When you feel the world is falling apart, don’t close yourself off. Slow down and calm down so that you can feel less separate and more receptive. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi
This Satsang with Shambhavi episode contains the kernel of what later became Jaya Kula’s Time Medicine project. Check it out at timemedicine.org
I actually have been remembering the last couple of days, Ma’s teachings, where she would say in different kinds of ways, God has created a madhouse.
And I think those of us who have been insulated, or relatively insulated from that, are now seeing more and more of that madhouse and how mad it can get. And it's very difficult when there's so much erosion and so much destruction happening.
It's sort of a maxi macro version of when something in our own lives is destroyed—whether it's a concept, whether it's a relationship or a place where we live or job—those sort of ordinary destructions are really difficult for people to digest.
But now we have this destruction going on on many different levels, globally.
Of course, that was always happening more extremely for certain people. But now it's affecting all of us. It's not affecting us all equally, but we all live in the same house. So, what is being destroyed now?
I think one of the things that's being destroyed is for a lot of people is a sense of a future, or the future we thought we were going to have, or the future that we thought we were collectively moving toward.
I've written a little bit about my childhood recently and how my parents were kind of lefty, and I was kind of what they call a red diaper baby. I went to Marxist day camp and Marxist high school. It seems all funny now. But my mother's idea of the future, which really affected, me was basically Star Trek.
In Star Trek they're always referring to that terrible 22nd century or 26th century— I can't remember—but some terrible century where all these things erupted and the Earth almost gets destroyed. But then they recover from it. And now, according to Star Trekkian flavor, they've gotten over all these things, and now there's no racism and no misogyny, and that's all bullshit, of course. But that was the future that we thought we were heading toward, a lot of us.
And I think that what we are getting now, for those of us that needed to be taught this, is we're all having, I think, a good letdown from our cushioned, overweening optimism about the future. And it's very painful.
But it also means that we can be more practical and we can be more actually helpful. And we can maybe pay attention to the way that not only have we centered ourselves, those of us who have centered ourselves or been centered, but we've also centered humanity over everything else.
And this is just really coming to bite us in the butt in a really big way that we're feeling personally every day—in the amount of heat that we're experiencing, and what's happening in our climate, and the wholesale genocide of animals, and loss of land and food sources.
All of this is happening on top of encroaching fascism in lots of different places, including here, and the sort of ripping aside of the veil for people who needed the veil ripped aside, which is not everyone, but whatever they thought America was or whatever they thought the United States was.
If you have any sensitivity or any intelligence or any heart or any compassion, you're experiencing these things. Only someone in a totally unsensitized state could be sailing through this period in human history. Right?
So we could say, well, that's all doom and gloom, but there's actually—that Medium contest that I've been writing for—one of the prompts that you can write for to enter this contest is reentry. And I've been having a really hard time writing for this prompt, and I just abandoned it because I just can't do it.
But, the reason is you never can go back. You never go back. You can't go home again, because whatever you thought that home was probably 98% fiction anyway, but it's not there anymore. Like the past is—there's just this ever changing panoply.
So we shouldn't lose hope because of what we have lost. We should try to use our greater clarity and our greater sensitivity and our greater compassion to be more real about what we can do for each other. And instead of just having these fantasies about that, being more practical about how we can help each other and support each other and just do our best to do that.
This has revealed so much pain and the pain is happening on a global scale.
We're seeing the pain more clearly that's always been there. We're having new pains, and we should be supporting each other and being very practical for those of us that this seems like a new time. We should be using that increased clarity to support and help others as best as we possibly can, using that new clarity.
And then understand that there's more than just human beings here. The Earth is going to survive. We may not be here, or many of us may not be here, but it will survive. So that is cause for a feeling of gladness.
The Earth has been destroyed a lot of times. There have been many cataclysmic things that have happened. The thing, though, is that we caused this cataclysm.
I was listening to—I'm sure I'm going to say his name wrong—Bayo? Well, anyway, I think a lot of you know who he is and he was talking about we've sort of moved from relating to issues like climate crisis and racism on an individual scale to the systemic scale. But he says there's something beyond that, and I really believe that. There's something beyond that, which is respect for what is always outside of the system.
These human systems are all on the horizontal. And as he said, justice and injustice, they're hyphenated. You can't have a model of justice [unless…]. It feeds on injustice. It's like a mirror of injustice.
He says, we have to get out of this model, and the model is that life always outruns any idea of a system. And how can we connect with that? And how can we respect that?
And how can we think outside of our categories and feel outside of our categories and really reach out to each other and really love each other and respect life here, like actual respect. I'm always talking about actual respect. What does actual respect mean?
So, I think we have an opportunity. I don't know what's going to happen. Maybe it's too late for humans, but I hope not, because I think we have a lot of beautiful things about us, too.
But we do have an opportunity now because some veils have been lifted, and we should take that opportunity full on in whatever way we can and do our best.
So it's destabilizing. It is affecting our nervous systems—the pandemic, the climate crisis, everything that's going on in the world, the state of the United States, the amount of strife that's happening. All of this is affecting our nervous systems, of course. Right?
But we should learn how to cope with that and move forward with still continuing to do our best to support each other, and do better at doing that. Be more honest, and be more vulnerable. Be more receptive. Use your clarity and just see what happens.
See this understanding that life is going to always outrun us, outrun our systems, outrun our plans, outrun our strategies, actually kind of makes it possible for us to act in a more humble, modest way, which is what we need. We have this opportunity to be less numb, be less in a bubble, to be less separate. So we want to try to take whatever opportunity we can to become more receptive, not to hole up with things that are comforting in that way.
What I would suggest is, first of all, being very slow. Slowing everything down. Take slow walks, be out in nature in a slow way. Do slow yoga, do slow asana practice. Do slow pranayama. Eat slow food.
You know that slow food from the 80s or 90s? You ever hear that? So maybe we can reinvent slow food. Instead of eating comfort foods, eat longer meals with other people whenever you can. Take more time to cook. Use as good ingredients as you can afford. So really slow everything down so that you can be more receptive.
The real thing is, let's not lose this opportunity to be more open to each other.
Many people who were more in a bubble are feeling more of the pain of other people, recognizing more of the circumstances of other people, becoming more aware of climate change because it's like right in our faces. Let's not shut down because then this opportunity will pass us by and we'll have less of a chance of creating a different kind of a culture and society.
What you want to do is try to anything that lets you slow down and calm down, but not shut down. We have internalized so much about how we have to be in the world, and we actually don't have to do any of those things. We don't have to create a persona. We can just be whoever we are without even knowing what that is in advance.
This idea that we're going to define a self—it gets back to what I was saying in the beginning that—the self outruns any description of it. Always. And that's the beauty of it, that's the fun of it—that we get to just spontaneously appear as whatever is arising in that moment.
That's where the magic comes in. Everything else is just stale.
So believe me, if you stop doing that work to project a self and slow down, you're not going to be nobody. Sometimes people worry, Oh does being enlightened mean I'm just going to be bland? Far from it.
Is the Dalai Lama bland? I don't know if he's enlightened, probably not, but he's got some realization. He's not bland. None of my teachers have been bland. Far from it. Some of them could have been a little blander [laughs].
But actually you become more lively, less stale, more intelligent, more creative, when you stop trying to create something in this limited way.
So this whole idea of, like comfort food and comfort this and comfort that, this is shutting down. We're self soothing, as they like to say these days in the discourse around trauma. But we should soothe ourselves with things that help us to remain receptive, not with things that shut us down.
First of all, like dinacharya, doing abhyanga, doing self massage, dry brushing, abhyanga, bucket baths, doing slow asana practice. Taking slow walks. Slow time in nature, slow food with friends and loved ones. Take more time to cook, do things with more appreciation of the gunas, you know the textures and qualities of things.
Notice things. Keep your five senses engaged in the midst of your day. That requires slowing down.
The big analogy to the whole thing about why slowing down but not anesthetizing is [it’s] more enlivening and opens the senses—opens the gates of perception, which is what we're trying to do.
The analogy, I've always said is bad sex. Everybody knows bad sex is fast sex. It might be exciting in some vaguely exciting way, but it numbs you. Very fast sex is numbing. It has one flavor. Life has infinite flavors. You can't really enjoy all the nuances of sex until you slow down.
And it's the same with everything else. Your senses need to have time to meet everything that's coming towards them.
Have a habitable life, but do practice. Self realize. That's the most important thing. So the idea is that we're just going along with nature in the moment.
And I follow the advice of Patrol Rinpoche. Make plans, but plans that aren't too long in the future. Make short term plans only, and be willing to change your plans in the moment based on ever changing circumstances.
I would just say, relax and see if you can fashion a habitable life for yourself. Be adaptable. Pay attention to circumstances. Change when change is called for. Don't doggedly hold on to plans when they're stale, when they become stale, and just do your best to have a habitable life.
I would say, do what you love. Just do what you love and everything will turn out fine. Or maybe it won't be fine in ordinary terms, but it'll be the best life you could possibly have if you just do what you love. Do what magnetizes you.
And the difference between fixation and other kinds of desire, well, fixation is the same desire as liberated desire, it’s just not liberated. So there's really only one desire, and it just shows up in all kinds of different ways. And the desire that is more fixated or contracted, it has a feeling of anxiety around it or urgency, or it keeps playing over and over again, the same thing. It has a feeling of compulsion.
The gunas of contracted desire are very easy to recognize. The way that it feels when you're just yearning for something that you know, but you don't know yet—that opens you out and propels you toward fresh discoveries, that has a completely different feeling.
When you're following that desire, which is really the desire that is the strongest force in human life, you're following it spontaneously. You know, it's very improvisational, and it doesn't really submit itself to human plans. Or if it does, it does, it only temporarily.
So I’d say, don't force yourself into any shape that feels uncomfortable. Don't worry too much about the long term future. Just dedicate yourself 100% to what makes you feel like you're right with yourself, in-sync with yourself. That feeling of inner rightness and inner goodness.
Just stick with whatever allows you to stick with that and try not to do anything that drags you out of that place or off of that point.
That's really what I've done my whole life. I've just followed that feeling of inner goodness, and whenever I strayed from it, I felt terrible. And I eventually came back because it didn't feel good to be away from it. And we all have that, every single one of us has that.
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