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When we can’t go outside, the only place left to look is within

Back in 2017, I learned to meditate. I enrolled in a Vipassana course, a program where one sits in silence for the large part of ten days — no talking for the first nine — and learns techniques for focus and mental relaxation through breathing and awareness of ones own physical sensations. Upon arrival, I voluntarily gave up my phone, books, and all reading and writing materials, whereupon they would be stored in a locker, inaccessible to me for the duration of the course.

That meant: no checking messages, emails, texts in between sittings. No taking notes on what I have to do when I get out, or ideas on how to do the things I already knew I had to do. Or even spiritual realizations and philosophical understandings which I would otherwise be tempted to write down, whether on paper, or on my phone, depending on what was most easily accessible to me at the given place and time. Here, I could do neither. Any thought I had, I had to dismiss it. I started mentally tallying the amount of times I’d think about a certain thing, an outstanding task for when I’d be back in the flow of things. I’d arrange a set of glass jars in my mind, one for each repeated nagging thought — get back to the university about my arrival date, buy a plane ticket, etc., etc. — and would slip a coin into the respective jar each time the thought of it came back to me. I couldn’t write anything down. I couldn’t physically record anything. Or, rather, I opted to not be able to.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling in the beginning. All thoughts just fall down a pit of unfulfillment, unspoken, unwritten, lost to an abyss of unrecorded specificity — all thoughts come to us in different terms each time, even if their substance in the same.

But slowly, it became less unsettling. Soon, the emergence of a thought would not nag — it’s passing would not feel like a loss. Instead of falling into an abyss, it would dissipate, unvalidated but without the need for validation. I soon came to the understanding that the thought itself is not worthy of attachment. Because while it may happen to take conscious form at various times, it is not thought which itself contains meaning, it is the substance behind it — the intention. And the substance always remains, even if the tangible word sequence into which it consciously take form is not addressed. The sky is no less empty when a cloud dissolves into it’s constituent invisible vapors.

And that’s when one can understand themself truly. When not being distracted by every thought that comes to mind, one sinks into presence, appreciates the very moment for what it is. Does not fear the future. Does not regret the past. Gains a better sense of self, and a stronger appreciation for the little things.

And now…

The whole world is doing the same.

All the mundane things we are accustomed to doing — the things which we let define us — must be left undone. We might complain, feel restless, even resist at first. But soon we will realize what matters more to us than our self-defined identity. When we cannot engage in those things which would have previously defined us, we have no choice but to look within, and realize that we are much more than those things. We have to find a deeper meaning, because the shallow things are inaccessible. We then start to appreciate family, friends, neighbors, more than ever. We become inspired to pursue hobbies which once energized us, but which we may have dropped somewhere along our fast and furious race through life.

We are letting that which does not matter start to reveal itself. The human-made constructs of society, those which we’d considered life to be all about, are falling apart to give way to a more unshakable understanding of our lives, our roles, our existence. That is, just to be, and to be good to ourselves and others. And we may also find that we are able to make do with much less than we thought we needed.

While the economy and those human-made constructs will soon be revving their engines once more, propelling society yet further into an indefinite future, the lessons we learned will not be lost. Humanity as a whole will exhale the negativity of what was past, and inhale the inspiration of a new beginning, taking with us a more definite idea of who we are and what matters to us.

I put all my writing out without paywalls because it’s more meaningful to me to spread truth and awareness. If you’d like to support my mission, please consider buying me a coffee.

If you resonated with the ideas expressed in this article, please check out my online course further: Global Thinking in the 21st Century 🌏

I also offer free coaching sessions where I introduce my Global Thinking Framework for anyone curious.

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Have traveled long enough to break out of my bubble. It’s not easy to accept reality, but you’ll be happy once you did.

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Have traveled long enough to break out of my bubble. It’s not easy to accept reality, but you’ll be happy once you did.

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