It feels like everywhere you turn this year with the Covid crisis, there is an obstacle. Events are cancelled, systems are collapsing, places are closed, expectations are continually dashed. We are being squeezed into tighter and tighter spaces. This discomfort has many of us simply waiting for the storm to pass and sending out anti-2020 memes before enjoying life again. But we can find expansion within the constriction. Not only is it possible, it’s the whole point.
My co-founder at Meditation Without Borders, Isabel told this story she read about this man who had his spiritual awakening when he was shackled to a wall in prison and being tortured. He realized even in that situation he had the power to choose whether to forgive his captors or not. He had to be squeezed into the tightest place possible in order to realize that there was still freedom in that space.
This all ties into the concept of Karma, but really Karma is a natural law that curbs the latitude of movement of those individuals or groups that go against nature’s flow. You can see it at work when people have an unhealthy (i.e. unnatural) lifestyle. First, they may start getting sick more often, then they can’t eat as many foods as they’d like, then they may not be able to move much at all.
Human society has been living in direct opposition of nature for some time, and the walls are closing in. However, these walls are meant to redirect us to where we need to go. Like a mother who tells her child she can’t go out and play until she cleans up her toys, we all have a lot of cleaning up to do before life out there can open up again.
However, we can find a sense of freedom even before the Covid situation dies down. The answer lies in where we’re being redirected to. We are being literally forced inward. We are being forced to let go of attachments as so much of what we thought was permanent is being taken away. We are being forced to learn to understand and create around these obstacles rather than simply wishing them away. And with each obstacle we navigate, we come closer and closer to finding not only a sense of expansion, but that the obstacle itself is an opportunity. It is the steel by which we sharpen ourselves, it is our stepping stone to growth.
So how do you shift your perspective to this mindset? When I get hit with another wall, I remind myself that whatever my plans were, whatever I thought needed to happen clearly is not what needs to happen or else it would be happening. That something else needs to happen which is more important to my growth and the evolution of everything else. This is living without rigid attachment.
I also lean into my creativity. If I am in a situation I don’t want to be in, I meditate and open myself up to letting possibilities I hadn’t even considered come to me. Letting go of attachment is crucial to creativity because our attachments will block those new solutions from coming.
Lastly, I think about what is as opposed to what isn’t, what I have as opposed to what I want to get, where I can go versus where is closed. We can’t go to the museum but what about the beach? We can’t fly this year, but where can we drive? Schools are not going back, but what experiences can I create for my kids that wouldn’t happen if they were in class?
The tightness is the vehicle to our expansion. This year may be frustrating and challenging for us all, but I can guarantee by the end if it we will have grown so much this year we will hardly recognize our 2019 selves.
Kristen Vandivier is an instructor of Vedic Meditation and the founder of The Vedic Method and Meditation Without Borders. She is regarded for her ability to make profound teachings relevant to everyday life and her mission of promoting meditation for social change. After completing an intensive curriculum of training under renowned Master Maharishi Vyasananda Thom Knoles, including a three-month immersion program in the Himalayas, Kristen returned to found her practice. She lives in Mill Valley with her husband and three small children.
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