As we head into the 4th week of the COVID-19 global lockdown, the psychic waves of worry, anxiety, and even panic emanating from all corners of the earth are palpable. In these uncertain and unprecedented times, the ground literally can feel like it’s shifting beneath our feet, leaving us feeling insecure, vulnerable, and wary about the future.
At the root of it all, however, lies fear.
If we let it, fear can take hold of us like an 18-foot boa constrictor and strangle the life right out of us. It can cause us to make knee-jerk and neurotic decisions that instead of benefitting us, harm ourselves and others (take the hoarding of toilet paper and medical masks, for example).
When fear takes hold of our being, there is no room for nurturing, for compassion, for helping others, nor for love. Perhaps, after this crisis has passed, the damage fear from the pandemic has inflicted on the world will be infinitely worse than the number of lives lost. What will humanity be left with in its wake? Fear of hugging and touching others, fear of giving kisses, and sharing food and drink? Fear of sitting next to other people at sporting events? Complete mistrust of others, fear of catching a fatal illness, fear of life?
At its core, the COVID-19 pandemic touches how we view the world and universe around us. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, we dealt with fear every day. Whispers of fear come from every corner of society, whether it’s fear of climate change, terrorism, disease, crime, or fear of failure. And the sources of fear are many from the media, social media, and government to colleagues, family and friends. If you observe carefully, you can detect subtle messages of fear from almost any source, with the most simple one being “Be careful.” That’s the one kids hear most often from parents and relatives.
Now those whispers of fear have become like shouts. Locked in our homes, devoid of human contact with our loved ones, worried about the economy and the future of humanity, we still are left with two choices: succumb to the fear or choose love and life and its infinite possibilities?
How Can We Create the Future?
How can we choose life and create the world we want to build? It’s really, very simple. The key lies in our determination. The recent swift and decisive actions of certain governments (for better or for worse) at the very least show us that when we are determined, change on a mass level can happen very fast.
In these seemingly desperate times, we have the power to create a bright future for ourselves and for all. As Buddhist priest and meditation master, Ryokyu Endo says, the process for doing so is clear. If we are 100% determined to create a bright future, then that is what we will create. However, if we are doubtful or fearful about the future, then we stay bound to the fear around us, and our future will be uncertain as well. Many people have a “que sera sera” attitude toward the future (and toward life). Whatever will be will be. That attitude does not create a bright future for anyone; it keeps us slaves to the negativity of the past.
How can we create a strong determination for the future? Through the power of imagination. Imagine in your heart that the next moment (not in five minutes, five weeks, or five years), but the very next instant will be better than this one. And keep doing it for as long as you can. Think of it like riding a bicycle. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Imagine what a bright future for the world would look like. And then be determined to create it. That is the first step on the path to freedom.
You may hear inner voices say things to you like, “don’t be so naive,” or “don’t be so silly.” Obstacles may appear right out of the gate! But fluid times like these enable us to transcend those thoughts and let go of thought patterns that no longer serve us. Be determined to imagine in your heart of hearts what a bright world would look like after having overcome this crisis.
Now you might be asking, even if I do have 100% determination to create a bright future, how can I do it? That is the second part of the equation.
We Have the Power to Create the Future
As human beings, we have the power to decide what future we will create, in every moment. And nothing from the outside world can decide or determine our future for us (not even a virus pandemic).
We have a choice in every moment. To live in fear, or to live in positive love. Positive love includes a deep faith in life, in what many native and spiritual traditions call “the Great Spirit of the Universe.” Others call this force The Great Love, God, Amida Buddha, or the Source of All, to name a few.
Can we fall back on this deep faith in a loving universe to guide us and protect us during these turbulent times? And can we find the inner strength and determination to visualize and imagine a bright future no matter what? This is the choice we are now faced with. Plunge into despair, or embrace that inner light that is connected to All That Is. That comforting and loving inner voice that every human being possesses within that is always saying, even in our darkest hour, “everything will be okay” (‘Andrà Tutto Bene’).
The truth is that we are all going to die one day. Do we want to spend our lives fearing death, or embracing life? Our mainstream medical system considers death to be the ultimate tragedy. However, as much as we’d like to avoid it and not think about it, death is the final destination for us all.
A more holistic view of life accepts death as a natural part of life. We never know when we will breathe our last. Will it be from the coronavirus and COVID-19, or will it be from the depression, stress, and other disorders that come from being locked up in an apartment with no friends or loved ones around for months on end? Global studies have confirmed the relationship between increased unemployment and mortality, not to mention the effects of heightened stress and mortality.
What Does It Mean to Live?
Real living means to create the future we dream is possible. Spiritual masters from all religions have been saying for hundreds if not thousands of years, that the role of human beings on this planet is to create a bright future for self and others.
What we determine to do in our hearts is what will happen in our life.
But what happens when we start out determined to do something? After some time, an obstacle comes up, or an excuse or someone discourages us, and we let our efforts slide. And that causes the manifestation of our desire, our wish, to weaken. The future you dream of and wish for can only be realized when it includes three pillars:
- 100% determination to imagine and create a positive future
- 100% readiness to do whatever is necessary to make it happen
- 100% determined to make it happen no matter how long it takes
If any of these three pillars are weak or lacking, our efforts will be in vain. And we will never be truly free.
Ultimate reality is one of peace, joy, and comfort. It is the state of the newborn baby, completely at peace and unified with the source of life. This is our birthright as human beings. The true nature of the universe is joy and ultimate happiness. We’ve lost touch with it as a result of the stresses of “growing up,” the traumas we have been inflicting on one another, and the conditioning of society. However, we can reclaim it at any time. The choice is ours.
What Is Real Presence?
You might be asking yourself, don’t we need to be present in the now to lead a grounded and productive life?
Actually, the concept of the present moment, or the Now, is somewhat misunderstood. You see, there is no “here and now.” There is always a time lag (even if it is in milliseconds) between actual phenomena and your perception of it. Let’s take sight, for example. By the time light reaches your neural networks and then gets transmitted to your senses, that moment has already passed! So what you experience “now” actually belongs to the (immediate) past. It’s like our senses are always playing catch up with reality.
Real presence is the image in your heart of what will happen. We all have images of the future, either good or bad, that flash in our minds and hearts (in Japanese, the terms ‘heart’ and ‘mind’ are not separated; the word is known as Kokoro 心). However, many people have a negative image of the future (especially these days). We try not to see these negative images of the future (they are painful to look at!) by saying to ourselves, “maybe something good will happen, or maybe not, we don’t know.”
This attitude toward the future causes us to strive for a “secure” life; in other words, survival. Survival mode prevents us from living life to its fullest. And the sad truth is that most of us are not really living. We are living “not to die.” We are living just to survive. And human beings were put on this earth to do much more than to survive and avoid death.
The only true path to freedom is by letting go of the past and giving all our energy toward creating the future we dream of. This is the only way to be truly free and truly happy.
Real presence comprises what you imagine and what you are determined in your heart to do about making it happen. This kind of presence will create the future phenomena that you experience. Buddhist and quantum theory confirm it.
What you experience as phenomena in your life are the result of what you have determined and imagined in the past. It is how the universe is structured.
Those who fail to recognize their negative (or fearful) images of the future remain trapped in a vicious circle, experiencing a future that is the direct result of their past images based on fear.
What Is the Ultimate Purpose of Human Life on Earth?
Can we seize this opportunity to rethink all existing systems (and thought patterns) that do not serve humanity? A medical establishment fixated with curing the symptoms of disease rather than eliminating the cause. Political systems that serve corporate interests more than the needs of real people. Economic systems that profit the wealthiest on the planet instead of enriching everyone. And human systems that ignore our interconnection with and harmful impact on nature instead of preventing further environmental degradation.
The ultimate purpose of human beings is to create the future together. Not to merely survive. True reality is in our hearts. When we realize it and act upon it, moment by moment, we can transform the world.
When we live in this way, free from fear, any action we do will feel like it is flowing with the stream of the universe. This is the river of the Great Spirit where all wishes are realized. We can use this time of deep crisis to transform our hearts and the future of the planet. And live with true freedom.