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Weathering The Storm And Being Better Off For It

The material, economic and social routines of our world are being torn apart, before our eyes.  It’s happening so quickly that many people haven’t yet settled into the stark reality that lies ahead: 

Life will not be the same in the future, for so many reasons.

While there are so many adverse and disruptive elements that are easy to illustrate and paint with black and grey hues, what we need to do now is look past the emotions that such a cataclysmic event generates.

What if what’s happening right now isn’t about the collapse and destruction of so much that we know as reality .. but instead, an opportunity to reconsider what we prioritize collectively, as well as individually?

For the past couple of years, I’ve been living my own crisis with the figurative collapse of what was my reality.  It has been gun wrenchingly painful, forcing me to look into the deepest corners and dark holes of my psyche and my ego.  Most of what I believed to be true was systematically dismantled, disproven and destroyed.

What I learned is that when you’re forced to confront yourself, stripped down and unable to define yourself by your accomplishments, your belongings and your reputation .. it’s a scary fucking place to be.

I have been oddly centered and calm through the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, largely because I feel like I’ve been dealing with crisis for the last 2 years.  It’s given me some perspective to be able to observe how others are responding to what’s going on.  And most importantly, to watch myself in how I’m responding.

This past couple of years, I’ve developed a bit of a framework in how I am choosing to live my life, to the best extent I can.  It’s proven incredibly useful, and I am hoping that sharing it will perhaps give someone else a bit of hope and calm in the storm that’s swirling around us.

What I’ve come to believe is that a successful and meaningful life comes down to 3 things.

1. Connection

For me, it all starts here.  I spent most of my life avoiding and deflecting deep connection with other human beings.  My past experiences caused me to build a wall and to move in a way that helped me avoid the pain of being let down and hurt by people close to me.  It consumed my decisions both in business and personally.  And, it successfully allowed me to arrive at where I subconsciously was trying to be: disconnected from everyone in the world.  Standing alone.  Where no one could hurt me. 

I awoke to this nightmare about 2 years ago, when I realized I had shut out and turned away an endless list of people who wanted to support me, to love me, to see me.  It had nothing to do with them, but everything to do with myself and my programming — I had to keep the world at a distance so they couldn’t hurt me, like I had been hurt so many times before.

I found myself in 2018, standing alone.  Feeling alone.  And realizing, that to that point my life was a complete failure, precisely because I had succeeded at keeping myself at a distance from other human beings.

I decided to make a change. 

I joined what has become a community that literally saved my life.  I found a tribe of people that wanted to know who I was, that wanted to support me, and simply wanted me in their life because of who I am.  I stopped worrying about how “I could help them” and instead just showed up as myself.  Said what I felt.  Told someone what I thought of them.  Worried less about them liking me, and more about understanding who they are.

I finally let down my masks and let go of who I thought I was supposed to be.

I just decided I was going to be myself.  And in doing that, I began a journey of really understanding who I am, and moving to accepting that person.  This was the hardest part of the journey for me — being willing to see who I really am, and beginning to feel compassion and acceptance for that guy.

It’s a work in progress.  

But I’ve come to realize that the best way to build a life with amazing people in it is to first figure out who you are, and reconcile the anger, sadness, disappointment and hate that you feel for yourself.

Connection has become the single most important thing for me today.  I was starved most of my life for authentic, loving connection with other human beings.  A lot of hard work and loving has brought me along this path.  I am beyond humbled by the calibre of human beings that I get to call a friend today.   And I mean true friends, who I could call in the middle of the night and they would take the call.  They would move mountains to try and help me.  And they know that I would do the same for them, without even being asked.  That’s what a meaningful life is to me, to have that kind of human connection in your life. 

Connection for me has been the bridge to redefining what success is when it comes to living a great life.  And I don’t see how you can possibly live a meaningful and extraordinary life without connection.

2. Consciousness

Here’s a word that seems to have an endless number of meanings and definitions, depending on who you’re talking to.  For me, consciousness is a very simple idea.  

Like most people, you probably have that inner voice inside you that chatters non-stop.  Some might call in the inner critic, or inner voice.  It’s usually not very positive, and it’s often looking for all the problems and risks that show up throughout the day.  Your inner voice may be particularly critical to you.

When I talk about this inner voice, most people will say that’s their “inner monologue” going on, and that voice is them.  It’s their own thoughts being translated into words or voices that the person can hear internally.

But here’s the question — if that is “you” that is talking .. then who is doing the listening?

I’ve come to realize, through the guidance of many wise masters and thinkers, that the voice I perceive in my head isn’t “me” at all.  It’s my ego speaking, and I am observing that voice.  The ego’s job is to keep me safe, which basically means keeping me in the same place and not making any changes.   It’s why moving out of your comfort zone is so difficult. 

Most people are completely driven by their inner voice.  To me, consciousness is the practice of beginning to observe that voice only for what it is — chatter that is not likely going to bring me to a better place.  Consciousness is the practice and habit of knowing that voice may speak, but looking past it and seeking guidance from the much higher self we all have.  You might call in intuition, your “gut”.  This is why people say, “I don’t know, I just don’t feel like this is the right decision”.

Your ego relies on logic and rational thought to come to conclusions.  Your higher self relies on a feeling inside your body, and doesn’t translate to thinking at all.

Most of us have been conditioned to ignore our inner self, that guidance we’re all born with.  We succumb to the pressures of other people’s opinions and voices, and let our ego take full control of the wheel.

As I began understanding and practicing this distinction, I started to feel more calm and ease.  I worried less about external measures or signs of success and accomplishment.   I started spending more time within myself, and working to tune my awareness of this inner guidance.

Through a variety of modalities (but in particular, plant medicine work) I have come to see that we are all connected in this universe, and that our consciousness is not our own in isolation.  It’s beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say that I now see and feel that we’re all connected to a common collective.  Whether you call that God, the Universe, Spirit, Source, or whatever you choose .. it’s true.

Working on my own consciousness and starting to shed the programming and stories of my past that I allowed to define me has been incredibly liberating.  And I’m excited about where this practice will continue to lead me, and how it will continue to liberate me.

3. Compassion

With what’s happening in the world today, I believe this is going to be the key for most people to be able to get through it, without suffering massive scars and setbacks that will haunt them for the rest of their days.  I’ve found that focusing on Connection with others, and my own Consciousness, has naturally allowed me to feel so much more compassion about others.  Trying to see where they are coming from before jumping to conclusions.

The hardest part of compassion for me is compassion for myself.  Through some loving and gentle awareness brought to me by some close friends, I’ve realized I’m so fucking hard on myself.  The reason I’ve always expected so much from others is because I expect everything and perfection from myself in the past.  Through the work I’ve done over the past couple of years, self-compassion and the ability to forgive myself is probably the greatest difficulty I’ve had.

As the storm that’s raging around us right now, it is very easy to start doubting yourself and being upset for so many decisions that you’ve made that have gotten you to where you are.  

But with where we’re at and what’s coming, it’s important that you begin to be gentle and kind to yourself, and accept that you’ve done the best you can up to this point.  The world isn’t ending, and no matter what challenge or adversity you’re facing in this moment, things will be okay.  They may turn out a lot differently, but you will be okay as long as you remain in touch with yourself and remain on your own team.

What I’ve found is that as I’ve gone through moments of torment or anxiety about this crisis upon us, the fastest way for me to get grounded and feeling love is to look around and figure out how I can help.  Others.  That is the fastest way to both gain better grounding and feeling within yourself, and to make a difference for someone at the same time.  You help yourself by helping another.

Ultimately, this crisis is going to test you, not just for what you’re able to sustain, but for what really matters to you.  It’s going to be a very difficult and painful process that reorganizes your priorities, and strips away all the external bullshit that doesn’t really matter.

It’s going to force you to stand alone, naked, and reconcile what hasn’t been working in your life.  It’s a chance to think about how things might be different, and could be better.

And for me, the path through this storm comes down to those 3 things:  connection, consciousness and compassion.s