Opening Our Hearts to Internal Change and Connected Consciousness
As we pause, take a breath, and reflect on the global collective experience of a pandemic over the past couple of years, many of the millions around the world, from the C-suite executives to elementary school teachers, continue asking the big question:
“Will this ever be completely over?”
The answer is, no not really, never.
History shows us that global catastrophes change the world; witness the Spanish flu, the Great Depression, and other historical moments in the last 100 years alone. This pandemic is no different. Whether the pandemic crisis changes, one thing is certain: our lives will never be the same.
Some posit that we are in a VUCA world: Volatile, Uncertain, Chaotic, and Ambiguous. Our brains are not set up to thrive in an environment like this. Our reactive brain, centered in the amygdala, wants to keep us safe. So, with any sense of fear or threat, it sounds the alarm and ignites a fight, flight, or freeze response. This is our default reaction, but it isn’t a good match to what is going on now. Throwing our entire selves into lots of activity or obsessing about our endless “to-do” lists for work and home can be a form of denial, delusion, and avoidance. Action is often a defense mechanism against letting difficult information into our personal world. Alternatively, there are other ways to respond that are better matched to our experience of a pandemic (during and “post”). These responses require self-compassion, silence, reflection, and time to be in the best possible service to ourselves, other people, and the earth that supports all life.
Perhaps the best spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical response is finding ways to embrace being forever changed.
“….What we’re experiencing now is a new pathway to awaken us to our new narrative. Light is coming to open our hearts. Our heart is the whole universe. This is Taku Wakan Skan Skan, our Lakota concept for the Universe….Mitakuye Oyasin is the principle that everything is related and connected. We are moving away from a cerebral, intellectual concept of the Divine, and moving toward consciousness.”
-Basil Braveheart, Lakota Elder
I am a human being, too, with strengths and weaknesses, and I find myself bumping into parts of my being as I live my days. As an indigenous woman, mother, and wife with decades of consulting and leadership training around the world—and as someone who endured nine years of childhood abuse, economic poverty, and race and gender inequality—I know that individually and collectively we cannot only survive experiences like the pandemic, we can also end up with new muscle, awareness, and an ability to thrive.
Whether you are the leader of your life, family, or business I offer these thoughts as a starting point for you and for those in your family and teams at work in transitioning with these changes:
- Security. Remember that all human beings need breath/oxygen, rest, water, good nutrition, and community to thrive. This is the core of a personal self-care plan and can serve as a model for your family and work colleagues. Allow yourself to be aware of all the other “I shoulds” that are spinning in your brain and let go of what “I should” be doing right now.
Provide for your own care, family care, and care of your workers. This will also impart a sense of belonging because they are acknowledged as an important member of the community. Social distancing and virtual work learned from the pandemic should not mean social isolation! We may have chosen to adhere to social distancing to actually be in solidarity with others; and every day you are choosing life for yourself and for others. This experience is also a good reminder that you are not alone.
- Acknowledge That You Are a Whole, Authentic Human Being who has all kinds of skills and abilities to perform at higher than survival levels. You can congratulate yourself for getting some virtual work accomplished, finishing a good day in home schooling, and accomplishing your self-care goals. And, you can also slow down to observe your thoughts and your behavior, laughing at yourself when you exercise and then eat a huge piece of chocolate cake, feeling both skillful and inept when you support a colleague in completing a report only to find that you can’t locate the form to fill out your taxes, flowing into both industriously scrubbing your kitchen and then crashing on the couch for a nap. You can give yourself major credits of self-love and competency as you try to figure out the process and forms to get unemployment insurance or support to keep workers employed, even when it doesn’t easily flow or you are frustrated.
You are now focusing on considerable internal change—allow yourself to ease into this important spiritual, mental, and emotional shift as it’s one that requires humility, patience, and self-love. Human transformations are not pretense or performance; real human transformation will be off-course as much or more than it is on-course; it will be honest, raw, clumsy, childlike, hopeful, beautiful and divine. There is also the realization in this process that you never do anything alone; there are loved ones, co-workers, strangers, scientists, nature, pets, and family members that are right there with you. People will be slower or faster than you, experiencing different versions of the journey—let go of that comparison.
The pause in our busyness, in our routine patterns, in what home-and-business-as-usual means, has been an opportunity for real growth and realignment to what you are and who you are inside. Reflect on this time change and how you think about your relationship to yourself, to other people, to pets, and to nature. In the indigenous world view, there is a term in Lakota, “Mitakue Oyasin”, which means “All My Relations”, that recognizes that everything—people, nature, the earth, and the spirit—is related. Everything is part of one intimately interconnected family.
As all of our ancestors learned from the crises they endured, we can allow this global pandemic to guide us in shedding patterns that no longer serve us, to build strength and courage, and to fuel bold new ideas for a thriving, life-giving world for all humanity.
- Embrace a New Normal. This means leaning into our ability and openness to learning and growing every day. As leaders of our lives and of our communities, we can choose to both acknowledge the real suffering and loss that is being experienced and at the same time, we can allow that we have created some new resilience. We have been training our brain to deal with change, to not insist that comfort have such a high value, and to realize we are alive and truly capable of learning and becoming.
Regardless of how long we may experience struggles from the pandemic, we can choose to live with hope in our individual and collective ability to rise. Our future will be different, but we will be ready. We will have different family connections and ways of caring, and we will take on new models of business and new ways of working that we may not even imagine at this time. We are realizing the power of “we” from this pandemic and remembering that “we” are part of the Hoop of Life. In the process, we will help each other and step up to fulfill our awakened purpose and serve this beautiful world we call home. The his/her story we are writing right now will be a gift to ourselves, each other, our children’s children, and the children of other species.
Painting, sculpture, music, literature and the other arts, it has been said, are considered the repository of a society’s collective memory.
The Toltecs believe that everyone is an Awakened One, but it is the Shamans whose eyes are open to this realization.
I decided to paint women, each one as if they came back from traveling with a key, a revelation, a secret of transformation.