It’s been a hard week in the U.S.—and in Hong Kong and Brazil and more countries than I can keep up with because, in fact, there has been so much to be present with in my own country. I won’t pretend to have answers or advice or even necessarily wise counsel. However, I will speak my heart. Each day, I have re-committed to being generous of spirit with every person and situation I encounter. It’s a step we can each take towards healing a broken world. I invite you to consider the same.

This past week, we passed the milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States and more than 370,000 deaths globally. Except for mentioning this milestone in a tweet, our president has done nothing to console a grieving country. Fully one in four American workers are now unemployed. That’s 25%. Yet another unarmed black man was killed by police, this time sparking protests and rioting in the streets of more than 140 cities across our country. Rather than addressing the tensions and taking meaningful steps to reconcile differences, our president is fanning the flames and deepening cultural divides.

The level of pain, grief, frustration, anger, rage, loss, and fear that has been trembling just beneath the surface of public acknowledgment – some of it for generations – is now breaking open for all to see. It’s real, it’s devastating, it’s raw, it’s painful, it’s damning, and it’s what has to happen. We can no longer hide from our own or another’s pain and repression. If we aren’t willing to be fully present with it and work through it together both individually and systemically, it will eat us alive. In fact, it is.

Breaking open of the human spirit

When I first introduced the term “the Great Breaking Open” four years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the path we would take. At the core of the Great Breaking Open is the breaking open of the human spirit. And here we are.

For far too long, we’ve maintained the illusion that the interconnected systems of our world were working and sustainable, even as more and more cracks continued to appear in their foundations and structures. Holding those systems together has been a top priority among those in power. They (the privileged we?) have avoided openly acknowledging the increasingly visible yet inconvenient truths that these systems couldn’t last—that they weren’t, and never have been, sustainable. In fact, the ways in which those in power have manipulated those very systems for short-term gain has been slowly destroying us.

Until now. Until March 2020 when, in just a few weeks, an invisible virus quickly brought the world to its knees.

The Great Breaking Open is not a comfortable place to be. Granted, some of us are on the front lines more than others. However, few of us remain untouched.

This is not the first time that this has happened, and in all probability, it will not be the last. Yet this time, will we pay attention? Will we hear the cries of the human spirit  not just in ourselves, but in human beings of all colors and economic stations and gender identifications? Will we recognize the innate power and strength within the heart of humanity and set it free to fly?

There is a next iteration of our world waiting to be born. What will that require of us?

The Way Forward

It becomes clearer to me every day that the way forward is not about telling people how they should behave, how they should feel, what is right and wrong, or what is acceptable and not. It certainly can no longer be about the privileged few holding the power to define the lives of the masses. In any civil society, there is a place for rules, policies, regulations, and legislation. However, the motivations and intentions behind those policies and laws must be honest, ethical, and transparent. Otherwise, we keep replicating an unsustainable system that serves only a select few.

The way forward begins with healing. It’s a simple statement, yet not so easy to put into practice. And it will be the biggest and most important thing that most of us ever do in our whole lives. For ourselves and for the world.

The root meaning of the verb “to heal” is “to make whole.” So the way forward actually begins with becoming whole—as individuals, as families, as societies, as communities of diverse peoples, as countries, and as a global interconnected and interdependent system. It’s not about becoming whole again. If we are truly honest with ourselves, it’s about becoming whole at the societal level for the first time.

Years ago at an Omega Institute Conference in New York City, I heard the beloved spiritual teacher Stephen Levine define healing as “entering with intention and awareness that which you have avoided and run away from.”

This kind of deep personal and deep systemic healing doesn’t happen in a few days or weeks or months. Where we are now has been generations in the making. Healing will take time. Because healing requires building relationships rooted in trust. And building trust takes time. And commitment. And patience. And levels of compassion and care that at times will feel beyond our capacity. So we will have to stretch.

It’s a multi-generation commitment. It starts now, and we will get as far as we get during our lifetimes. It begins person-to-person, family-to-family, community-to-community. It starts slowly at first, maybe painfully so. Yet if we lay the groundwork properly, the generations to follow can build on what we started. It will take several generations to fully heal race relations, heal economic divides, and bring together larger societal systems. We will no doubt falter along the way. Yet when we do, we must return to our commitment. We must not be daunted by the enormity of the task. We start where we are, keeping our focus on how we engage with the world around us every day.

Generosity of spirit

On April 15th, modern mystic and spiritual teacher Thomas Hübl posted on Twitter:

Times of scarcity need to be met with generosity,
Times of fear with comfort,
Times of uncertainty with presence.
When we care for those around us, we create a field of love.

This is what it means to be generous of spirit. It’s about presence—being present with one another and what is happening—walking beside one another—journeying together. The Great Breaking Open and the breaking open of the human spirit ask us to be generous of spirit with each other, with our opportunities as well as with our challenges, with our learning as well as with our forgetting, with our talents as well as with our shortcomings, with our accomplishments as well as with our failings. Being generous of spirit is all part of learning and growing into the next iteration of who we are, both as individuals and as a collective—a collective that includes all of us.

Being generous of spirit involves listening, sensing, and feeling into the moment for what is waiting to emerge—sensing the seed of the future that is planted in our present moment. It’s a co-creative process. Co-creation across interest groups, political affiliations, color lines, economic classes, urban-rural divides, and country borders. All with the intention of creating a world that works for all.

When intentions are pure in that co-creative space, everything that is needed will show up. However, there is a caveat. What is needed may not look or feel like what we had thought we needed, nor may it necessarily come from a source we had been looking for. Co-creative partners will appear that we did not expect—often people or organizations that were not known to us before that moment. When that happens, take a breath, say thank you, and carry on.

And just one more thing. What we end up creating may be different than our initial idea. And it may be in a different time frame than we imagined, and in a different place. And it’s all good.

As we carry on, we will not always understand what is being asked of us or those around us. When what is being asked of us feels overwhelming or scary, we can be there for one another. Being generous of spirit means never leaving someone to walk alone unless that is their request. Just knowing that someone is there to take our arm when we become unsteady, and that we are there to do that for someone else, can make all the difference. We walk forward together.

In the ongoing uncertainties of the Great Breaking Open, we can be generous of spirit as we hold one another in love, care, compassion, and encouragement. We can be present with one another through each new unfolding circumstance. We can go forward together.

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