“Tranquillity in Disturbance Means Perfection”Chuang Tzu
Since most of Canada went into "lockdown" in the middle of March, we have been witnessing the greatest disruption to society in the 21st century. Everything has been called into question: economic stability; capitalism; populism; human rights; basic human freedoms; climate change, and; our very mortality.
How can we remain calm and human-hearted in a time of such unprecedented disruption? How can we see the beauty and creative potential in the unfolding of this unique experience in human history?
For me, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how some things change while others become more apparent; to the point that you cannot look away. In a previous episode, Seizures, Tears, and Chasing Thieves: Getting Certainty In Overwhelming Times” I spoke about how I was a participant in two incidents this April that had a profound impact on my emotional and moral understanding of human behaviour.
Going Along with the Natural Process of Life
When we practice witnessing the world with a human-hearted response we will embrace this pandemic as our present moment. In this time of uncertainty, isolation, grief, stress, and existential threat what is the higher good? Not in the sense of ethics, rather, how do we act in an intuitive way? As we bear witness to this virus and its affect on us, how can we see things differently by embracing natural phenomena for the simplicity of what it is?
The pandemic was borne of this earth and simply is. Our perception of the virus is an artificial, intellectual construct. The virus bears no prejudice, malice, or judgement. It flows into existence like water from a river into a lake. Humans react, trying to control that which they can’t, metaphorically trying to dam the river while standing in the middle of it.
Hopefully we will find a vaccine knowing full well we cannot stop the rise of another virus or pandemic. This perception is the first step toward acceptance — the way towards the tranquillity of witnessing disruption as the perfect and natural flow of life.
“See imperfections as perfect, even if your ego-mind cannot comprehend this. Become aware of your conditioned responses that lead you to label people, places, and circumstances as less than perfect.”
— Wayne Dyer, “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.”
Perfection is to be witnessed in the natural order of things, not in what we think or do.
Perfection is a natural unfolding; the flow of life on this planet and thus even the Novel Coronavirus is a part of that unfolding or coming into being, regardless of the apparent conditions which may have helped the virus come into being.
The natural order of things is creation: life and what appears to be disturbance (in this case the disruptive influence of human beings) to that natural order is truly perfection. The natural order is life and death, regeneration and decay. But as human beings, we allow our ego to take over and we react, get up in arms, preach that the COVID-19 virus is a conspiracy, deflecting from the truth that we are the species responsible for this disruption in the natural order of things. Indeed we are responsible for this virus coming into being and that in and of itself is perfection.
What does that perfection tell us about who we are?
We can change our ways to respect and be in alignment with the natural world — the ebb and flow of life and death — by replenishing the resources we consume and changing our perspective from seeing the world as something we can endlessly take from, to something we must protect at all cost.
When we disrespect the natural order of things we are inadvertently disregarding ourselves and our continued survival on this planet. This shift in perspective leads towards the tranquillity of understanding that disturbance is a part of nature, just as we are of nature, and that we contribute to the disturbance we are witnessing through the Coronavirus. In truth, humans are the single most disruptive force on this planet, pushing harder than the planet can bear. We have created an imbalance so great that the cycle of balanced regeneration has been permanently altered. Our actions have consequences and the list is growing longer and graver.
The greatest harm we inflict on the planet, and thus ourselves, is that we create “by-products” — what we take from the earth to benefit our comfort results in a side-effect, a consequence of potentially greater negative affect than the removal of that initial resource. We strip-mine the earth for coal and cause ecological harm on more levels than just the air-pollution created in the buring of coal. We raze forests, ancient and re-planted, causing multiple ramifications to our environment. We drill deep into the earth on land and sea to withdraw fossil fuels that pollute the earth, the sea with oil spills, the air and water during manufacturing, the air when used for heat or combustion, and as waste in the form of plastics and other single-use products of almost infinite variety. And at the extreme, we harness the atom which we explode for power as energy or political/ideological force and control.
We have lost our way
This is what we can learn from the COVID-19 virus and pandemic if we are open to intuiting this natural message, this warning if you like. We must change our ways. We know this but this is what we have come to experience in other areas of life, that in order to change, sometimes we need to experience great hardship, loss, or disruption. We are so caught up in our every day ego-experience of me, me, me, that it takes a force of nature to make us stop, to force us into social isolation and to shut down much of the workings of the world as we know it. And not just for a week or two, but going on now for close to three months.
An invitation to practice a human-hearted response during this pandemic
Practice equanimity over judgement.
Practice compassion for front-line workers.
Practice paying conscientious attention to physical distancing.
Live your life as if you are asymptomatic and that your choices could irreparably harm the health and life of others.
Leading in this way doesn’t make you immune to the virus, however you can choose who you want to be in the oneness of a more caring humanity.
“Stillness and tranquillity set things in order
in the universe.”Tao Te Ching, Verse 45. Tr. Wayne Dyer
Header image credit: Sunset in Glendalough by Giuseppe Milo.