by Dan Weiseman
These two Chinese characters signify danger and opportunity. Together, they form the word “crisis.” Crisis incites fear, which is entirely natural as the body is designed to feel fear for survival. When safety is removed however, fear often finds space to reside. We may begin to create anxiety-fueled stories about the imagined circumstances before us and how they will all unfold. Miserably, no doubt. We become frantic, pessimistic, doomsday-fiction writers. The continuous loop of fear, the stories we fool ourselves with and rising anxiety can hijack the nervous system, distracting us from life’s sweetness. While we should never feel ashamed for feeling fearful (or anything, for that matter), we must challenge ourselves to understand fear as temporary without allowing it to take root and flourish to flight.
I believe our beloved Project Yoga Richmond has heard the pecking. I recently watched a PYR workshop with Dr. Ariele Foster and was thrilled to discover that people from around the globe were tuning in with us. Since going online, PYR has the opportunity to reach a larger audience, which could help fund or expand current outreach programs.
Other opportunities springing from this crisis need no further evidence than the planet healing all around us. Ozone holes vanishing. Himalayan mountains appearing. Fish doing backflips in Venice canals. Shortly after Virginia issued the stay at home order, the James River was as blue as I had ever seen it.
I take inspiration from the James. It keeps rolling, regardless of the day’s news. Spring still blossoms everywhere. Nature finds the opportunity to heal with our pause, almost shockingly quickly. Do we dare follow suit?
This is not to say one should feel panicked if they do not sense opportunity at this time. I don’t mean opportunity as some kind of “go-getter coffee achiever” moment bringing great financial reward and robust swashbuckling adventures in venture capitalism. We’ve had enough of that in the world and by entirely too few.
The world is united in trauma that’s heavy with grief. Perhaps now the opportunity is to feel that and move through it. Perhaps now, for some, simply maintaining is our opportunity. An opportunity to forgive ourselves for however we feel, for the ping and the pong and all the points in between. Perhaps now, in this reset, we pause and reflect like Arjuna before battle. Do our actions align with our beliefs? Can there be a deeper integrity between the two? How?
Perhaps we deepen our felt sense with our practices, re-examine our own well-being, sense of joy and compassion and reaffirm what is truly important to us. Maybe we consider our dharma: our life’s purpose?
I’ve recently begun walking backward along the trails of the James River Park. I began this practice for physical reasons. The Chinese are considered the first culture to realize that we do 99% of our actions moving forward, leading to short and tight muscles in the front of the body, and long and overstretched muscles in the back of the body (with the calves being the misnomer to this duality). I’ve made this a walking meditation as well, seeing if I could sense my feet kissing the earth, stepping with a mantra.
Initially, I hid this from people I approached on the trail. I looked back to check for puddles on the path or to sense the bend in the trail ahead and if I saw other people, I’d turn around. What would folks think? An older gent hoofing the woods backward in light drizzle? A sure sign the end times are upon us. I wasn’t in the woods to trouble people further.
By the third day of this practice, I was enjoying it so much I took 1,500 backward steps, up from 500 from the previous days. I no longer cared if anyone noticed. When I passed a woman pushing a child in a stroller, she asked, much to my delight, if I was trying to return to the past.
The truth is: I wasn’t. But not because I was walking forward. Walking backward had somehow helped ease my sense of fear, an almost invisible fear I hadn’t even realized was there. Perhaps it was an act of finding peace while backing blindly into the future.
Charles Darwin’s book The Origin of the Species is probably best known for it’s “survival of the fittest” framework of human evolution. This concept dances so well with our capitalist system and society. And it is mentioned in his book…twice. Love–its role and necessity in our evolution–is mentioned 95 times.
No matter the crisis, may we always remember that at the very least, or perhaps the very most, the opportunity for love is always present.