It’s counter-intuitive to suggest that a pandemic like COVID-19, with all of its far-reaching consequences to our lives and livelihoods, is anything other than devastating. There is an aura of global stress engulfing our planet, compounded by the mental anguish that continues to unfold for every single human being in 2020. However, I believe the very forces that threw the planet into havoc, have also created a unique opportunity: a portal of reawakening for humanity. It beckons each and every one of us to re-examine everything about our lives. And for me, this portal has opened up my spirituality.
I was raised in a Hindu family, but never considered myself a religious person. Hence, it was difficult to put into words what spirituality meant for me…until now, as I experience spirituality in moments.
These moments are fleeting and quite unexpected, but almost always encapsulated by feelings of joy and gratitude. It reminds me of a roller coaster ride when the cab you’re sitting in reaches the top of the track. Spirituality is like capturing a glimpse of the vista around you, marveling at its vast expansiveness, and just for a moment, savouring the feeling of abundance that fills your heart.
However, reaching the top is never a joy ride. To be precise, every roller coaster ride begins with panic. You’re not sure what to expect as you enter it, but you can bet it will be a mixed bag of terror and delight.
Entering the roller coaster ride of 2020
Humanity didn’t have much of a choice about entering the roller coaster ride of 2020. Like others, I too was thrust into the ride on March 11 when I received a call from my boss late in the evening that we were not to come into the office the next day, as a positive case had been reported in our building.
That weekend, the first shockwave hit as schools and other businesses were declared to shut down. Over the next several weeks and months, I witnessed in disbelief as history was being made in full color, right in front of our eyes. Anxiety and stress piled on as I drowned in the minute-by-minute bombardment of bad news. The roller coaster took several twists and turns, reaching every destination of emotion I can think of, from irritation at mundane toilet paper shortage, frustration with the constant juggling act of kids and work at home, heart-break about the rising fatality count, crumbling economy, floods and wildfires ravaging the environment, to most profoundly, rage, as the world watched when George Floyd’s last words were snuffed out, “I can’t breathe”.
As I tried to make sense of how all this havoc would play out for me personally and my loved ones, one source brought me comfort: Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth. This passage particularly gave me reason to pause: “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.”
Experiencing the Catharsis
I began to wonder, what is this moment, this year, and this experience calling for in my evolution? Through tragedy, it appeared as though the universe perfectly aligned to force upon us a catharsis, like a piece of metal transforming when forged in the fire. Feeling enlightened by the wisdom contained in Tolle’s words, I decided to shift my lens, and reframe my struggles as an opportunity to be present and curious to what the moment was trying to teach me.
First, I examined what is right in my life, and happily found several gems! Top in the treasure box was mine and my family’s health, which I no longer take for a given. Next was shelter. With a roof over our heads, I am grateful we make ends meet.
Meeting the first two rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (physiology and safety), I searched for what is right in the next three rungs up (love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization). Without a doubt, the crowning jewel was time: time saved from not having to commute or travel, and time back with my kids, spouse, and extended family who live in the same city – a huge blessing in itself!
Speaking of blessings, how lucky am I to live only a 45-minute drive away from the Rocky Mountains! Every summer, my family avails of opportunities to visit the Rockies through hiking and camping trips. This summer was no different, with one major exception – we didn’t have the option to travel or fly elsewhere. So, we slowed down and basked in all of the glory of the formidable mountain peaks, majestically standing through tests of time and tectonic forces. Wading in teal-colored lakes fed by ancient glaciers, savouring the feeling of water hugging my feet, I was awestruck by nature’s incredible source of possibility and beauty, awaiting just beyond the rat race. It was gently tugging me to anchor my spirituality in this special, sacred place.
Embracing a new normal
The practice of being present has helped me see shifts in my daily life. For example, when I take a walk, I really notice that bird flying off a branch, filled with leaves turning hues of yellow and orange. In this moment, I feel expansive. I am open to possibilities, and to change. I am nourished to receive the next step in my evolution. Mostly, I choose to celebrate life, as strange as that sounds in the roller coaster of 2020. Celebration doesn’t mean denying pain, it just means putting every situation in a broader, balanced perspective. Pre-COVID-19, I couldn’t define spirituality, but now I can sense that the key to unlock our connection with our passions, source energy, and universe…is just within reach.
I’d love to hear from you! What do you believe 2020 is calling for, in your evolution?
Gayathri Shukla is the founder of Campfire Kinship, a storytelling organization that shines a light on resilient, everyday role models pursuing their passions. A certified instructor in guided auto-biography, she empowers others to discover their unique gifts and purpose through the process of crafting their life stories. You can follow her on Instagram & Facebook.
Image courtesy of Darius Bashar.