Q: What can we learn from being in a changing world?
A: Yes, the world is changing, but our power lies in being still…
The times we are now witnessing seem more confusing and uncertain than ever. It feels like they threaten to absorb us in a life of mostly pain, fear, and anger.
How can we be compassionate, kind, and calm when we see so much suffering or lying around us? How can we live in a way that creates and inspires harmony, even now? And where?
First of all, in our souls.
Not being a slave to the harsh currents of fear, hatred, depression, and loneliness seems difficult… But, “Who are you?” Where do you live? What is the part of life to which you give the greatest attention, scope, faith? Knowing the hardships humanity faces, it is even more imperious for us to increase harmony and inner peace.
What we perceive of an event is only a tiny part of what it really is. The subtle fabric of energies, of unseen influences, is much broader and more complex than we could see or understand without having touched the blessings of wisdom. But the fact that we ignore it because it seems unclear or vague doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have clear consequences, karmic chains…
The Call for Ancient Wisdom
What happens now seems completely new, yet wider perspectives will open if we look to the example of the ancient sages and the answers they provided in similar times for humanity.
Like Ramana Maharshi, the great Taoist masters deemed inner transformation the core of any possible regeneration.
“Coming to the unchanging Truth… the sage lets things evolve according to their destinies, while he remains in the motionless center of all destinies… His absolute detachment makes him the master of all things, because he cannot be affected by anything.” –René Guénon
Such people were the main counselors of kings, giving advice on how to rule based on the Tao yet according to the circumstances and in very specific ways, so that the rulers’ gifts and temperaments, potentiated and illuminated by the Tao, would bring people the greatest harmony…
A Natural Evolution Towards Freedom and Self-Awareness
The Taoist doctrine of non-action, “wu wei,” expresses what should be a sage’s ideal behavior in the world. “Wu wei” is not passivity or inertia. It does not mean “to do nothing,” but to assume that conduct which neither by the action itself, nor by its results, nor by any secondary effect, will disturb a natural evolution towards freedom and Self-awareness. Such authentic activity springs directly from the Heart and brings us in tune with the still center of Existence, beyond all appearances.
In a beautiful story, the Chuang Tzu illustrates the power of a gracious action that doesn’t stumble in confusion because it comes naturally from the Heart: The wind was asked about its tremendous power, which is paradoxical since it doesn’t have a form, a body. The wind answered, “That’s right. I rise from the North Sea, rushing into the South Sea. Thus, he who pierces me with his finger overcomes me, and he who treads on me conquers me. Even so, only I can break trees and carry large roofs in flight.
Therefore, the Great Victory consists in not winning by the small things. Only the Wise Man can achieve the Great Victory.” (Chuang Tzu, Chapter XVII, “Autumn Waters”)
Repression and the Lack of Balance
Most of the current social strategies to deal with the challenges of humanity lack the balance that only the Heart can bring. Such approaches often became no more than veiled or unveiled repressions.
But the Taoists say: “When an extreme is reached, there is a reversion.” (The Secret of the Golden Flower, I.6), and Jung echoed this in “the return of the repressed.”
When we purposefully and forcefully try to get rid of something, we only end up reinforcing it. It is the same law that says that we cannot fight our thoughts. For example, we sense the intricacy of energies and emotions happening in our soul, yet we pretend that there’s nothing there. Humanity is now more like a psychotic organism in which that which we repress will surface to confront us again. “The extreme yin will lead to the extreme yang.” When we prefer to forget and repress things, without even realizing it, we simply deepen the sense of uncertainty and alienation.
The precarious balance of the contemporary world tells us not to go further in extremes but to honor the Heart. This Center is not passive, as here a secret rhythm of harmony and trust prevails.
Trust equanimity. It doesn’t mean dryness or indifference. Its beauty unfolds Love, passion, grace, determination, and freedom.
Moment-by-moment, from the Heart’s equanimity, evaluate the situations that arise in the world. We don’t have to keep pessimistic anticipations that even worse things will happen or that this is the apocalypse. Fear, despair, bitterness, hopelessness, resentment, defeat, etc., can have a tremendously pervasive and insidious power over our minds and universe. They are ways to sabotage ourselves. Yes, sometimes we can observe a trend that goes in a negative direction, but even that is seen from the same spaciousness of pure Presence. And then, from that pure space of the Heart—not just from a personality constantly moved by secret desires, restlessness, confusion, or fears—we can decide to act (to be involved, if that is part of our dharma, inner calling) …or not.
Also, don’t see the world as alien from yourself, no matter what difficulties or weird directions the social trends manifest. It is never “you versus them,” since you are not just human, but that awareness that peacefully embraces all such struggles.
Blind obedience to authority or reactive fighting are just extremes of the same spectrum of fear. More than the reaction itself, the deeper grounding of such responses should always be questioned.
The Heart is a well of fresh, unrevealed freedom, and it is only our fears and compromises that keep it blocked.
Our soul cannot be kept behind bars. There cannot be a psychological police force unless we believe it exists and accept its authority. Betraying our inner freedom is like allowing others to imprison us. Thus, we become a prisoner of fears and anxieties that lead to ignorant submission or rebellion.
There may be times we think that a small compromise will simplify our life. We tend to accept what others tell us persistently, even though it conflicts with our intuition or spiritual common sense. Don’t make such compromises. They often open us to a chain of other concessions, ending up in obedience to unknown forces. The problem with any compromise is that it cannot be done in full Self-awareness. It brings a secret need to repress the inner struggle, and thus the sense of being really present is diminished. Persisting in doing things that do not resonate with our soul is the very definition and expression of alienation. How then can our soul convey and fulfill its passion, beauty, and longing? Why poison it with the gray waters of confusion and forgetfulness?
Often, in awkward times, it may seem that we have no other choice but to act in despair or make compromises, even though in reality, we do have another option. We become prisoners because we consent to wear the chains that were not really forced on us, just kindly offered.
The Secret Call of Freedom
“Man was born free, yet everywhere he is in chains.” –Rousseau
The Divine Self doesn’t act in such manipulative ways. Its calling is discreet, gracious and will not force us to Self-awareness, which may be a problem in our fast-food culture when only the striking messages seem to matter. So, the only way to recover our freedom is to start looking for the Heart repeatedly inside, to stop and ask who we really are, behind all prefabricated masks of fear or anger.
Embrace Incertitude as You Would Embrace Death
We can compare the incertitude we live with now to that brought by death. We fear death because we don’t know how it is, what it means, when and where it will finally come. Still, despite the unknown, we have the freedom to choose how we move towards it and see the potentialities that accompany it. Confrontation with challenging or fear-inducing risks can make us blossom. They call on us to rediscover and trust what is eternal in us.
When we can learn not to fear death, there remains nothing to fear. When we honor and remember death, the future cannot be just a sinister end but the invitation of a path of faith and Self-awareness.
The Swing Will Come to Rest in Love
Therefore, the wise way to withstand external pressure and confusion is to find the inner stillness and stability of the Heart. The Heart, our real Home, is the only one that can give us the wisdom to make this world the home we are longing for.
Even in times of upheaval, turmoil, confusion, and conflict, through Self-awareness, faith grows in our soul that the swing of the world’s karma will eventually come to rest in Love, Truth, and Compassion.
By Sahajananda, the founder of Hridaya Yoga.