareness and open-heartedness, beyond the shadows of history and what we’ve been told is possible.

The United States was born when various groups rebelled against the domination of the British crown and formed a new nation based in freedom and self-determination. Differences of religion and nationality were in theory accepted. The reality, of course, was much different. Before the American Revolution, explorers and colonists from European countries came to North America and pushed back the indigenous peoples who had lived here for centuries. The Trail of Tears that robbed them of their homes and identities spread from coast to coast, and children were sent to schools to have the “Indian” destroyed in them. Thousands of people of all ages were killed. Descendants of the survivors still face these attitudes today.

Over the centuries, right up to the present, those who came to America from other countries often found that “freedom” was an illusion. The African people who were enslaved here lost their freedom, and the American “melting pot” was meant not to accept and blend differences but to obliterate them. How do we step away from this long history of intolerance and violence against the integrity of each individual and choose another path? Can we instead celebrate difference and embrace connection on the other side of this broken past? As chaotic as the present times are, I believe that is starting to occur. This change is the so-called Great Shift. It’s a shift in consciousness—from closed minds to open hearts.

If you look around, you see the changes bubbling up everywhere. Those of different races, religions, cultures, ages, and sexual identities are coming together individually and collectively. I love to walk down the street and hear many languages, see biracial couples and those who are not identifiable as one sex or the other. This is the magic of soul flowering. Anything is possible—all is loved and celebrated. Yes, there are those who find these changes threatening and try to destroy them. Ultimately, they will not succeed. Love is more powerful than fear and hatred. Kindness is the wave of the future. Compassion and acceptance will prevail.

In the past, we have often allowed our beliefs to divide us, thinking that those who disagree with us are misguided and should be “corrected.” Wars, both political and religious, have been fought for this purpose. Can we finally get beyond polarization, separation into for and against, right and wrong? This world was created by an infinite Intelligence that “knows” much more than we do about how the universe evolves and expands. We are part of an interwoven tapestry of light, within which seeming opposites will finally come together in balance, and each of us will see clearly that every single piece of this planet is here for a greater reason. We are integral to that evolution, that rising harmony. Celebrate your uniqueness and that of others. Embrace the diversity and fluidity of life itself.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”—Rumi

Without a Word

I usually arise around 4 or 5 in the morning when there is predominantly silence everywhere. I sit in the darkness and rest in the stillness, soothed by the absence of noise or traffic outside. Soon the birds begin to sing, and the light of the sun fills the world. There are no voices or conversations interrupting the peace I feel at this time. I am absorbing the experience of morning without a word. Through my ears and eyes; through my cells. Presence.

So much of our lives is based in language, spoken or heard, filling our brains with thoughts. What would it be like to experience the world without mentally describing it to ourselves? Can you see a tree or bird without naming it as such? A person without mentally categorizing gender, age, race? Even beyond that, can you see anything without language, just experiencing it without a word? We humans have learned to divide the world with the words we have created to describe it. Often we aren’t even seeing what we see; instead we perceive a mental image of a word designation we have come to associate with something. We all do this. What if we tried to shift our awareness into just experiencing with no perceptual parameters? Life arising and falling away with no attempts on our part to capture it in words. Like the silence at dawn.

I’m a writer so this can seem like quite a challenge to me at times. Yet when I am walking in Nature or sitting in the silence of sunrise, it frees my mind to just experience the world from my heart, wordlessly. I practice seeing without naming as I walk among the trees, bushes, and flowers of the natural world. I can always write about it later, but in the experience itself I prefer to be and receive the full wonder of what is before me. I grew up an only child on five acres in the Illinois countryside, so I spent a lot of time alone during those years.  I had friends at school, but at home I enjoyed the solitude and silence of Nature. Somehow this has carried over to my adult life. I feel most at home in wordless Presence.

A number of years ago, when I was taking part in traditional fire ceremonies with Maya elders in Guatemala, I experienced this same kind of deep Presence. Even though words in the Maya language were spoken within the ceremony, somehow there was a profound silence that pervaded everything. No conversation, just inner quiet and receptivity. The stillness of Spirit linked our hearts and souls and also brought Nature’s magic beyond human language close to us. Bees circled in the air above the fire before the ceremony at Tikal, and birds swooped through the lingering smoke afterward. It was as if they were weaving the energy of the ceremony into the greater world. And none of us spoke at these times; to be wordlessly present was enough.

Of course, it’s not necessary or realistic to live like this all the time. Our friendships, family, and community arise out of communicating verbally and sharing life experiences, thoughts, and feelings with words. Yet, to step back at times and just be silent is deeply soothing. Your breathing slows, and your whole body relaxes. Space opens up within you for the soul to expand into present-moment awareness. Those who meditate or take long quiet walks experience this. I feel it in the stillness before the day begins. If we each found our way to including such experiences in our daily lives, perhaps we would be less busy and stressed. Sometimes the most profound moments of life occur without a word.

Do No Harm

The phrase “first do no harm” has been associated with the Hippocratic Oath, principles that physicians and the medical profession in general have been called to adhere to. The exact wording varies, depending on sources, but it probably first appeared in the 1700s. Over the centuries, it has remained part of the collective memory bank. Yet is this powerful moral directive lived out fully and consciously, not only in medicine but in everyday life? Immediately I think of the countless TV ads for drugs to treat various physical conditions, all of which include a long list of dangerous possible side effects. Doctors believe the benefits outweigh potential risks, but do the drug companies prioritize possible harm over their profit margin? I have had allergic reactions and side effects from drugs ever since childhood. There has to be a better approach, one that is harm-less. Homeopathy, herbal remedies, or acupuncture, for example. More conscious guidelines for drug manufacture. Or better yet, stopping much illness and disease at the source: environmental pollutants that compromise our health.

There are many ways to apply that simple phrase: First do no harm. Today, our physical health and well-being are of growing concern on this planet as pesticide use and industrial waste poison our land, water, and food sources. The numbers of songbirds, bees, and butterflies are declining. Toxic chemicals are creeping into clothing, cleaning products, and toys our children play with. Cancer cases continue to rise. Organic and regenerative farming address some of these issues, as do activists who call out those who sell products dangerous to health or who allow the water supply to be polluted through intentional neglect. Residents of Jackson, Mississippi, are currently working together to find ways to provide people with clean water because the state and city infrastructure has failed to do so. Same occurred in Flint, Michigan. Communities of color are at particularly high risk for the poisoning of their water, air, and soil.

What about air quality and climate change? So many industries (including coal, oil, and gas production) habitually pollute the air we breathe and cause possibly irreversible damage to the global environment. Individuals often feel helpless to stop the extent of this harm. Yet each step counts: clean affordable energy sources like solar and wind power, stopping use of equipment like leaf and snow blowers which fill the air with fumes and make the air unbreathable. Not to mention noise pollution. Convenience comes at a cost (health and habitat destruction), one that people are learning they may not be willing to pay. Corporations and governments have monetary and political clout, but people together have collective power for change once they realize what’s at stake and that there is no “other,” only “we.”

Many groups and individuals are working on so many levels to create a harm-free planet. The difficulties can seem insurmountable at times, especially when addressing things like gun violence or war. Where to begin? Perhaps it’s about compassion and interpersonal peace in our lives as much as laws and treaties. When human hearts open, everything will change. If each person, organization, and country lives with the code “first do no harm” in every area (thought, word, and deed), the world will shift to a more peaceful livability. There is a better way, and we know it in our hearts. One without ill health, environmental destruction, violence, hatred, or self-serving monetary goals. One in which loving-kindness is our first impulse. It begins with you and me. Kind actions, kind words, kind thoughts. Within kindness and heart-centered awareness, harm falls to the wayside, obsolete. This is a future we can live in if we so choose. First do no harm.