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Challenging times test our ability to live fully

COVID-19 has created a plethora of dysfunctions in our world with incredible increases in loneliness, depression, anxiety, suicides and addictions to alcohol and drugs.

Unquestionably, these are some of the most challenging events in the history of the world. They are a worldwide pandemic, disastrous effects of global warming with increasingly rising temperatures. Plus, catastrophic effects of increased hurricanes, and raging fires across millions of acres, with unprecedented high winds, that have claimed many lives, destroyed many residences, businesses and forest.

These are complex issues with many solutions. The most fundamental solution that many of us have heard and appears simplistic is that we need to turn within. But, the two words living fully (turning within) can be summed up in two concise words ... BE CONSCIOUS.

An example is worth thousands of words; so let us focus on real events that are happening right now to thousands of people as a result of COVID-19. Not only increased hurricanes, and monstrous fires because of global warming; but also many families have lost their homes, loved ones, and their jobs.

Conscious awareness is more than just mindfulness which does result in one living in a more attentive alertness in our daily experiences. But, to be truly conscious requires another deeper step. One must go about daily experiences by practicing a relaxed but very alert watchfulness of one’s thinking.

For sure, as expected there is a deep sadness or depression and hopelessness that dominate one’s thinking. They see no way to replace their homes, especially, when they have no insurance. They cannot seem to quit dwelling on how much they miss their loved one. There is very little money coming in except unemployment funds in the short term.

So, how do they apply this wonderful sounding advice of turn within or become consciously awake or aware?

I do not want to oversimplify, but there is a solution to these tragic losses. It is not about time healing these wounds. Nor is it helpful to try to deny these thoughts.

The person must begin at once to become as alert as their dog or cat in catching these gut-wrenching thoughts as they flit into or across one’s mind. As they pop into mind; totally acknowledge and accept them. As you practice this attentive watchfulness; you will be overwhelmed at times with the agonizing ache in your gut from these terrible losses.

Russel Williams, age 94, is one of the most remarkable enlightened spiritual teachers of our time. He has some simple insights on how to escape these gut wrenching thoughts.

His meditative practice is very simple, but profound. When you feel overwhelmed — as the sadness, depression or angry thoughts flood your mind — look at a table or sofa and you will realize that this table or even your body has the appearance of being separate. At this millisecond; you know or feel that there is no separation ... just Consciousness being conscious.

In this very brief gap, a stillness, a peacefulness replaces this negative thinking. This could be called a non-judgmental, non-conceptual BEINGNESS.

Continue this gentle attentive observing as you catch yourself in these negative thoughts during your daily activities. You will have a marked decline of negative thinking controlling your mind. Instead, like pouring clean water into a cloudy pail of water; the fresh water will make the water crystal clear.

Spiritual teachers of the past and the present have different names for this experience. It has been called the Kingdom, the Child, the Presence or Now.

I prefer the Atmospheric Presence.

Jim Hawes, a retired Medford school teacher has published Ageless Child, Balboa Press. Amazon.com or Barnes and Nobles and is working on his new book, “Ageless Living.” Send 600 to 700 word articles on all aspects of Inner Peace to column editor, Sally McKirgan, innerpeaceforyou@outlook.com