John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise XXX: “The universe is unfolding as it should.”

(Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash)

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, pondering the pandemic and how to calm yourself while facing it.

 

I first started studying and taking spirituality seriously while in grad school at Portland State. School was four days a week and I was living by myself, so I had some time for exploration. I had a pretty serious and consistent yoga practice at the time.

A friend gave me a PBS series called The Power of Myth which featured Bill Moyers interviewing Joseph Campbell. I found Campbell fascinating. He said there are common universal themes running through all the religions and cultures of the world.

I remember reading in Yoga Journal an interview with a fairly famous Indian guru named Papaji. I was struck by many of the answers that he gave to the man doing the interview and ended up cutting his picture out and placing it on my altar.

The interviewer was asking him many questions and I got the impression that he wanted Papaji to be critical of the same things he was critical of … certain religions, diets, the environment, etc. Papaji never took the bait; and every time the journalist asked him a loaded question, Papaji would simply answer, “The universe is unfolding as it should.”

The universe is unfolding as it should.

How many of you believe that? We humans suffer a great deal for any number of reasons and one of them is that we want to control stuff: other people, ourselves, our thoughts, our emotions, etc. Most of us our miserable, but we keep the illusion of control next to our hearts and we keep our game faces on, and we go on guilting and shaming each other for the varied thoughts, principals, and beliefs we carry or don’t carry, hoping to change all the people in the world into ourselves. It is exhausting. Yet, these things, too, are a part of the universe unfolding as it should.

 

Are you afraid of the coronavirus? I certainly am, at times, but largely not. So, when fear comes up, admit it freely and surrender it as best you can.

 

I also became intrigued by the 12 Steps in grad school. I studied and applied them to my life for a while. “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him,” is Step 3. Surrender, surrender of control is a major part of every spiritual tradition. Ask yourself, why would that be?

Campbell, in one of his lectures, pointed out that each of us is like an individual light bulb, but there is only one source of light and the best thing you can do is fully surrender your individual light bulb to that light, by whatever name you give it.

So, we are in the early stages (or middle stages) of a pandemic right now. The universe is unfolding as it should. The mind fears many things, many that defy logic. Are you afraid of the coronavirus? I certainly am, at times, but largely not. So, when fear comes up, admit it freely and surrender it as best you can.

Another method to calm the mind of its fears is to pray for others that have the virus and, especially if you are afraid, to pray for others that are afraid of the virus too. It is helpful because it reinforces the idea that you are not alone in your fears and others struggle with it as well. Nothing perhaps sadder than to be alone and in fear.

The third method is to sit quietly and fully surrender, in transcendence of your own mind and emotion, nothing is better for you, and for others, than this practice. Perhaps we can come to understand as Papaji did, that, despite all that is happening, the universe is unfolding as it should.

A couple of years ago, I started watching some old talks given by Papaji on YouTube. In one of them, he broke down in tears and said, “No one wants to be happy.” God has given us these beautiful lives, on this extraordinarily beautiful planet, and we all think it sucks because we are not in control of it. I have struggled with many negative emotions and mind states throughout my life and am far from dwelling in perpetual bliss.

However, when I first allowed God back into my life when living on the streets, the first thing he taught me was this: Happiness requires no requirements. This pandemic, or some future unseen event, may drastically alter how I live my life, but you can bet it ain’t going to steal my happiness.

 

John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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