Messing With Our Brains

This seemed worth sharing, an anecdotal take on the collective effect of these enrolling crises on our consciousness:

A key point here: “For most people, though, the stress compounds: Surviving one crisis puts one at a greater risk of having an unhealthy psychological reaction to another.” This is why, more than ever, it is so extremely essential that we all practice. As I say so often to people these days, we must “show up”. In all of the unrelenting onrush of distraction, the attention pulled here and there by the next gripping or inflammatory subject, the next step forward into some seemingly more certain rut of doom, we need to “show up” to the material in front of us. Sitting down on the cushion, at the hour we have each appointed for our daily practice, we “show up” for whatever is the material presented by life. We don’t parse it, try to push it away (we can’t!), analyse it, or rage about it or hope it could be some other way. Showing up for practice is not showing up for some formal thing or even for a “practice,” a method or path: It merely means “showing up” to the raw content of our unfiltered life, the pleasant and the unpleasant. In this “showing up,” the ogre-like dream-state of suffering is seen for what it is: a painful nothingness-dream. In that instant, the ogre cannot control us.

In the Ancient Greek myth that so haunted my childhood, for years, the Athenian hero Theseus, witnessing with horror of the annual (some say every seventh- or ninth-year) tribute of young Athenian women and men sent into the labyrinth of the fearsome Minotaur as a penalty against Athens, where they were devoured by it, he sprung into action. Offering himself as part of the tribute, young Theseus entered into the labyrinth from which no one had ever escaped. He faced the Minotaur, and he slayed it. Taking on the seemingly unstoppable tribute, Theseus ended the bloody regular sacrifice of young Athenian blood.

We, too, facing the devouring maw of this seemingly endless onslaught of bitter, doom-like news. Our attention span, weakened by a constant assault of a torrent of over-information, all happening in real time, seems like it cannot survive the day-to-day labyrinth of our quotidian lives. As the article chillingly reveals, we can even develop “strategies” to try to manage the seeming ubiquity and strangeness of today’s suffering human story. (Much less, the yawning awareness about what we are doing to doom so much other innocent life through our horribly misguided lifestyles and political views.)

In practice, we do not shirk from our duty, like Theseus: We enter the labyrinth. But we enter with eyes open, girded with the sword of our fierce awareness, our just-now mind. Encountering the Minotaur, we “slay” it — we overcome the jaws of incapacitation and powerlessness that we all fear. Led by the light of Dharma — our daily practice — we can emerge from the daily labyrinth of struggle into the light of constant service to others, the uncountable masses of beings suffering unimaginable torment.

“All these simultaneous disasters are messing with our brains.” The best antidote is never to “laugh it off,” no matter the short-term relief it might surely bring. We “show up” — show up to our practice, which means “show up” to awareness.

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