What Was the Solar Eclipse’s Effect on Us?

Q: What impact did the solar eclipse have on us all?

Think of it as a reset button. It certainly was a moment of pause that caused all who saw it to remember the wonder of the universe. But it could also be thought of as an opportunity to reset the way we are operating in the world. A chance to come to terms with the dreams that cannot become reality. And the beginning of accepting what can become reality.

Q: What is the reality that you are referring to?

All people live with a combination of hope, wishing, holding on to, and making excuses, which allows us to stay stuck and not make a change. You can hope that it will get better. You can wish that it will get better. You can blame other people for it not being better instead of doing the one thing that will make it better, which is to accept what is and move forward with that.

The time is now for letting go of what needs to be let go and for getting focused on realistic opportunities and outcomes. For many people, this is a period of assessment and reassessment.

Q: What are the ways to assess that are the most helpful for us?

See what is and work with that. It’s not that you shouldn’t be hopeful. But don’t rely on hope. Don’t rely on magical or wishful thinking that some great unforeseen thing in the future will come and save you. Instead, based on what is in front of you right now, what can you do? For many, it is a paring down.

Perhaps a helpful analogy is of the old wagon trains. When the wagons start out, they are overloaded. And two weeks into the journey, the land is littered with discarded objects that don’t serve these travelers’ futures but are connected to their past. This is what is happening to many people; they’ve realized they’ve brought too much and need to reassess what they actually need to bring with them to make the whole journey. Then they need to make the decision not to take one thing more than necessary. And they need to accept that there will be long stretches of apparently no change.

When you’re walking on the plains, they appear endless. It seems as though days and weeks can go by with no change. And then one day, you wake up, and there are the mountains. So the best approach is to enjoy the walk. Enjoy being in nature. Take the time to appreciate and to feel connected. Because there is nothing else to do at this particular stage of the walk.

Do what you need to do every day. Prepare every day. And then get up and walk. This is not a time of instant gratification.

Q: Is this also a description of the spiritual journey?

It applies to all journeys, but yes, it applies to the journey of self-betterment and spiritual growth. People on that journey are the hardest on themselves of all. They set very difficult expectations. They set too short time frames. And they take pulse checks much too often. Instead of just walking on the journey. Don’t even let yourself think, “In this moment, I am doing well. In that moment, I did not do well.” Just walk on the journey.

It is in letting go of judgment that peace is found, spirituality is found. If you have a good day, instead of inflating and saying, “I made great progress today,” think instead, “Oh, it was a day of few obstacles. Wasn’t that nice?” Not using it as a measurement but as another form of appreciation. Because if the obstacles were not there today, they will be there tomorrow. That is the nature of all journeys.

Q: Are you saying that we should have different kinds of expectations for our lives?

Here’s the main beginning place we should all hold for each other: “Welcome, everybody. We are all heading in the same direction. Let’s be kind to each other and look out for each other along the way.” And remember to be kind to yourself. It is not a competition. It is not a sport. It is a path to be walked on. No one is better. No one is worse. Some are just having days with no obstacles. And others are having days with many obstacles. Knowing this helps to release ourselves from judgment and allows us to have more compassion.

And, metaphorically speaking, at night, when the wagons circle, everyone can tell their tales of what they saw, what they learned, what happened. And even though under the night sky there is an intense self-awareness of our minuscule existence, in this circle, there can be a feeling that I am my brother’s and sister’s keeper. We are all on the journey together.

It is not about what we learn or don’t learn. It is about sharing a journey and feeling cared for along the way, and learning how to care for others along the way.

Q: Does this group need to know where they are journeying to?

They all know. The journey is the longing for a better life. In whatever way they define better. For this particular wagon train, it is for a better spiritual life.

Q: Was there a time on this planet when people were better at being kind, being connected to one another, being less competitive than they are now?

There have been periods where this way of being and thinking has flourished at different points in time and within different cultures. But it has been cyclical, and outside forces often chase it back into the shadows. But it can’t be killed off because, eventually, all must get there.

Q: Then why doesn’t it take over and take hold?

The simple answer is karma. It is not about everybody arriving at some place all at the same time. It is about making the journey. And some are not ready to pack up yet.

Q: Okay. So, how do people find others with whom they can make the journey?

They read, they talk, and they discover that there are starting places where people can gather to pick up their wagon train. But first, there must be the desire: “I wish to go.” Once there is that desire, they will do the searching required to find the answers and get going.

Q: When you talk about people coming together and helping each other, I feel this pain of how reclusive I’ve become and how I don’t reach out and help in those ways.

You’ve helped many people over the course of your life and will continue to help many more. You don’t need to seek them out; they will find you. It is just about offering kindness in the moment, listening well in the moment, offering what you’ve learned, and sharing what wisdom you have to share in the moment. That’s all that’s required.

For someone like Student B, who chooses to roll up his sleeves and volunteer to get deeply involved, it is a need they has that is connected to their identity. It is their expression of their spirituality. Everyone does it the way they do it. There is no one right way.

You may have heard of the story of two monks walking along a path. They are not supposed to have any contact with women. There is a big puddle. The one monk picks up a young woman and carries her across the puddle and sets her down on the other side. They walk along for quite a way when the other monk asks him, “Why did you pick up that woman?” And the monk answers, “I set her down on the other side of the puddle. Why are you still carrying her?”

Student B has a need to still carry. It is not wrong, but it is a personal need that goes beyond responding to the moment.

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