Is Anyone Else Feeling Like a Prisoner?

Back in April, when the pandemic and Shelter-in-Place was first upon us, a friend of mine said he felt like a prisoner.

Having spent eight years leading trainings in a maximum security prison, I reminded my friend—not without compassion for his frustration—that he still had the freedom to take a walk on the beach, order takeout from his favorite restaurant, and make love to his wife whenever he wanted.  Without too much smugness, I hope, I suggested that he could focus on what he didn’t have and couldn’t do (increasing his suffering) or he could focus his energy toward gratitude for all the freedom and abundance he did have.

Six months later, and after 7 weeks stuck inside because of all the smoke from California wildfires, I admit, I’m starting to feel like I’m a prisoner.  A prisoner of the Covid-19 pandemic; a prisoner of accelerating climate change and worsening wildfires; a prisoner of the toxic political atmosphere; and a prisoner of the hopelessness of my current perspective.

Here in Santa Cruz, living just outside the evacuation zone, I am grateful that my house didn’t burn down, and my heart aches for all my friends and acquaintances who were not so fortunate.  Lots of people have it much worse than I do, facing economic uncertainty, homelessness, and racial injustice on top of all that I’m struggling with.

Nevertheless, carrying my personal prisoner metaphor a little farther, I feel like I’ve got about 30 days until my parole hearing — AKA the election. And while I feel somewhat hopeful that things will go my way and I will be released in January, at the moment I feel powerless and afraid. 

Ironically, after writing that last line, the heaviness that paralyzed me for this entire day has mostly lifted.  (Clearly this speaks to the power of journal writing and coming present to create the conditions for transformation!)

And with that lighter perspective, I find myself contemplating a different metaphor, that of a monk in a monastery.  Like the monk, I am free to leave, but here I am, choosing to stay inside in my “cell” to avoid smoke, choosing to wear a mask when I go out in public, like a monk who chooses self-sacrifice for a purpose greater than himself.

The opportunity (dare I say, necessity?) in this crisis is to embrace my inner monk and commit even more fully to the cultivation of my connection to spirit, to my meditation and breath practices, to reaching out with love to my people however that remains possible, to cultivating my feelings of universal oneness in the face of separation and fear. 

This too shall pass.

Today, I invite you to watch my short video on how to expand your energy body to bring more possibility, joy and ease.

What Should You Do When You Don’t Know What to Do?

These are uncertain times, with disruptions and upheavals in all aspects of our personal, financial, social, economic, medical, political, and climate realities.  We fear how long this uncertainty will continue, and worry how bad it’s going to get before it gets better.  We’re anxious to know how soon our will lives go back to normal, and we fear what the new normal will be like when all the dust settles.

There are lots of highly paid talking heads bloviating 24/7, but nobody says anything that placates our anxiety.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  These are unprecedented times, and nobody really knows anything.  The stock market is up for “this reason” today, and then the stock market is down tomorrow for the same reason. 

The only thing that’s certain is uncertainty.  They only thing we know  is, “This too shall pass.”

The sages say there is opportunity in crisis.  And we are definitely a world in crisis, but what is the opportunity? 

Wise aphorisms aside, crises are scary, and when I’m anxious and afraid, my body experiences an increase in adrenaline and cortisol that urges me to “DO SOMETHING!” so I can get back to safety.

But what should I do when I don’t know what to do?  What can I do when the illusion of safety only exists in an unknown future?

Since I was a young boy, I’ve enjoyed playing chess.  And the secret to winning at chess is not so much about making great moves.  It’s  about not making bad moves, which happens when you move too quickly, or don’t see the whole board because of tunnel vision–both of which are biological impacts of adrenaline and cortisol!

Yeah, but what should I DO when I don’t know what to DO?

There’s a grove of ancient redwood trees near my house that I often visit when I’m feeling anxious.  For hundreds of years they’ve been turning carbon dioxide into oxygen, and growing slowly toward the sun.  They’ve weathered thunderstorms, drought, fire, insects.  When I listen for the wisdom they’ve gained through the ages they inevitably tell me: “If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.”

Hmmm.  So then, what should I do when I don’t know what to do?  Expand my field of vision and my capacity for patience, until I do know what to do. 

And how do I do that? 

Diving deeper into my daily meditation practice. 

If you don’t have a daily meditation practice, this is your opportunity in the crisis.  A mere two minutes per day is all it takes to start and make a noticeable difference.  And I can tell you from experience with my clients, those who don’t have a daily meditation practice get left in the dust by those that do.

I’ve been practicing meditation and breathwork for 35 years, and I’ve done and tried just about every method under the incense.  I’ve distilled what I’ve learned into a practice that’s simple, easy, and guaranteed to change your life.  I call it “Tuning to the Key of Me.”

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  If you have any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear it! Until next time, keep washing your hands, and keep turning oxygen into carbon dioxide underneath your mask!