I am writing this at a time when a viral pandemic has girdled the Earth. There is a palpable sense of fear and anxiety, accompanied by the insecurity that comes from the disruption of established patterns of life. We have all, to some extent, been forced into an examination of our lives and the things we held dear, perhaps without even knowing it: the freedom to shop, to walk with friends, to interact face to face with colleagues, to go to church, to stand next to someone, to shake hands.
The comfort zone is aptly named, because when we are forced out of it the first feeling is one of discomfort. Change will do that; in fact, it is one of the hallmarks of genuine change that it is accompanied by feelings of uneasiness and discomposure.
Lately, there seem to be hopeful signs that the virulence of the virus is easing; we can only hope that this is so. But what is certain is that many have been affected, either in their employment, their family life, their health and, of course, many have died. Each such death is a tragedy to be mourned.
It is in times such as these that the guidance of the wise is especially valuable. By definition, the wise are insightful, knowledgeable, clued into the realities of the situation. That’s why we call them wise. And that is why it is intelligent to turn to them for answers.
As an aside, it is curious how many of us seek out wisdom when we have space and time and leisure, but fail to do so when the need is urgent, the situation pressing, and the time short. So perhaps we can create some space and take the time to ask what the wise have to say that can be helpful in this time of worldwide fear and disruption?
There are many virtues appropriate to our present circumstances that are extolled in the wisdom of Sanskrit: Abhayam (अभयम्) fearlessness; Balam (बलम्) strength; Buddhi (बुद्धि) reason, Kshamā (क्षमा) patience and forbearance, and so on.
When I reflected on these words of wisdom, it was Kshamā — patience and forbearance — that “spoke” to me, that I felt would be the most helpful to explore. This beautiful word is full of deep, practical wisdom. It is derived from a root form that relates to remaining calm and composed and allowing events to take place and not resisting the reality of the moment. It also carries the sense of having the strength to bear any burden.
In its ordinary meaning, Kshamā simply means patience: the ability to wait upon events without judgment, criticism, or requirement that the universe serve us up a different reality. This requires an inner steadiness, an ability to find rest, satisfaction and fullness within ourselves. This is certainly an important part of mastering Conscious Confidence.
One easy way to discover the beauty and power of Kshamā is to change your story about the events that come your way, from judgment and requirement, to gratitude and acceptance. This acceptance is not a passive inert condition, but a starting point to see the situation clearly so you can apply intelligence and reason, allowing yourself to respond in a full-hearted, effective and fruitful way.
This feeling of gratitude and acceptance can be cultivated and practiced. Start by realizing the universe is a great giver of gifts, and that anything presented to you is for your benefit, even if it’s in the form of a lesson that you need more patience! In this time of disruption, fear and anxiety, cultivating the feeling of gratitude may require a bit more effort. Affirmations are helpful. Perhaps you might ask yourself: What can I learn from this situation? What is here that will make me stronger, that will help me grow? What inner resources do I possess, what courage, what strength, what intelligence, that will help me meet this face on? Questions such as these can give us space and strength and, yes, patience and fortitude to meet life and turn whatever it serves up to good effect.
So, in this current climate, let’s work together to meet fear, distress and grief head on, by cultivating Kshamā in ourselves, a positive feeling of gratitude, patience, and peace. This will leave us free of some of our own burdens, so we can be ready and willing to give our love, our compassion, and our support to the many friends, family and even strangers who are in need of some strength and comfort.