Grief is the Red Pill

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen

Are you uncomfortable? Does the discomfort drive you to seek distractions?

We’re built on distraction: it’s innate to our culture. And then a global pandemic strikes, forcing a new way of being for many of us. Culturally there are endless opportunities for distraction, even when the powers that be offer us an alternative . . . TV, movies, books, social media, baking, cleaning out closets, endless video chats scheduled, and on, and on. We can and do find ways to fill the void when all the rushing stops. And we were professional “doers” before the pandemic. But it’s really been on this year, baby!

The collective upheaval has felt uncomfortable enough that many of us have found ways to ensure we don’t personally stop and feel into how the discomfort wants to inform and transform us. But, are your mechanisms of control actually controlling you? And what happens if the powers that be manifested a collective wake-up call and you, or we, elect not to answer it?

This human experience – this project our soul has undertaken – wasn’t undertaken arbitrarily. At a soul level, we’ve all agreed to undertake the journey of being human for the purpose of evolution: personal and collective. Without disruption, agitation, and even and especially upheaval, evolution isn’t possible. It’s the very nature of human consciousness to experience life as a dynamic of contraries that incites the potential for growth. And yet, so few of us pay attention to the internal process the experience of contraries triggers within, namely access to our soul’s calling to self-actualize and the opportunity to overcome the pitfalls of our ego. We’ve become wholly dependent on all the rushing as a means to tune out the very thing our soul made a commitment to when it signed on for a human lifetime.

The status quo moves at a pace that never creates opportunities for conscious growth.

 How much our pandemic has pushed our buttons is in direct proportion to how much in our lives needs the attention of a critical assessment and subsequent change. The very things making each of us uncomfortable are a call from our unconscious for much-needed attention. When we’re all dashing around – working to make ends meet or chasing after a bigger and better slice of the pie – the last thing we do with our free time is stop long enough to evaluate who we are and what we value.

In order to self-actualize, we need to summon the courage to step outside perceived cultural norms. 2020 has been the year for exactly that. And what happens if we didn’t? Or we don’t still? The universe is paying attention. I’ve learned that the more critically in need we are of growth, the more destructive our wake-up calls become . . . we ignore them at our peril. So, what happens when the calls are for the collective? And collectively, we don’t answer?

Okay, so the pandemic isn’t devastating enough for a collective awakening?!? Let’s see what other crises we can manifest from the shadow side of our collective unconscious. How about an ample portion of racism. Add police brutality to the mix. Stir in the unspeakable treatment of immigrants and asylum-seekers. Include a heaping helping of economic disparity. Pile on the fear from increasing political divisiveness. Finally, add the cherry of climate crisis on top. What we have is a recipe for not only disaster, but the end of human life on earth. If we haven’t dealt with it collectively, we can expect it to get worse before it gets better. Exactly how heartbroken a species must we become before we free our minds and open our hearts?

Every heart to love will come but like a refugee. – Leonard Cohen

It’s time to wake up. It’s time to start building a future of interbeing. I’ve been saying it for a long time, but 2020 is the year that really made it apparent that it’s not a choice anymore. And maybe that seems like a stretch, but when we search our hearts for answers, we’re all too aware that the cracks are showing in the old narratives; the house of cards cannot continue to stand; we cannot, as a species, continue to adhere to the status quo when it’s been a source of destruction to most of us and our environment. Whether we want to admit it or not, the only way we transform the status quo is for each of us to commit to our own inner growth.

The trouble is the depth and breadth of our receptivity. We are all soul sick to some degree, because to tolerate the kind of destruction and cruelty that we’re perpetrating and enduring on a global scale, means that we’ve had to somewhat shut down our emotional body: our receptivity centers. We’ve all had to desensitize ourselves to withstand the deep inner pain that’s now presenting at the collective level in order to function. Many people are still subjugated or worse! Our world is dying! We are all aware of the deep emotional pain of that reality at some level, even if it doesn’t consciously register.

And if it does, maybe we’ve talked ourselves into allowing it, because we believe it doesn’t affect us directly. What the escalating crises are doing however, is making that distance between us and devastation much, much smaller. To some degree, every one of us is feeling the effects and they’re painful!

This pain is a gift!  Bear with me, I can hear the protestations clambering as I write this. But to wake up to the reality that there is a stockpile of grief within that needs attention is a blessing, because to step fully into alignment with our wholeness, and then subsequently into harmony with our world, means we must crack and break open: the desensitized facade must give way to the emotional body below. The full scope of our receptivity sensors must come back online, because they’re an invitation to connection, both with our soul and the world we inhabit. Grief is the one thing, besides the pandemic, that consciously unites us all and the pandemic has pushed us increasingly into grief.

Grief is the red pill that unplugs us from the matrix created by the status quo.

Michel de Montaigne wrote, “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” Do you know how? I can say with certainty most people don’t. Behavioral research shows that people would rather give themselves electric shocks than sit in silence being idle and reflective. And yet, without these sorts of activities, we can’t make the most of our limited human experience.

How have you been using your time this year? Quietly reflecting? Settling into new awareness about yourself? Or perhaps, getting outraged and maybe fostering activism? That would be a healthy channel for the injustices that came to light in 2020. But when I look at the destruction that correlated with the activism, I see that at the heart of that outrage – the grief – there is still work to be done within; not all of those who expressed their outrage, consciously acknowledged it for what it was. If they had, they would understand that dealing with grief in healthy ways does not cause others the need to grieve over our actions. Destruction is not the answer to our grief, even if activism can be, because it perpetuates cycles of grief that never get resolved.

20 years ago during a trip to Cape Town, South Africa, I went to Robben Island. As I stood taking in the cell that confined Nelson Mandela, I was struck by the clarity of his awareness, namely that to perpetuate cycles of oppression, never gets to the heart of resolving them: what fundamentally ails the oppressed also ails the oppressor. There can be no relief for either without clarity about what lies at the white-hot center of the issue: grief. Mandela knew that if he did anything other than seek to embody love for a new South Africa, the cycles of oppression would never end. It’s a mighty and inspiring soul that goes on to forgive, and even embrace, his very jailers to liberate an entire nation!

Unacknowledged, unexpressed grief is at the heart of everything that ails existence.

We perceive that we cannot live the fullest expression of who we are and distrust that if we tried, it might cost us everything. This is not a misguided assessment given historical precedence, but it is one whose time is up. The fear that prevents us from actualizing our wholeness creates the grief that has become the source of our soul sickness.

At the center of our grief, is a feeling of powerlessness. We’re all complicit in some way, which is in part why we try to deny our grief. The status quo makes it impossible to avoid personal contributions to our collective problems, even when we enact our best intentions. We’ve learned to protect ourselves by closing our hearts, thus shutting off the very energy that empowers our soul and fosters interbeing. Only when we’re honest, can we start to own the grief that permeates our being. And only when we own it, can we start to grieve in healthy, graceful ways that are liberating.

Our task, as human beings, is to integrate and harmonize the material and spiritual.

Modern scientific research has identified that different dimensions have different measurable energy frequencies. These frequencies have different energy resonances and make up the structure of density. Here in our 3rd dimension, we experience our energy frequency with a density that is material, or matter. Our energy frequency is such that we perceive ourselves and our reality as seemingly dense and solid. What happens when matter – the material realm – is less dense? Because I cannot answer this question with certainty (although meditation certainly gives me hope), I seek to understand and appreciate what I can answer: what does it mean to be in the 3rd dimension having a human experience?

Being human is a sensual experience. To deny this is to deny the miracle of matter – the value of the human senses: physical and emotional sensations. Meaning, to fully embrace our wholeness in a human incarnation is to fall in love with the sensuous experience of all perceived creation. We were created to FEEL! Embodied awakening is the integration, balance, harmony, and love for, and of, our spiritual essence and human experience of the material, simultaneously. Enter 2020: a year that begged us to allow grief to inform and transform all our lives, across the entire planet. The way back to life – really wholehearted, whole aliveness – is through the grief.

 The most powerful motivator for conscious awakening is upheaval.

We have to be shaken from our slumber by force, and for most of us, that force has to be extreme. There has never been a year like this one to manifest the kind of upheaval that could bring quite so many human beings back into alignment with the full scope of both their sensual and spiritual potential.

Before the pandemic, the percentage of human beings who were doing the work to awaken was a mere 10% of the global population. Most of us can tolerate low grade disruption with a high level of resilience . . . just look at how depraved we are for destroying the very environment that supports our life! But we tolerate what we do based on the incremental ways it’s implemented: slowly chipping away at someone’s self-esteem or the quality of our air, goes largely unacknowledged until we live in constant fear and we can’t breathe.

The grief of 2020 is the kind of collective upheaval that is starting to bring many more human beings into conscious awareness of their desensitized emotional bodies. There is a collective ground swell of awakening beginning! I’ve learned that the best way to navigate the full scope of human emotion is to allow it to move through in a flow: give it the rightful attention it deserves and then let it go. And the best way to cultivate this kind of ease, is through spiritual practices that open us to the guidance offered by our soul.

When vaccinations are widely administered and restrictions lift, are you someone who needs to rush back to the life you had before COVID? If so, then ask yourself why the hurry? However you spent 2020 was exactly what you needed to endure such extraordinary upheaval. But the extraordinary nature of 2020 afforded glimpses into something better like never before . . . remember the clean air when the pandemic first started? Or the dolphins swimming through the channels of Venice? Or the nightly communities gathering on balconies to share music and cheers for essential and medical workers? Let’s not turn a blind eye to how they informed us. This may be the greatest opportunity to restructure our lives, and our culture, we get in our lifetime (or all the lifetimes of humanity so far), why not use it wisely. 2021 will be the year we start to answer the question of 2020: will you wake up?


Walk carefully, well loved one,

walk mindfully, well loved one,

walk fearlessly, well loved one.

Return with us, return to us, be always coming home.

– Ursula K. LeGuin