Episode 4 of my podcast “Old Ways for Modern Days” is now available!
In this podcast episode I discuss how, in this reset moment, we have the chance to align with our purpose on this planet by seeking older ancestral wisdom about the sacred contracts we make with ourselves, each other, and the world around us. With special guest Dena Crowder.
There is a new character, a catalyst that has entered the scene, and sets the stage for our everyday life. This character has become central to all our life stories in recent weeks. It strongly influences what we do and say on a daily basis, without the need to utter a single word. When something this powerful and all-consuming enters our lives, it is a good practice to try to understand why it is here.
The reason ties back to old ancestral wisdom about the sacred contracts we make with ourselves, each other, and the world around us.
There are many theories about the origin of Covid-19 from the scientific, to the conspiratorial, the political, and the social. Right now maybe the most important realization is the ways it has already fundamentally changed the way we live; the repercussions of its arrival setting the world in motion in ways we can’t yet fathom.
The Great Pause
Many communities are beginning the process of de-confinement. People have used this time of quarantine and social distancing as a great pause, to take stock and look at what has become extraneous about our lives. We’ve taken a collective deep breath, but we’re retaining that breath right now, unsure what will happen as we start to exhale.
We understand now that there are yet untold stories and yet unknown characters that have the ability to completely halt our world. We know that people gave their lives so that an important, age-old story could be told… that our species doesn’t always have the upper hand.
The Great Labyrinth of Life
If we go far enough back in time, all of our ancestors understood our interconnectedness with the world. It was as basic as breathing. Our ancestors had relationships with other animals, with trees, and other plants, with rocks, earth, and waters, and local spirits of the land that they honored. There was a sacred contract between them to never take more than they needed and to give back to the wider community in the form of offerings, prayers, and rituals. Our blood and bones remember this.
To tap into this ancestral knowledge, here is a little exercise. Start by looking at the food that is on your table the next time you eat. Look at every item, from the plants to the dairy, and other animal products and try to trace the path it took for this food to get to your table – the land it needed to grow, the rain, and the sun, the earthworms, the nitrogen in the soil. How about all the hands it touched? From the seed growers to the farmers, to the pickers and the people who created the final product. Then the drivers that transported it to your local store, to the workers who stocked the shelves with it, and the ones who finally sold it to you. Think about the animal, its mother, the milk it drank, the grass or grain it ate, and whoever produced its food…all just to feed you.
Try this practice with other items in your home, like clothes, and utensils, furniture, and books. Then think about all those shows you watch on Netflix, and what it takes to produce them. Through this practice, you soon realize that even if you are self-isolating at home, alone, you are actually never alone.
If you start this practice, there really is no end; you can’t fail to see what a vast web life is. Nature provides for us all that we truly need. The simple truth is, if we protect others, we protect ourselves.
True survival is not about what job we have, or how much money we make, or buying the latest fashions or technology. We have everything we need already if we just have eyes to see it and make it a priority to care for it.
Now is the moment to think about and decide what kind of life we want to build, as individuals, as a society, and as countries, and communities of living beings, not just humans.
We have a chance to really be a part of this world and to take our place again as the stewards of this beautiful planet we call home, and to take our place, we must understand our purpose.
As a society, especially in the past 20 years, consumerism has dominated our on-demand lifestyle and it has been cracked at its core. We quickly learned how unessential so many things in our lives actually are, while at the same time, appreciating that things we took for granted, are in fact essential: our health, access to food, medicines, and healthcare, fresh air, nature, and time outside, relationships with our loved ones, and communities that work together, and care about each other.
We also see that the people we deemed lesser, the grocery store workers, healthcare providers, trash collectors, the postal service, delivery services, those that work in various mortuary services have become our modern heroes. As well they should be for risking their lives to keep the wheels of our world turning in the most desperate moments.
When we are feeling lost, or anxious, angry, or bored by our circumstances, we take comfort in and are inspired by the arts: music, books, television, movies, and art. No longer are $5 coffee drinks essential, but a book is, as are the ones who created these beautiful diversions for us.
Maybe we will now finally change the way we spend our money, and treat people doing minimum wage jobs, or scraping by trying to make a living wage while creating art. Maybe now we can see the value of supporting local businesses. This is what our teacher, this virus has taught us about how we were wrong about the value of so many things.
I’ve always loved silver linings. For me, they represent the gift of a challenging situation. For me, silver linings are about the duality that is always present in life. Shit happens, and I don’t personally believe that there is always a positive reason for it, but there are always personal lessons, even ones that are not pretty, but vital for our understanding about how the world works, and that is the silver lining.
I am deeply saddened by the deaths and the illness and the losses people have suffered and are suffering from. There is nothing positive about it, and their deaths have shined a spotlight on how very broken our system is, how unprepared we were for this, and that is a lesson. An ugly one, yes. But a vital one, too. For me personally it is impossible to then return to the life I once led, never looking back to this time when so many died to show me that we as a society must change.
It was a long time coming. Humans are not a subtle species. We stomp around thinking we know everything, and with all the noise it is hard to notice the quiet clues around us that show us where things might need an adjustment. We are so used to bright lights and loud noises, that we must be screamed at to pay attention.
In my friend Dena’s Talk, the one that inspired a conversation about silver linings, she invited us all to ask what has this pandemic opened up for us, personally. What has it shown us about what we are here to do in this lifetime?
We all have fears that keep us from believing in our sacred purpose and gifts. For me, it’s always been about safety. I hold a deep feeling of personal responsibility for the safety of my family, and for providing us with what we need to thrive. I also feel just as personally responsible for caring about the impact my choices make on the world around me.
I grew up with very specific messaging from my family of immigrants. They lived through poverty, unjust governments, the depression era, and the second world war. As a young girl, it started… “make sure you get a good job” / “study a practical discipline – the world will always need teachers and nurses” / “marry a rich man” / “save for a rainy day” / “start saving early for retirement”. Those words have been so much a part of who I am. They’ve made me very practical, and realistic about life. But there is also a scared part of me that believes this quest for safety trumps all else.
I learned from my family what they knew, and was true for them, that security comes from doing what was prudent in 1950s America. If you work hard at a conventional job, if you blend in, you’ll be able to take care of yourself and your family.
However, for me that well-intended advice is, and always has been, colliding with older ancestral messaging that says “go find a piece of land, find comfort in a simple life, work with the land, let it feed your family and your soul, build a true legacy for your family”.
Our current teacher, the virus, has brought home another important lesson. The world on which the myths of stable jobs, saving for retirement and if you work hard enough, save enough, etc, is crumbling to the ground at our feet. It crumbled to the ground for my family 3 years ago when we lost our business and our home, and spiraled into poverty. Even though now we are living an “upstanding” and conventional life, it’s crumbling again, for us and the rest of the world, too.
This is our reset, the moment to go back further in time to retrieve older ancestral wisdom about The Old Ways, unwritten sacred contracts we make with each other, and the world around us.
The virus is telling us what we most don’t want to hear, that we must understand that there are forces at work in our universe that are beyond the control of humans. That something that benefits another living organism may be the end of the world as we know it. But not the end of The World.
Towards the beginning of the pandemic, these words by French ER doctor Sophie Mainguy hit a major chord. She said, “we are not at war and we do not have to be at war…The firm ambition of a service to life is enough. There is no enemy. There is another organism living in full migratory flow and we must stop so that our respective currents do not collide too much. We are at the pedestrian crossing and the light is red for us.” She continues, “life forms that do not serve our interests (and who can say?) are not our enemies. This is yet another opportunity to realize that humans are not the only force on this planet and that they must – oh so many – sometimes make room for others…It is not a war, it is an education, that of humility, interrelation and solidarity.”
This vital understanding of how our planet works and the fact that humans are only a part of a collective has been lost on our species for a long time now. Our ancestors lived with the knowledge of this interconnectedness, and that an imbalance created by one group of beings, ultimately leads to realignment of the truth – that all of nature depends on each other for survival, and nature will have a balance.
We have to confront some fundamental issues about our rampant material needs. We need to remember who we are, and why we are here. Is it to have the newest and best of everything? Or is it something deeper, and more meaningful? Entertainment is not our reason for existence.
We have to ask ourselves really hard questions about the value of life, and our respect for the lives of other people. We still have not felt the true loss yet of so many of our elderly – the keepers of the old stories and traditions. In these times we care too much about what is new and inventive. But the wisdom of our elders, those who lived through challenging times, who grew up with sustainable skills for survival could be the very ones to show us how to move forward in this new world. Too many have now been silenced forever.
This virus, our new teacher, shined a bright light on the fact that we, as living beings are vulnerable, and that we all die which is something a lot of people like to forget with the way we torture ourselves with diets, and intense exercise plans, as if any of us are getting out of here alive.
Death is an uncomfortable subject for many, yet it wasn’t always this way. We have cut ourselves off from the cycles of life and death, we’ve been distracted by the bright lights and loud noises; it’s made so many of us numb to the heart-aching beauty that surrounds us each and every day, and the immense joy of simple things.
We understand now that the veneer of modern life is actually so thin, and such a farce. This rhetoric that we’ve been led to believe about giving up our lives to conform to some materialistic dream, is not the path to happiness, nor to the well-being of the world around us.
The virus shows us that the survival of our species requires us to think of, and take care of others, a concept we are clearly still learning. A simple thing like wearing masks to protect other people, or staying home so that those services which are truly essential to life, can continue has had more backlash than anyone could have expected. We need to do better.
The pandemic shines a light on all the faulty systems in our world, from healthcare to the way we value certain professions and people, to how much of an impact our way of life has on the other inhabitants of this planet. We are being given time now as a society, and as a part of this world to form and build new social and sacred contracts between us as humans, and between species – those we inhabit this earth with. It shows us in no uncertain terms that society and life, in general, thrives only when the weakest of us have what we need.
When it is time to spread our phoenix wings and rise from the ashes, what will we choose to let burn, so that we all can thrive?
Dena Crowder: https://www.denacrowder.com