Our world is indeed in dire straits, and we are familiar now with the litany of crises imperiling our earth. The miraculous balance and harmony of systems of water, air and creatures are severely threatened. All of this is exacerbated by social tensions of hatred, violence, racism, poverty, and war.
The miracle of this planet can feel overlooked. We dwell here with such an improbably wondrous constellation of events that has brought about the unfolding and manifestation of the great mystery of life on Earth.
Many of us do recognize both the miracle and the crisis, feeling a sense
of overwhelm, despair, and hopelessness; wanting to take action to heal
and stop the ongoing harm and destruction of our shared home; not clear
which path, which action, which choices will assist. In such a state,
What can I do with my life to help this world?
Where can guidance be found?
What is right action?
How can I best use my energy and resources to be of use and a force for good?
We live with incredible access to information, opinions, advice, and knowledge, and there is a plethora of answers to such heartfelt questioning. We find abundant offerings served on platters claiming truth, certainty, and conviction – polarized views and contradictory stances. This also contributes to uncertainty and paralysis for the genuine seeker desiring to find a path with heart that will be of service.
At such a time, relaxation, rest, finding joy in beauty and in simple natural pleasures can feel self-indulgent or escapist. Pursuing calm and peace through meditation, yoga, quiet interaction in nature is essential given the stress and uncertainty of our times. It is not just about finding personal respite from the situation. It is much more.
The sense of urgency that makes time for personal quiet and restoration
feel like a selfish choice is perhaps behind this story.
A Buddhist teacher asked his student who had come for an interview, “Have you been able to meditate for an hour a day as was instructed in our last visit?”
The student explained that it was not possible, since he had so many responsibilities with work, family, and community: “Usually I can manage half an hour.”
The teacher replied, “In that case, I now instruct you to meditate for two hours a day.”
In times of pressure and busy-ness, stress and uncertainty, it is in quiet and peaceful situations that access to inner guidance, direction, and knowing can be accessed. When the tumult of emotion and the restlessness of thoughts settles, then the “still small voice within” emerges. Listening deepens. Innate wisdom speaks. Our innate wisdom is our surest guide to what action, what path is required. Unless we can experience balance, harmony, and peace within, how will we find it elsewhere?
In the quiet within, inner guidance that directs appropriate personal response is revealed. The cultivation of peace within is a skill that benefits the health of our own selves and that of the global community. We can then determine the best path to offer our own gifts, skills, talents, and abilities. As Howard Thurman said, “In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.” The whisper of the heart becomes a source of wisdom to counter to conditions of confusion, uncertainty, and stress of these times.
Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism, taught, “The Tao is called the Great Mother, empty yet inexhaustible. It gives birth to infinite worlds. It is always present within you. You can use it any way you want.” The collective gifts of humanity contain the many paths that surely can change the course of our current trajectory. There is a need and a calling for the artists, the musicians, the business people, the healers, the gardeners, the tenders of children and animals and wild spaces, the teachers, the contemplatives, the cooks, and the trades. To discover which path uses the gifts of a particular individual requires the deep listening of the heart, by that person.
“Our world needs wisdom and insight,” said Thich Nhat Hahn. “You are capable of sharing your insight so that you can wake up your nation, your people. And if your nation, your people, are awake, then your government will have to act according to the insight of the people.” Accessing our insight awakens knowledge of a genuine path of service, chosen with the confidence of its effectiveness and worth.
In the midst of all the need that surrounds us, perhaps the most important is to give time to go within, to allow your own wisdom to speak and guide you, to restore your peaceful being and joy. Rather than being self-serving or indulgent, claiming and sharing beauty, joy, and care could be the highest service we can offer.