It’s one thing to know abstractly that the earth is alive and changing, that upheaval in one form or another is the nature of the history of our planet. But to actually experience it, even second hand, can be shocking to the system. Whether the upheaval is caused by a natural disaster, a public health emergency, political turmoil, or any other cataclysmic event, to experience it directly is to be shocked.
When our complacency is burst wide open, we become very tender. We hurt for ourselves, and we feel the pain within our communities and humanity as a whole. But the shock of any upheaval can lead to a deeper connection to one another and within ourselves. It can lead to the possibility of helping each other in ways not previously imagined, of offering what one has to another. This is the beautiful aspect of extreme upheaval, a kind of horrific grace.
If we can remain as conscious as possible in the midst of upheaval, both in our initial resistance to it, and finally in our surrender to the fact of it, the upheaval reveals an essential recognition: we love life, and we love our participation in life in myriad ways. Then, as the shock wears off and the reconstruction period begins, we too often go back to sleep. We begin to withdraw into our problems rather than opening to creative solutions. That’s just the way we’re made as human beings.
It is possible to not judge the way we’re made as human beings, as creatures designed to survive by thinking of ourselves only, and to also recognize what remains unchanged in the midst of upheaval, what is always here, the silence and the spaciousness that is always present in the core of your being.
In a moment of shattering, whether it is global or it is personal, all that you have been conditioned to believe about who you are is removed, at least for an instant. If you can remain conscious in that removal, in that loss, you will recognize what cannot be removed, what is actually free of loss. Then, if you can continue to remain conscious as new life emerges and “me and my body,” “me and my family,” “me and my food,” “me and my views” once again appear, you can consciously recognize what it is all appearing in—the ever-unchanging eternal truth of who you are, the totality of life itself.
We are all currently experiencing the upheaval of recognizing more deeply the cruelty and injustice in our world. With that recognition, there is a renewed and great call for change in terms of racial and economic disparity. I have received reports of personal trauma, shock, and loss from people around the globe. They tell me that in the moment of surrender, in staying conscious to the pain and the trauma, there is a discovery of great love. There is great spaciousness. There is recognition of the silence that is always present in the core of one’s own being and at the root of every life form. That silence is not a dead flat nothing. It is love and it is life. Thrillingly, life is conscious of itself and in love with itself.
In our sophistication as human life forms, in our worldliness, our psychological astuteness, and in our pursuit of happiness, we too often lose the direct experience of the boundlessness of love that is life.
As always, I invite you to discover that both within yourself and outside yourself, there is an unbound spaciousness of being that already knows itself. Even as you read this, it is recognizing itself in you, and it knows that internal and external are only temporary designations that finally have no meaning. Life knows itself and recognizes itself in each form as well as universally. When upheaval and trauma appear— traumas of disease, of racial and cultural division, traumas of relationship, traumas of loss—all can actually serve to crack open the encrustation of thinking of ourselves as a number or a collection of experiences. You can realize yourself to be the spaciousness that all things are enlivened by. Self-love is natural, and we know ourselves to never be separate from love. We can recognize that core of love in all being.
As babies, we come into the world with the question, who am I? Then we start to fill in the blank: “I am this person, this is my mother, this breast is for my survival, this is how I get attention,” and so on. We build layer after layer.
What I am inviting you to is a return to what was here from the beginning when we were fresh and childlike. Only now, in our adult phase where disillusionment has occurred, trauma has occurred, bruises have occurred, victories and defeats have occurred, is the invitation to freshly and innocently inquire, in the midst of all of this, who am I, really?
I’m not asking you to return to babyhood. This is an invitation to be a full adult, and in that full adulthood, to consciously inquire into what all of one’s evolution is happening in, whatever the current circumstances are. When trauma hits it often brings us back around to the deepest questions: What is my life about? Who am I? Then, when we survive the trauma, as we continue to grow and evolve, we get to live life in a new way. We get another blessed chance to realize the deepest truth of who we are. That possibility is always here.
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Gangaji is the author of The Diamond in Your Pocket, Freedom & Resolve: Finding Your True Home in the Universe, You Are That, and Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story.