The Awakening Shock
My Sheikh (spiritual master and my spiritual guide) often speaks of the ‘awakening shock’. A moment in time or a series of separate yet interlinked occasions where a human being’s entire world, or how they knew it to be, is rocked so hard that they are literally shaken to the core.
Imagine someone being struck by lightning – but spiritually, where the electric bolt goes straight to the heart and strikes the soul, jolting it awake from a deep slumber.
He speaks of this especially in regards to the lives of the peacemakers; all of those seemingly ordinary people throughout the entire course of history who came to this earth unknowingly with a mission beyond whatever they thought their lives were going to be.
The awakening shock came to each and every one of them when the time was right. A shock that came to show them that things could not continue on the way they currently were and set them on a journey of creating change and a better world for the whole of humanity.
For Mother Teresa, the shock came in the form of being an eyewitness to the widespread poverty on the streets of Calcutta, when arriving in India to begin work as a teacher. For Gandhi, a hugely defining moment in his life was when he was thrown off a train at the Pietermaritzburg railway station in South Africa in 1893, after a white man objected to him travelling in the first class coach.
For Nelson Mandela, it could be argued that his awakening moments to overthrow apartheid in South Africa – but through non-violence rather than through force – came during his imprisonment. And for Wangari Maathai, one of her shock moments was arriving to start a new job at a University, only to find it had been taken from her and given to someone else because of, what she believed, to be gender and tribal bias.
Of course, there are many, many peacemakers throughout history and many who walk among us today, who all have this one thing in common: that they experienced an awakening shock which altered the course of their lives – and history – forever.
So with the arrival and take-over of COVID-19 or Coronavirus, and what we’re all currently experiencing as a collective whole, I can’t help but wonder whether this is our call to awaken, to change our ways of being, and to create a better world for us all.
Could COVID-19 be the awakening shock needed for the whole of humanity today?
Life Before Coronavirus
I see many folk all over social media craving to get back to normality; to get back to their day-to-day routines of work and play and everything else in between. But how many of us have actually taken the time to step back and examine what our ‘normality’ really was before all of this happened?
For me, while looking back at life before Coronavirus came along and kicked us all in the teeth, I saw a world where we were truly lost. Many of us caught up in the rat race, never managing to keep up quite quick enough. I saw a world where homelessness was just an accepted, common thing; many of us not bothering to even smile at those on the side of the pavement, while they sat dejectedly on the outskirts of society. As if it is not even a basic human right to have our basic human needs met, without having to give anything in return. I saw a world where millions and millions of people lived paycheck to paycheck; accepting the everyday struggle just to get by as how their lives just were, and would always be.
We lived in a world run by racist, sexist, classist, money and power hungry leaders. A world where their lies and clever tactics divided us, broke us and made us hate our neighbours. Our world was one where every day Mother Earth would cry out in a new way because of the pain we inflicted on her; our world was one where children across the globe worked their fingers to the bone, yet were still going hungry.
Although I understand that everything must exist in balance and everything that exists has its opposite, what I see looking back is a world where systems, money and machines had almost completely taken over. I see a world where there was no balance, there was no middle way. I see a world where we were slowly edging God out and leaving no space for true humanity. I wonder if you see it, too? Do you see what we had accepted to be our normality?
If so, I question how we could ever want to return to that?
A Call to Awaken
I don’t believe that COVID-19 came from nowhere to completely shut down the world as we know it, in the way that it has. But that’s also not something I want to get into right now.
Nevertheless, wherever it came from, it came for a reason. And I truly believe that all of what we’re going through together right now as a whole, came to shock us into awakening – into truly awakening, and seeing the way our world was being controlled and the way we were living our lives under a bright, blinding light.
I understand that there is real fear being felt by those who are dealing with the virus hands on, and real stress being felt by those who are struggling financially and just don’t know how this situation is going to affect them in the long run. But as Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee wrote recently in an article for St. Ethelburgas Centre for Reconciliation and Peace,
“…this pandemic has also triggered a collective anxiety, one that… comes from the deep wisdom of the collective psyche, that knows our civilization is coming to an end, that it has passed its sell-by date, and has no understanding of what comes next.”
So in these times where we don’t know what is around the corner or how the world will be when all of this passes, maybe now is the time to go deeper and awaken the truth within each of us on a personal and collective level.
1. Awaken to see the world for what it is
I believe now is the perfect time to start looking upon society, the social order and social constructs and dissecting them to begin to understand how harmful they really are.
For example, how mind boggling is it to know that 1% of the population owns over half of the world’s wealth – yet there are still homeless, poor, poverty-stricken, struggling families all across the globe.
Here in Britain, take a look at our NHS right now. It is filled with heroes and warriors, and I for one can’t even contain the amount of gratitude and respect that I have for every person who works within our healthcare system. But what exactly is our government doing to help them?
They are not even being provided with enough basic equipment to keep themselves safe, as they risk their lives to save the lives of others. How is it that we have allowed ourselves to stand for this nonsense for so long?
It is vital to understand that there are forces in this world that want to control, divide and harm us. Once we are able to understand that, maybe then we can begin to break free.
2. Awaken to our true essence and nature as human beings
We were not created to live to work; to be stuck in dead-end 9-5 jobs slaving to bring others’ dreams to life while neglecting our own. If you enjoy your job then of course this doesn’t apply to you, but the main point here is that we were created to experience and live in joy and truth – and not be slaves to anything.
I know of some people who are absolutely thriving during lockdown, as, while getting 80% of their wages from their regular jobs, they are able to turn their attention, focus and energy to exploring what they love while also cherishing time with the ones they love.
This ties in again to point 1, but maybe it’s time for us to examine the social construct of education and work, and how we are moulded for the workforce as soon as we take our first small steps into primary school, pretty much having had to have decided the one thing we want to do with the rest of our lives by Year 9, aged just 14.
Why are we not taught about love, joy and happiness? Why are we not taught that true success is happiness and be encouraged to seek that, instead of financial security? Why is life and soul education not a part of the societal educational experience?
3. Awaken to the anchors of patience, gratitude and presence
On my journey, I’ve learnt the hard way that without these three pillars in my life, things seem to pretty much fall apart – or rather, I pretty much fall apart.
When everything around us is breaking, crumbling or changing, we need some kind of anchors in our lives that will keep us grounded no matter what happens and through my own experiences, these three are key.
In the world before Corona, how many of us can truly say that we were patient, grateful people living our lives in the here and now?
4. Awaken to the truth that lies in non-attachment
Society teaches us to accumulate; to accumulate and accumulate and accumulate, because apparently how much stuff we have determines how successful we are and how worthy of the love and respect of others we are. It’s no wonder we can get attached so easily.
And it’s not just things. Attachment also comes in the form of attachment to relationships, to situations, to ourselves and what we deem our identity to be. When any of these things change, or are disturbed or attacked, it can feel like we are breaking too – because of our attachment to them. When we become free of all of this, we are truly free.
Coronavirus has come along, rocked our world and knocked us to the ground. It’s time to realise that happiness does not lie outside of us, and that we need to embrace the stillness within. No matter what goes on around us, no matter how much we do or have, before everything else we must learn to BE. Become the eye in the centre of the storm.
5. Awaken to healing
Life is holding up a mirror to each and every one of us in this time, but the question is who is taking this opportunity to truly look at themselves and to go within?
Personally, I feel like this time is heightening all of the things about myself that I need to work on and the areas in which I need to heal to free myself.
It’s time for us to awaken to all the ways in which we are holding ourselves back from experiencing the fullness of this life, and to understand that the healing is always available to us. We just have to choose it and begin.
6. Awaken to faith
Over the last 20 years or so, it can’t be denied that the world is swaying towards becoming more secular; with some countries trying to eradicate religion altogether. I don’t see this as surprising, because when someone has a connection to God, they know there is a connection to the all. It becomes more difficult for frameworks that harm and hate and divide society to work, when people put God first – you know?
What’s interesting to note is that it appears that those who aren’t struggling maybe as much as others in this time, is because of their faith in a higher power.
I’m not saying that you need to give this higher power a name, but for the purposes of this article I use God – and it seems that God is a vital piece of the puzzle missing from many peoples lives, and a vital connection that society is slowly pushing out.
Could this be a call to return, to convene with God and to put Him first again?
7. Awaken to the truth that out world as we knew it has changed forever
Nothing is ever going to be the same again. So it’s important to ask ourselves, where do we take action and where do we go from here?
8. Awaken to being the change
And finally, taking all of the above into consideration, maybe these times are uncovering so many truths about ourselves, society and the world on the whole, for us to awaken to the fact that we each need to take action in our own lives – and become the change we wish to see in the world.
We are an interconnected species and whatever each and every one of us does, affects the whole. It’s time to awaken to the truth that we all can have an impact on the collective consciousness, if we begin to work on ourselves and also begin to call out the systems, corporations and structures that keep us from being who we truly are, using non-violence and the proposal of alternative methods and systems as a way to bring about true change.
I really do feel a different and special kind of energy during this period of lockdown – something that I have never felt before. I feel a lot of things are being exposed and we are all being forced to take a look at ourselves, our lives and our world.
I’m excited for a new beginning as I believe that our world had reached the crescendo of unconscious living, and something had to explode. It just happened to have exploded like this.
The awakening shock has come.
The impact of Coronavirus is the awakening shock for humanity.
The only question is do we now clamber to return to our past, broken world of ‘normality’ or do we move on forwards into creating a beautiful, harmonious and peaceful new world for us all – and not just for the few?
Take the time to answer that for yourself.
Sabah Ismail is a writer, artist and journalist. Check out her blog: http://sabah-ismail.com