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Staying Present in Crisis

posted Jan 23, 2010, 10:16 PM by Darwin Stephenson
R. Clark asks: "How does one not allow their life circumstance when in crisis to overtake being present, thus reverting back to ego."


I believe this is a question that we all struggle with regardless of background, religious beliefs or state of enlightenment. You can imagine a Christian acting out in anger and later reflecting that their behavior wasn't "very Christian." Or Wayne Dyer screaming when he discovered he had cancer after a lifetime in dedication to others. In these moments of crisis, we often find ourselves reverting to our egoic ways.

Society has taught us that we are "wrong" in these outbursts when we react in ways that are not in line with our desired state of being. As such, we're shielded from those moments when a Rabbi learns his brother has been murdered or when someone runs over Eckhart Tolle's toe in the grocery store. Because they don't share that side of their lives with the public, we incorrectly assume that they're different from us. Because they always seem to be in a state of peace, we want to believe that they live this way 24/7. As a result, we hold up our Spiritual leaders as being perfect in this regard and masters of avoiding such detours with the ego.

I recently commented on the Awakenings radio program that I want to meet the enlightened Mom in the grocery store when her kids are pulling her hair out. We mistakenly hold enlightenment to be a state that is obtained when we disconnect from life and live in the proverbial cave. Locked away from the troubles of everyday life, staying in the present moment is easy. But we don't live in a cave and we're no strangers to conflict. As a result, we find that the Spiritual tools we've been given don't work so well in times of crisis.

Meditation is the tool most often given by many Spiritual teachers for life management and I too have struggled to apply this technique in times of crisis. When you meditate in a cave for ten years I would expect you to be at peace. But when your heart is broken, you're suffering with illness or you're staring down the wrong end of a gun, the ability to drop into a meditative state is elusive for most of Humanity.

The answer we seek is "in life" rather than in "the tools." In our pursuit of life management tools, we've gotten the tools mixed up with the way we should live our lives. Thus meditation is prescribed as a tool, when it is actually the result of living our lives in harmony.

Let me explain:

Many people struggle with meditation because they mistakenly believe that the voice in their head should be silent during meditation. In an attempt to silence their voice, they work really hard at meditation, try different styles of meditation and eventually become frustrated with their inability to meditate. At the same time, hundreds of millions of Christians and Jews find themselves in a state of peace when they pray. Clearly the voice in their head is active when they pray and yet when we approach meditation we expect the voice to be silent. Both are seeking the same state of peace through two entirely different approaches to that voice in our head.

And just like one scoffs at the criminal who takes up prayer on their deathbed, we too should reconsider our approach to meditation as a tool. Thus instead of meditation being a tool for cultivating peace in the present moment, the way we live our life prepares us to find peace in meditation.

In our Western society, we desire instant fixes and solutions to our problems. We envision ourselves climbing up the mountain to ask the guru to tell us the meaning of life. Armed with this newfound knowledge, we will climb back down the mountain and live our lives in peace.

But wait! If the guru has the answer we seek, then why does he spend his life meditating on the mountain? If we can obtain this meaning of life answer within our Minds, why is it that the guru chooses not to engage in life? Could it be that the guru has found one path to enlightenment and that path requires disconnecting from life?

As such, we can imagine ourselves sitting in front of the guru but being unwilling to accept his answer. "Mr. Guru, I'm looking for tools that I can use out there in the real world."

Ignoring our plea, we find the answers commonly cited but rarely applied in the real world of people we know:

  • live in the present moment
  • don't feed the pain body
  • meditate
  • think happy thoughts
  • don't think negative thoughts
  • pray
  • don't sin
  • believe
  • attract that which you seek

I'm sure you could add a few more philosophies to this list. And in listing these concepts, I don't mean to say that they don't work or that they're not true. My point in listing them is to illuminate the elephant in the room that they're not working in our daily lives. It isn't that we're not good at applying them, the simple truth is that they only reveal part of the truth. And while they do reflect the truth in part, we seek a much more universal answer to our question.

But the guru shakes his head and thinks, "You don't get it." And we, lost in our ways of living our lives, don't want to get it. We want to take the red pill and make everything different. We believe that there is inherently something wrong with us and if we could just figure out what that is...all would be good. We want to believe the illusion that is our life because we see the illusion in others. We want what they have, but we want it in our life.

And thus we have a dichotomy for Spiritual teachers. Do you tell them what they want to hear or do you tell them the truth? One thing is for sure, if you want to sell self-help products then it is financially beneficial to tell people what they want to hear. Because the peace they seek will require change and no one is going to pay $12.95 for a book that tells them that they need to change. Don't believe me? Take a look at the universal message of self-help gurus. They're no dummies.

But I'm not selling this message for $12.95 (actually this is free). And so I'm going to go out on a limb to answer the question. I can't promise you that you'll like the answer, but I will promise you that it will work in your real life. And the reason I can do this is that I'm liberated from a relationship with you based on money. Priests and Ministers have to pass the plate every Sunday service. Self Help gurus have to sell books, DVDs and access to their websites. Thus because this is free, I'm actually empowered to share with you the truth that will set you free (sorry, I couldn't resist).

To begin, you have to reach beyond the partial truths that you've been given. The first of these universal concepts is that there is not anything wrong with you. The entire concept that you're broken, flawed or incapable of being good is not true. It very much appeals to our logical Minds and that voice in our head. Our Minds love to divide everything into right vs. wrong, good vs. bad and divine vs. evil. We've taken this concept so far that we've extended it not only to ourselves, but to practically every aspect of our self. In the game of "I'm not good enough," the Mind reigns supreme in judgment.

I'm not disconnected from reality in saying this. I understand that you sometimes make poor judgments, choose incorrectly and often do things that you later regret. But instead of applying these actions as being part of "you" instead think of them as what they really are: actions

Yes, in the game of life we make mistakes and our actions are not always aligned with who we want to be. But, in judging ourselves, we find that things don't get any better. We have been judging ourselves and others since we were little kids and this way of living hasn't served us very well. But we live in a society that lives and breathes judgement so we mistakenly believe that it is the only way. Thus the second of these universal concepts is that we can live our lives without judgment. This isn't to say that you cannot make decisions, but rather that judgment does you no good.

The third universal concept is the definition of what you are. You've spent your entire life believing that you're that voice in your head and the actions it calls your Body to do. A lot of teachers have helped people displace this egoic frame of Mind, but not replaced it with a definition that we can relate to in our daily lives. Thus we find it really cathartic to discover we're not that voice in our head, but on Monday morning we're right back being that voice in our head.

And that is the crux of the problem and the answer to Mr. Clark's question. We are not that voice in our head, but instead we are the collective consciousness of our Body, Spirit and Mind. In this temporal world, this is the existence in which we live. Outside of the boundaries of time, we are our immortal Spirit but in this lifetime we experience life in the collective consciousness of our Body, Spirit and Mind.

This is key because our present mindset has us believing that we're all Mind. So we're actually introducing two additional, intelligent components of us into the mix. As you can imagine, the voice in our head doesn't like this. In fact, it has become quite accustomed to running the show. Giving over any balance of power to the Body and the Spirit seems risky to the Mind. Thus it likes to convince you that these other parts of you aren't really there at all.

And thus we go through life making decisions that are entirely logical. Even when we make illogical (e.g. emotional) decisions, there was a thinking process that occurred. In the vast array of choices, our Mind considered the available options and chose one. And therein lies the problem: available information

As we go through life, our Mind makes gazillions of decisions every day to keep us alive, make it through the day and make the best of our time on the planet. Given enough information and time, there is not a single decision that your Mind cannot make. The problem is that there is often not enough information or we don't have enough time to "think clearly."

You've seen it in your own life. "If I would've known then what I know now..."

But our Spirit is not limited by these same logical constructs. Our Spirit is connected to God, the Spirits of others and collective consciousness. Furthermore, our Spirit isn't confined to the temporal world in which we live. Thus our Spirit not only has access to a vast amount of information to draw upon, but it actually knows your past, present and future because it doesn't live in our temporal Universe. This isn't deterministic or implying that your life is already planned out. Rather your Spirit knows what is best for you and what/where/why/when you need to be in the future.

So while we may seek the guru's answer as to how we can be present in the moment of crisis rather than succumbing to our ego, the real path to the life we seek is to live our lives in harmony with our Body, Spirit and Mind. That isn't a mantra or a meditation but rather a way of living one's life. The beauty of this approach to living is that you can experience it without living on a mountain top or meditating in a cave.

To find this life, we must begin connecting to our Body, Spirit and Mind in our every day lives. We can be mindful of this practice by asking ourselves these three questions towards the end of our day:

  1. What have I done today to nurture my Body?
  2. What have I done today to nurture my Spirit?
  3. What have I done today to nurture my Mind?

If the answer to any of these is "nothing" then you know what you need to do that evening. And if you can live your life in this way, you'll find that in your moments of crisis that your entire being (Body, Spirit and Mind) will participate in guiding you rather than the egoic nature of your Mind.
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