Tag Archives: New Year’s

Pandemica

We have had a challenging year, challenging on so many levels. Thrust into uninvited change, most of us were forced to look at our relationships to our careers, to money, to our husbands/wives/partners, to our children, to our health, and, most of all, to the structure of life that we have bought into, played along with, lived according to. Livelihoods were, and continue to be, threatened, and we were all forced to look at the life decisions we have made through the lens of “Would I have chosen this if I knew I would be immersed in it 24/7?”

Speaking for myself, when everything kicked off in the first wave of the pandemic back in March and April, I had some hard days, days which made me come to terms with the fact that even the most hopeful and spiritual of us can lose sight of any deeper meaning, can lose sight of all hope, can wonder what the point of a human life is if the suffering experienced in it is unbearable. It brought up a lot of issues from my childhood, memories of carrying around dread, fear and a deep-rooted desire for something, someone, ANYthing or ANYone to just help me feel lighter and better. It was rough, both back then and earlier this year, in moments.

With all of that said, I know that so many people are happy to see an end to 2020, happy to wipe it off the face of existence, happy to refer to it as the worst year ever. While I understand why many feel that way, especially those who have lost loved ones to Covid, I cannot, even with all of the harder moments that I slugged through, jump on board the “burn 2020 into oblivion” train. This year was impossibly difficult to bear, in many ways, but the degree of that difficulty speaks directly to the value of the lessons 2020 had in store for every one of us.

I have been teaching students for years that we had been living in a Dark Age, that with all of the innovation, freedom and technology we had at our disposal, the only thing we were not being encouraged culturally and socially to do was to take care of each other. That one little detail had been conveniently omitted from the syllabus that we had been given for our Life Education, and that one little detail would have changed things drastically. It would have conditioned us to look beyond the superficialities that our governments and corporations use to breed division among us, and find commonality regardless of race, gender, religion, language, sexual orientation, financial status and all the other trivialities that we have prayed to as false idols for so long. I spoke in classes, workshops, podcast episodes and trips around the world about how something would happen that would affect everyone, everywhere around the world, simultaneously, something that would scare the living daylights out of us all, and in that moment, we would start to learn, because the shadow side of the human condition is that we do not truly learn when things are good. We do not learn when we have money in the bank, when we hit our ideal body weight, when everyone loves us and thinks we’re the shit, when abundance flows easily towards us and we feel like we are winning at the game of life. We learn when the shit hits the fan. We learn when the luxuries we foolishly took for granted through the lens of entitlement get jeopardized, when they get yanked away, and we have to finally examine who we are when all the frills and dressings get stripped away and we are laid bare to the world in our uncertainty and confusion. I knew something was coming, knew we were headed for something that would school every single one of us around the globe, but I thought it would be a world war, not a pandemic. And so there we were, caught up in our own little games of me-ness and ignorance until along came a pandemic. And what was the first thing we were told to do? Act as if we had the virus so we could take precautions not to potentially spread it and infect others, especially those more vulnerable. We were immediately told to take care of each other. The irony of the turn of events was not lost on me, trust me. Do I think that we will emerge from this situation having attained a new Age of Enlightenment? Probably not, at least not on the macro level. But I do believe that many of us have something of inestimable value that we gained from this year, something of beauty and true-ness that we will take with us for the rest of the lives we are blessed to live. We are more of who we were meant to be because of the events of 2020, and while many have been lamenting what they had to give up, it would be irresponsible of us all, including those same people, to not take stock in what we have gained from Pandemica.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of our frontline medical workers in a way that we could never have truly gleaned if we were not all navigating this pandemic together.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of teachers in a way that we could never have truly gleaned in any other situation.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of the truckers and delivery people who kept goods coming to our local drugstores, supermarkets and other essential services when we were locked down.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of the cashiers, stock people, counter people and everyone else who showed up for work when they were scared shitless to be working in supermarkets, drugstores and other essential services.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of taking care of our health, knowing it to be the most important aspect of life that we could focus on. When one considers how prior to the pandemic many companies and employers operated from the belief that showing up for work was more important than staying home when an employee was ill, one can only stand back in awe at how Pandemica set everyone straight.

I believe that we now know how truly interconnected we are, how quickly we can all find ourselves dealing with the same issues regardless of living on opposite ends of the globe.

I believe that we now know that most politicians, when faced with the task of preserving life or the economy, will align themselves with the latter. And you better believe that we now know that if we do not vote for politicians and political parties which prioritize paying our medical workers and teachers what they have proven to be worth in keeping society going when all else grinds down to a halt, we are shooting ourselves where it hurts most.

On a personal level, what I have gained from 2020 is the understanding that suffering is part of the human experience, and no one is immune to it. I have been reminded that in order to alleviate my own suffering, especially in darker days, it is my responsibility to serve others in the alleviation of their suffering, which, in turn, ends up alleviating mine.  I have learned that being able to hug my mom and my dad is a fucking gift, and I am aching for the moment I can do it again. I have learned that there will always be idiots and fuckwits out there, because everyone of us has sides to our personalities that align with idiocy and fuckwittery. As within, so without. I have learned that everyone has an opinion and feels entitled to blast it out into the world, but few of those people have the guts to stop criticizing and actually start acting for change. I have learned to disregard the wicked, as I was taught through my spiritual teachings, and get on with being part of the solution. I have learned that dogs and cats will inherit the earth, because without them many of us would have crumbled into pieces this year.

Most of all, what I have learned is something that is relearned, originally taught to me when a friend of mine died in one of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, and that teaching is that anything can happen to anyone at any time. And because of that, because I incorporate that into every single day of this life I get to live, this year has reminded me that life is a choice. It is a choice between operating from the belief that I would get the virus and die versus the belief that if I was responsible and careful, I would not. It is a choice between choosing to be kind when anger or indifference might be more easily accessible. It is a choice between staying hopeful or hopeless. It is a choice between staying plugged into all media outlets versus disconnecting from them. It is a choice between seeing us all as one heaving mass of humanity versus clusters of “others”. It is a choice between accepting a term like “social distancing” when we should in fact be practicing “physical distancing”,  understanding that in times like these we need to be more socially cohesive and united than ever before.

Life is a choice. To live or not to live. That is the question. And so I choose to live, big and loud and not giving a flying fuck who has an issue with how I do it. But I live. And I care. And I will keep living and caring and being of service, doing this life thing exactly the way I want to, learning from all the hardship and trials. We all will, as long as we remember the lessons 2020 and Pandemica had waiting for us in our Higher Learning, the education life had in store for all of us.

Happy Holidays to you all. Happy New Year. We made it this far, we will make it to the other side. Stay well and safe and full of life.

Why We Should Be Grateful For 2016

2016As 2016 winds down to its last days, social media and conversation is abuzz with how this year has truly been THE annus horribilis, the year that everyone wants to see the back of. It seems like there were more tears in the collective fabric of humanity over the last 12 months than in other years in recent memory. From the deaths of some of our most celebrated artists and musicians to the seemingly relentless terror attacks on freedom and those fortunate enough to live where freedom reigns, from the non-stop sensationalist media frenzy that helped elect he-who-shall-not-be-named to the office of POTUS, to the rising wave of intolerance and xenophobia, 2016 has definitely been chock full of shocks. But instead of looking at all these moments as contributing to a horrible year, I can give you all a few reasons as to why 2016 is one of the most important years in this lifetime of ours.

My year has had some of the most challenging moments I’ve ever been faced with. My teacher of 17 years, Joan Ruvinsky, passed away, my dog got critically ill, I was ill and on antibiotics for over 3 months and my partner and I had a major cancer scare over the last 5 weeks. Serious life events that kept coming like a roll of punches that hit just when you find verticality and can see straight again. And I’m not the only one. Almost every single person I know has had his or her share of challenges in 2016. Financial struggles, serious mental and physical health problems, legal issues, you name it, it’s been occurring in my sphere of awareness. Seen literally, it all amounts to trouble and suffering, both of which anyone with half a functional brain would steer clear of. However, seen spiritually or symbolically, something much more significant than unpleasant moments has occurred in 2016.

We don’t learn anything when things are good. We don’t learn anything about ourselves or about how we operate in the world when the sun is shining, when it’s eternal summer, when we’ve got coin in the bank, when we’re a pound or two below our ideal weight, when we look in the mirror and love what we see, when our relationships and friendships are sailing along smoothly, when we love our work and when we feel like everything is exactly where it should be. And understand this above all else: spiritually speaking, success is not measured by what we own, our accomplishments, the amount of money we have or what we look like. Success, when speaking spiritually, is measured by how much we’ve learned. And we don’t learn anything in times of prosperity and abundance. We learn when we have our asses served to us by what typically gets easily referred to as “the universe.” And whether or not we have liked it, we have gotten more successful in 2016.

I have learned, through all of the challenges that this year has had in store for me, how to really work with my thoughts and stay in positivity, hope, realism and productivity. I have learned what it means to work with fear, with negativity, with pain (emotional and physical), to put into practice everything I have studied and taught over the last chunk of my career. And understand this: I knew, as soon as things got heavy in my life, that I was being presented with the opportunity to respond to and deal with hardship, to make sure that a) I knew what I was talking about when I taught about working with fear, anxiety, negativity and darkness, and b) I could accurately empathize with the suffering of others. My role in this lifetime is to help others navigate their Dark Nights of the Soul. And this year, I was presented with my own, over and over. I was meant to be reminded that sometimes it feels impossible to inhale fully, to inflate the lungs, to really take a deep breath in the face of fear and chaos. I was reminded. And I am a better person, author, teacher, friend, son, mentor, brother, husband, godfather and pet owner because of it.

What have we learned collectively in 2016? That sometimes the unthinkable happens. That sometimes events do not unfold the way we would want them to, that the Hollywood narrative is the Hollywood narrative to keep us entertained and always able to depend on the happy ending. We have learned that we will never agree with each other on some of the most fundamental issues that affect us all, and that that is ok. We’ve learned that the freedoms that we are blessed with on this side of the world are not to be taken for granted, that with the election of certain individuals, those freedoms that others fought and died for could be taken away. We’ve learned that we might need to stand up and speak louder to ensure the freedom of all, not just those that look like us, speak the same language, pray to the same God as we do or align with our political views. We’ve learned that anything can happen to anyone at any time, and that every moment is precious. We’ve learned that when we suffer, we instinctively become more aware of the suffering of others and feel an animalistic need to not inflict further suffering on anyone or anything. We’ve learned that we have a choice as to whether we take care of each other or whether we don’t. We’re still learning that lesson. It will be a long time before we get it. I’m hopeful that we will.

Basically, 2016 was a game-changer for us, on a personal and collective level. And while we may have made our way through the year under low-level pressure and resented having to do so, no one can argue that whatever we’ve learned is essential. We need to be reminded of what matters in life, and for me, that is how I work with my thought patterns. Every single one of us will have an experience of the world that is dependent on what our thoughts are, and I believe that hardship and adversity exist for us to do the mindfulness work, to observe where our thoughts go when circumstances and events get less than ideal. We are meant to look beyond the appearance of it all to find the meaning, the symbolism, and, ultimately, the lessons that are ours specifically to learn.

And so, looking back through a different lens or filter, how does 2016 look to you now? Give it some thought and see what arises.

Happy Holidays to all, and the happiest of New Years. Here’s to 2017!

My Two Cents

As we creep closer and closer to another calendar year, I’ve been noticing more and more videos, social media and blog posts, webinars and courses on goal-setting as a way to profit from the New Year’s Resolution craze. Personally, I believe that New Year’s resolutions are ineffective and their own form of self-hate, as they typically come about by looking at some aspect of ourselves that we dislike and then vowing to change that aspect by committing to a practice that is not healthy, beneficial or respectful of who we truly are and how we operate in our own lives. I believe that we force ourselves to suffer by trying to tweak that thing that we think is a problem, and from what I’m seeing, there are tons of people ready to not only reinforce that there is something wrong, but that the only way to deal with it is to adhere to some unrealistic regimen.

If you want to take advantage of a new year to create a healthy habit, then work with intention. Set your intention to be loving and kind throughout 2016, especially when you feel pulled into anger or impatience or disregard. Set your intention every day to be loving and kind. Start with yourself and then redirect that lovingkindess outwards with no specific direction. It will land where it is meant to in ways that are unknown and unpredictable. Stop instigating change by using criticism, fear and judgement as catalysts and understand that love takes care of it all. Start there.

A Prayer for A New Year

IMG_5331On the cusp of the new calendar year, we ask that we be guided to clarity as often as possible, so that we can see events, people and circumstances for what they are and not what we think they should be.

We ask for presence of mind so that we can remember to love, as often and as fiercely as possible, so that we can know and express ourselves to be energy born of love and incomprehensible wisdom.

We expect that “bad” things will happen, and ask that we remember to love in these dark hours while also remembering that they are simply hours, not eons.

We ask for the presence of mind to think for ourselves, to not succumb to the banality of evil, to expectation, to division, to the tsunami of stupid that continues to wash over humanity and keep people greedy, silent, ignorant, afraid, asleep and blind to truth.

In the knowledge that not everything will go according to the plans we imagine for ourselves and the world we live in, we ask for the certainty of knowing that we will always end up where we are meant to be, regardless of whether we would have chosen it for ourselves.

We set an intention to invoke truth and authenticity into every possible moment so that we can show up in the world with our own individual voice and expression, in full knowledge that the world is waiting and starving for it.

We go forward into this new year with the knowledge that beneath the realm of appearance and separateness there is an undeniable current of unity that connect us all. We pray for the well-being and safety of everything and everyone in the knowledge that what happens to one of us happens to all of us.

We ask that we be blessed with the presence of others who reflect back to us truth, empathy, inspiration and cohesion and we set the intention of emanating all of these things for the reflection to occur.

We offer our existences up as offerings so that we may be used as channels to bring light into a world of encroaching darkness, healing to those suffering and connection through cooperation and collaboration to those muted by loneliness and isolation.

We move forward into this coming year as bearers of light and ask for the strength to see that light and allow it to refocus and re-centre ourselves as an example for others, especially when we are faced with our own battles.

Let this year be the one that changes everything. Let love obliterate everything else. May all of us be blessed with happiness, health, compassion, peace and understanding.

Re(s/v)olution

calendarJanuary 1 is always a welcome day for the majority of us because it’s a real day off. Businesses close, the daily grind comes to a halt, and we nest (usually as recovery to the debauchery of the night before). The day itself has a cozy connotation to it, an insular vibe that breeds lounging around and getting the new year off in hushed tones. And, as it goes with that which we deem as easy or beneficial, we create the necessity to stain the calm of the break we get with the need to accomplish something, to produce, to not get to complacent. It’s resolution time.

As I mentioned in The Examined Life, every single one of us can identify at least one aspect of our lives where we’d like to see changes occur, and we pounce on that opportunity come the beginning of the year. It becomes our raison-d’être until January’s motivation turns into the slump that is February, and by March our sights have moved from where we were to where we’re going as we get ready for the prime months of the year. What started off as good intention ends up bleeding into the rest of the things that we start and never see to completion. And there’s a very simple reason for that.

You won’t be able to effect sustainable change simply because the date crawls past January 1. The concept that one specific day out of the year is better than another to start making the most out of the resources and opportunities that we have available is ridiculous. Every day that you can wake up and move is a potential platform for improving your life. But real changes, sustainable ones that don’t peter out with the arrival of the newest distraction, don’t take flight with simple hope and intention. The only time real change manifests is when you’re so fed up with the state of some aspect of your life that you simply refuse to let it continue on as it is. You may not know what the alternative will look like, but you sure as hell know that you’re done with what’s nagging at you, what’s begging to be seen as the instigator towards something better. The tables will only start to turn when you can no longer stomach sitting at the one you find yourself.

And so if you’re hell-bent on getting those resolutions sorted on January 1, make them revolutions. Set your intention to change that one thing that you’re sick of dealing with, the one thing that you recognize keeps rearing its ugly head over and over again. Change the one thing that you keep coming back to that has insidiously convinced you to believe it as being true, that has led you to redefine who you are. The patterns that you can’t seem to break free from, the ones that bring feelings of hopelessness and despair, are the ones you want to target. If you’re going to do this, you might as well do it big. Set your sights on the aspects of your life that, when altered or eradicated, will help you change the way you’ve been thinking and lead you to new heights. Create new patterns, ones that show you the benefits of surrendering to the fact that what’s familiar and what’s gotten you here can be tweaked and moulded to bring you that much further. The ground you’ve covered has been well-traveled, but the journey continues. And so go for that thing that will continue to propel you forward. Keep fighting for what’s right for you, and don’t take no for an answer. Have faith in the knowledge that you will be able to handle whatever life throws at you, regardless of how dire the risks you’re taking seem. You will handle everything with intelligence and determination, and you will land on your feet barreling forwards.

If you’re going to play the resolution game, make it more than an exercise. Get your hands dirty and dig deep. The payoff will last way longer than through the third or fourth month of the year, and will condition you to keep aiming high. It’s time to get your own personal revolution started.

QuickPost 01/01/10

So I’ve just pulled myself out of bed after last night’s New Year’s celebrations, and I have to admit that I’m a bit puzzled at what I’ve been noticing over the past 3 or 4 days. So many people around me have told me how horrible a year 2009 was and how 2010 will prove to be rife with all the things that eluded them in 2009. As much as I’ve never been a “New Year’s resolution” type of guy, I’m all for reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the year to come with hope and the best of intentions. Having said that, it does take me off guard when the only thing that can be used to sum up a period of 12 months is a negative emotion. Regardless of what happens in our lives, however horrible and traumatic, there is always beauty, opportunity, and light to somehow emerge. Call it universal law, call it the play of opposites, call it what you want. The point is that sometimes we need to clear the proverbial table of the things we don’t want on it to make room for those things that we do want, and there’s no other way of getting to the things we want than having to go through the experiences that show us what doesn’t work for us in our lives. Those negative events are necessary to show us the true beauty and light in the people and events that show up when things are going well, and they allow us to truly appreciate them because we remember what it was like when things were not working in our favour. If 2009 was “the worst year in memory” (which is what I’ve been hearing), then look closely at what made it so, and see if there aren’t glimmers of promise, of opportunity and of hope in the wreckage of the events, and walk confidently into 2010 with the wisdom that those events provided. Every single second of our lives holds unlimited possibility…we just need to see it for what it is and not get distracted by that which is impermanent.