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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Letter from Publisher: NOW is All that Matters

May 01, 2020 09:00AM ● By Paul Chen
I’m struggling.

When I wrote last month’s letter, it was three days after Donald Trump had declared a national emergency. Now as I sit to write, we’re two days removed from Brian Kemp reopening Georgia.

So I’m struggling with my hair-trigger anger that I’ve written about before. It got noticeably better last year in part because I held myself back from being the news junkie that I’ve always been. But we need to be well-informed right now, and it’s impossible for me not to notice the overwhelming volume of malevolence, lies and ineptitude emanating from our nation’s and state’s capitols.

And, like everyone else, I struggle with not spending time with those I love. When I do see someone, it has been particularly difficult to refrain from hugging. Worse, my mother lives in an Atlanta assisted-living facility, and I am not allowed to visit her.

Worse again is the fact that she just suffered a stroke last week, and I was not able to see her. Doctors judged it a moderate stroke, but in the early hours of the incident, when her left side was paralyzed, I could only think of the horror of my mother dying alone, a scenario that I would share with literally millions across the globe.

And like many, many others, my livelihood is threatened. I count myself fortunate that you are able to hold this issue in your hands, but scary is the new normal for working stiffs the world over.

Last month, I spoke about my bias towards optimism. I remarked upon continuing to do our inner work, and I talked about the possibility of a new and far more equitable world that could emerge.

But the truth is, I allowed myself to be dragged down. I have railed too often and cursed too much. I have allowed my eating habits to degenerate. And my sacred and nourishing morning routine has fallen off. Meditation matters, and that is evident now, more than ever.

Still, the truth is that every moment presents the opportunity to change. Meditation has improved my mindfulness, so there have been instances that I’ve raged one minute and then offered prayers for those I raged against the next. When touched by despair, I have reminded myself that what is happening isn’t being done to me, but it is my karma to have these experiences. And, after a month of largely moving in the wrong direction, I did an about-face this morning. I didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time reading the day’s news first thing. Instead, I found videos on spiritual teachings, which led me to the website of the Vedanta Society of Iowa.

There, I was reminded that things that we perceive do not exist in the way they appear. We can see this clearly in America, where it seems that those “other people” live on a completely different planet. From the Vedanta Society’s website: “The Vedanta philosophy asserts the essential non-duality of God, soul and universe, the apparent distinctions being created by names and forms which, from the standpoint of ultimate reality, do not exist.”

This wisdom takes time to absorb, but after contemplating upon it on and off for 20 years, it’s beginning to get less fuzzy and more helpful to me.   

Last month, I wrote: “The fundamental disconnect is disconnection. Most humans incorrectly perceive themselves as separate from others.” The Society expounds upon this: “It’s no hardship to feel oneness with great and noble beings or those we already love... But most of us balk at experiencing oneness with the cockroach or the rat—let alone the obnoxious co-worker whom we barely tolerate. Yet this is precisely where we need to apply Vedanta’s teachings and realize that all these manifold aspects of creation are united in and through divinity.”

No matter how long this moment in human history lasts, reality isn’t any different than it was at any time before or at any time in the future. We only live in the eternal now. We can despair, become paralyzed, and stop growing, or we can accept, choose to be positive regardless, and evolve ourselves and all of humanity.

It’s our choice.
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