What do you do when you know you’re living through History?
It’s hard to know. Look busy! History in the past seems to be important, interesting events that shaped our world. History in the present seems to be (at best) the unwelcome disruption of “normal” life for some unknown period of time. When will this History be over so we can get back to what we were doing? I had some projects going, and I definitely miss eating out.
Wisdom traditions tell us that there is a common arc to all events and experiences. If we pull back far enough, we see a kind of rhythm. Gain and loss. Rise and fall. Ebb and flow. The flux of fortune, culture, and all other systems. This is the law of nature, with a grace and majesty beyond (and behind!) any and all of our human affairs.
These traditions also tell us about the power of our immediate, raw experiences. The play of light. The smell of grass. The feel of smiling. These too, these building blocks of our conscious experience, betray the mystery flowing beneath the surface of every moment, regardless of whether that moment is, on its surface, pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.
And beneath and beyond both of these approaches (two different flavors of mindfulness) is the power of the human mind: your mind. Its endless ability to scale and scope, to frame and reframe, allows us to hold these different interpretations, nested inside one another. We can understand that a tree is branches, roots, and leaves, but it is also a singular, indivisible whole, but it is also an impenetrable mystery.
For me, living through History, I find myself exploring these other ways of looking and understanding. Often my default mind is cramped, anxious, and irritable. But when I dial into granular mindfulness of moment-by-moment awareness…Spring is springing, the air is warm, and the Earth is green. Fear of the future can be countered by scaling out to see that no one really knows what will happen next, or what it will mean, and that events don’t have meaning except that which we give them.
So, when living through History…mind your mind. Embrace it’s range and potential. Keep it tidy, fit, and nimble. It is a beautiful servant, but a dangerous master.