Updated: Dec 26, 2020
2020 has been a time of deep introspection for me. I have been in turn optimistic, naïve, resistant, overwhelmed, inspired, angry, motivated, and impatient. My friend Kate used the word “unraveling,” and that resonated deeply with me. It’s been a time of deep unraveling of the accepted, the expected, and the “givens.” As I navigate this transformation process, my higher mind turns me repeatedly towards a search for wholeness. How do all the parts of this social upheaval relate to a larger whole? How do the actions in one area detrimentally affect other areas? And, what is the overall impact of our decisions on the greater good of all?
I’m deeply concerned about the collateral damage we have precipitated in this country with our reaction to the pandemic and the untenable results of our racial divide. I’m concerned that we will simply continue to propagate chaos rather than do the deeper internal psycho-spiritual work needed to actuate true healing. As a race, we don’t tend to look at things holistically. We isolate various symptoms of our pathology from the multitude of the other symptoms and from the whole. As we attempt to manage one symptom, we precipitate and exacerbate other symptoms. Consequently, in our efforts to control just one part of a greater systemic issue, we miss the larger picture and fail to actuate real healing. We never get to the causal level.
For the ego believes in “solving” conflict through fragmentation, and does not perceive the situation as a whole. Therefore, it seeks to split off segments of the situation and deal with them separately, for it has faith in separation and not in wholeness.
A Course in Miracles, p. 367
When faced with the enormity of our problems as a world, we quickly become so overwhelmed by them that we simply normalize and adapt to them rather than look for the common denominator lying at their root: the belief in separation from God and one another. Clearly, we’ve decided it’s normal to be fearful, hateful, selfish, clannish, self-protective, sick, depressed, greedy, and so forth. Fragmenting our irrational separation belief into a billion separate effects keeps our attention focused on the effects rather than on questioning the cause. Overwhelm ensures that we never question the validity of our perceptions.
Now, however, we’re having to deal with significant fallout from our erroneous thinking. The quarantine and the rioting have pulled us all into national and global situations, whether we wanted to participate in them or not. The divine invitation is for us to pull our individual and collective heads out of the sand and look at the world we’ve created. My concern, however, is that our usual fragmented reactivity will only see things get worse, not better. In my opinion, we have not yet zoomed out wide enough and thought inclusively enough to consider the larger whole within which these issues are being observed. And we have reacted at the expense of the greater whole as a result.
Let’s look at the pandemic first. It was relatively easy to measure the numbers of one serious medical condition, and easy for large numbers of people to feel instantly afraid and to react from that fear. But, that same “corrective action” has seriously—I would say dangerously—impacted numerous other medical, familial, and economic conditions that aren’t so easily measured.
The hidden costs of this reaction are just beginning to reveal themselves and will be felt for years to come. We haven’t even come close to considering the deepest cause of our hysterical reaction—our acute fear of death due to our over-identification with material form. But, putting that aside, there are still many layers of systemic injustice and imbalance that have been normalized, resulting in a dysfunctional society. Just a few of the larger systemic issues include:
The blatant inequality of our healthcare system;
The manipulation of scientific research for profitable gain; and
The undue precedence of western medicine over alternative medicine.
And our hysteria is manifesting many dire consequences, including:
The consequent rise in deaths due to overdose and suicide, as well as untreated medical conditions such as heart attack and stroke;
The increased risk of domestic and sexual abuse arising from this prolonged quarantine;
The increase in divorces, causing the breakdown of the family unit;
The loss of income and economic instability being experienced by millions; and
A national and international economic crisis.
For me, this has been a real wake-up call. Being unable and unwilling to normalize this in my mind, I have sought a larger holistic point of view to help me process what’s been happening.
Let’s look at the issue of race relations in America next. The good news is that people are finally paying attention to a very serious problem that has plagued our country since its inception. You may wonder how police brutality and the pandemic are related. I see they are related at the most fundamental level of our insanity. They both spring from the unrelenting fear we have of one another. A fear that arises out of our belief in separation from the greater Wholeness that contains us all within Its unified beingness. A fear that teaches us to treat one another as threats rather than as essential to our personal and collective wellbeing.
The situation with the police is just one form of the systemic racism and xenophobia that has arisen from our spiritual identity crisis. This is a huge issue that goes far beyond the criminal behavior displayed in these acts of violent police brutality. This serious problem is just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the overt misconduct lies America’s sweeping systemic racism that is deeply woven into our economic and social institutions, policies, practices, and behaviors.
The systemic economic, educational, and healthcare inequality in America are just the most obvious manifestations of this issue. Add to that the media’s irresponsible culpability, the entertainment industry’s consistent diminishing portrayal of people of color, and the glorification of violence, and we see the extent of the effects of our fearful thought system.
As with the virus, America is currently reacting to one overt form of the problem without addressing the larger issue. We’re still not looking at the root cause that stems from all of us collectively. Instead, we want to feel good by placing all the blame and shame onto someone else. Our corrective actions, such as defunding police departments, make no sense and will only exacerbate the problem, not heal it. It will take money to provide adequate training in nonviolent solutions, to review and revise current procedures, and to develop clear, consistent standards for what constitutes brutality. We prefer to blame, shame, and punish this group instead of taking responsibility as a nation for coming together to find real ways to heal this massive, pervasive issue.
To heal, we must each become willing to look at the broader truth: Everybody carries hate in their hearts, and everybody is anxious to blame others for their problems. We learn to fear, hate, and dismiss other people from the day we are born. Everything, from being dismissive of someone we think is ignorant to wishing to kill someone we’re afraid of, is symptomatic of our basic belief in disunity and the fear this precipitates in the mind. Denial, ignorance, overwhelm, blaming others, and blaming the government are just as harmful as outright prejudice and hatred because all these things serve to protect and perpetuate a lack of love. And prejudice, violence, and fear-mongering are just three of the countless outrageous, unjust, unethical, and immoral things we’ve normalized in our minds.
I think the good news is that humanity is ready to de-normalize at least some of the maladaptive things we’ve accepted. In my opinion, however, we won’t make real progress unless we develop the ability to zoom out and see that all of these problems are interrelated. All of our problems stem from the way we use our minds—the way we’ve identified ourselves as separate, independent beings free to pursue personal agendas at the expense of the whole. It is our foundational and erroneous belief in separation, selfishness, scarcity, and fear that has created our world of suffering and cruelty.
I believe we can all benefit from our experience if we'll spend some time truly listening to and caring for one another before we make hasty decisions that we’ll have to correct later. I feel it's important to stop pointing fingers and blaming others for our own erroneous and harmful thinking. We have built this insane world together. No one is off the hook for this. We built it with our fear and our wrong-mindedness. Okay, so let’s admit that! Isn’t that the first step in every 12-step recovery program? Let’s look honestly at ourselves, take a fearless moral inventory, forgive ourselves and others, make amends for our trespasses, and choose differently. Let us make better choices; let us choose right-mindedness and love. Let us finally realize that in order for any of us to be well, we must all be well. Like the cells in our bodies, we are all souls within one living Creation.
What You Can Do
Here are the questions I’ve been asking lately; I share them in the hope that perhaps they will help you, too:
What beliefs do I need to reevaluate? What am I afraid of, and how does this fear control my thinking and my actions?
Where am I deaf, dumb, and blind to the suffering of others?
What can I contribute to help improve the world around me from a place of love?
What is the purpose of my thoughts right now? Are they aligned with peace, love, unity, joy, brotherhood, beauty, and kindness? If not, what are they aligned with, and why?
Where have I been fragmenting things instead of looking systemically and holistically?
Lord, help me see beyond my limiting beliefs that I may know the truth.
What's been coming up for you during this time of big change?
ABC 7 News, Amy Hollyfield
Doctors at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek say they have seen more deaths by suicide during this quarantine period than deaths from the COVID-19 virus.
The Washington Post, Ted Mellnik, Laris Karklis, and Andrew Ba Tran
By mid-May, almost 94 million adults had delayed medical care because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau reported in its Household Pulse Survey. Some 66 million of those needed but didn’t get medical care unrelated to the virus.
The Wall Street Journal, Sandeep Jauhar
Judging from prior epidemics, we may see a precipitous rise in ‘non-coronavirus’ deaths in the coming months. Many will be health-related; others, such as suicides or opioid overdoses, will occur because of economic and psychological disruption. The official number of deaths from the coronavirus will never tell the full story of this pandemic’s devastation. For a full reckoning, we will need to keep counting.
NBC 6 News, Niki Lattarulo
Both domestic violence and child abuse numbers have spiked in the U.S. since stay-at-home orders have been set in place.
The New York Post, Dr. Elizabeth Cohen
As a clinical psychologist specializing in divorce, I typically get three to five calls a week from people thinking about ending their marriage. But since the coronavirus pandemic first erupted in China and spread all over the world, including New York City where I live and work, I’m now getting these calls three to five times a day.
Apartmentlist.com, By Chris Salviati, Rob Warnock
The quarantine economy creates four categories of workers, each facing varying levels of economic risk. The greatest risk is felt by those whose jobs a) are considered “non-essential” by local shelter-in-place laws and b) cannot be fulfilled at home. This includes many service sector employees, retail workers, and early educators. They tend to be lower-income, face higher housing cost burden, and have lower access to health insurance if they get sick.
BuzzFeed News, Otillia Steadman
Lisa Medina, a counselor in Austin who treats people with substance use issues, warned that the loss of community would likely compound trauma for many people. “Change, even chosen change, is terribly hard,” she said. “So many of those folks, they already have untreated trauma. So we’re going to see a secondary wave of trauma happening for many, many people.”
TheBalance.com, Kimberly Amadeo
Health care inequality is when one group of people in an economy is in much worse health than another group. In the United States, health inequality is correlated with income inequality. Research has found that the higher your income, the better your health.
Racism in America
The American Conservative, Bonnie Kristian
Here are seven reasons why police misconduct is a systemic problem, not “a few bad apples.”
ThoughtCo.com, Nicki Lisa Cole, Ph.D.
… racism is thus embedded in all social institutions, structures, and social relations within our society. Rooted in a racist foundation, systemic racism today is composed of intersecting, overlapping, and codependent racist institutions, policies, practices, ideas, and behaviors that give an unjust amount of resources, rights, and power to white people while denying them to people of color.
The New York Times, Keith Meatto
Racial segregation in public education has been illegal for 65 years in the United States. Yet American public schools remain largely separate and unequal — with profound consequences for students, especially students of color.
IAPHS.org (Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science) Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, Margaret Hicken
In the United States and around the world, racial inequalities in health have been and continue to be well-documented in academe and public discourse. Yet there are markedly few empirical studies examining the root causes of these inequalities, with ongoing resistance to identifying racism as a key determinant of racial health inequalities. APHA Past President Camara Jones defines racism as “a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks (which is what we call ‘race’)”.
Income inequality: US black-white inequality in 6 stark charts
CNN, Tami Luhby
[The nationwide protests] along with the coronavirus pandemic that has disproportionately killed black Americans, has drawn renewed attention to the persistent inequities in wealth, health and opportunity between blacks and whites despite economic prosperity of recent years…"Racial inequality has become so normalized in this society," she said. "It's what we expect to see. That's the way it's been for so long."
A Course in Miracles
Foundation for Inner Peace. Dr. Helen Schucman.
The goal of truth requires faith. Faith is implicit in the acceptance of the Holy Spirit’s purpose, and this faith is all-inclusive… The Holy Spirit sees the situation as a whole…This seems to ask for faith beyond you, and beyond what you can give. Yet this is so only from the viewpoint of the ego, for the ego believes in “solving” conflict through fragmentation, and does not perceive the situation as a whole. Therefore, it seeks to split off segments of the situation and deal with them separately, for it has faith in separation and not in wholeness. (p.367.)
To substitute is to accept instead….For this special purpose, one is judged more valuable and the other replaced by him. The relationship in which the substitution occurred is thus fragmented, and its purpose split accordingly. To fragment is to exclude, and substitution is the strongest defense the ego has for separation. (p. 372)
Fear is both a fragmented and fragmenting emotion. It seems to take many forms, and each one seems to require a different form of acting out for satisfaction. While this appears to introduce quite variable behavior, a far more serious effect lies in the fragmented perception from which the behavior stems. No one is seen complete. The body is emphasized, with special emphasis on certain parts, and used as the standard for comparison of acceptance or rejection for acting out a special form of fear. (p. 372)
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