A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, starts with these immortal lines: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” These words ring as true today as they did in the time of the French Revolution. Times of adversity push people toward the extreme ends of the spectrum, into wisdom or ignorance.
It is natural to think that the coronavirus is the enemy. But Paramhansa Yogananda said that “essentially, conditions are neither good nor bad; they are always neutral, seeming to be either depressing or encouraging because of the sad or bright attitude of the mind.” If our reaction to the pandemic is to shrink in upon ourself and think, “Me first,” then this will seem to be a disaster. But we have a golden opportunity to resist that temptation. We can push back against adversity, expand our sympathies, and loosen the grip of ego. In fact, this year may well be the greatest spiritual opportunity of our life.
We already know what to do. In truth, the upward path is quite simple. Through the ages, the guidance has been spoken to us by saints and whispered to us through our own conscience: Love God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. We really don’t need any more advice than this. We just need to do it.
The goal of the spiritual path is to dissolve the ego, which happens automatically when we open our hearts through empathy, kindness, and love. Try to feel the reality that others are experiencing. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine yourself as an exhausted doctor on a coronavirus ward, or a single mother stuck at home with no job and little food, and facing eviction. Reach out in both prayer and action to those in need now. As we do so, there will be less of “me” and more of God.
Keep your mind strong and positive. Thoughts create magnetism, expansive or contractive. We can fill them with courage and compassion or with fear and selfishness. Devi and I can attest, from the personal experience of having our own home and possessions destroyed in a forest fire when our baby was eleven days old, that staying positive in the midst of adversity will mold your life. As you pass from this life you will look back and see that this period has been one of the greatest opportunities for growth of this whole incarnation.
The best news of all: We don’t have to go through it alone. We have one another, and we have God and our Gurus. Use this time to strengthen your bonds with family, friends, community, and strangers. And most of all, use this time to meditate deeply and open yourself to the light that shines within you and all around you.
If you do so, this will, indeed, be the best of times.
In the light,
P.S. If you want to learn more about how to bring about inner change, please join Devi and me for a live two-part webinar called “Creating and Destroying Habits at Will.” We’ll be offering it April 17 and 24 from 6:00–7:30 p.m. Pacific time through Online with Ananda.