A guest blog from deep adaptation advocate Jilani Prescott.
In the current situation, many people are being faced with difficult feelings: anxiety, fear, grief, confusion, frustration. It could be said that the coronavirus is stripping away a layer of illusion or denial, that we have built up over a generation or two, which distances us from our own mortality and that of our loved ones.
Throughout human history life has been a fragile, precious gift, and death a constant companion. Modern medicine and affluent societies have helped us to imagine that we are or could be immune from sickness, suffering and death. This illusion of (and search for) immortality has influenced much of our behaviour, endowing us with a reckless and yet ultimately unsatisfying lack of regard for the natural limits of life on a physical planet, while insulating us from the vibrant experience of a life lived in real appreciation of its fragility and finite nature. The Sufis tell us to ‘Die before Death’ – to live our daily lives in the understanding that death is always near. How might this influence our choices and priorities? And how many of us are reconsidering those choices and priorities right now, in the face of Covid-19?
Covid-19 faces us with the challenge of a new situation with no previously established response, medically or otherwise. In the absence of drugs or vaccine therapy we are being largely thrown back on old-fashioned nursing as our main treatment plan. Good hygiene, bed rest, keeping warm and hydrated, taking the time to care for our bodies in their fever and fatigue, the lost art of convalescence… these are our main tools, outside of hospital and ICU life support.
One question Deep Adaptation asks us to consider is what we could bring back from an earlier time that could help us in our current circumstances (Restoration). As well as the nursing and hygiene practices of a century ago, I invite you to consider the Restoration of the Wisdom of the Ancients, the sacred practices which have evolved in every culture around the world alongside humanity’s experience of suffering and joy, birth and death. In every culture we can find time-honoured tools guiding us towards a more vast and vivid experience of life, containing our small self and its familiarity with feelings of fear and lack, within a larger context of Life itself. The sacred practices of every tradition offer us nourishment in our everyday engagement with mortality. Facing the reality of hardship, sickness and death – as human beings have always had to do – we can turn to spiritual practice to remind us that at the same time bliss, wonder and love are also true, and that ultimately there is the possibility that our equanimity and peace of mind is not dependent on our outward experiences.
I am not talking about the sick, repressive, power-ridden superstructures of organised religion, which have scarred so many of us, but the pure, joyful, direct experience of mysticism rooted in practice, song, body prayer and mantra. The practices which have brought comfort, grounding and even bliss over the millennia to humans just like us, aware of our limited physical nature and our fragility, but also aware of our infinite nature, and the awe-inspiring, loving vastness of all-that- is, in which we live and move and have our being.
If we are to apply the 4 Rs of Jem Bendell’s Deep Adaptation to the Restoration of Ancient Wisdom, we can consider the Resilience with which spiritual traditions and their practices have supported humanity through the hard times over millennia, helping us to make sense of both suffering and joy. I would choose to Relinquish the rigid structures and abuses of power of organised religion, but to Restore and bring back the practices which actually can serve and support us. At the same time, Reconciliation is vital, and healing of the wounds of our history, in order that we can appreciate the precious gifts of these traditions, without rejecting everything in a reaction against the terrible abuses we have seen.
So, if you choose, you are invited to join this journey, which is not about the ungrounded escapism of so-called ‘spiritual bypass’, nor does it lead us to get lost in the suffering, in what we might call ‘spiritual underpass’. Instead it is the path of the heart, of spiritual freedom, leading to more vibrant life and awakening, and dedicated to the alleviation of suffering. Seek out opportunities to explore and encounter the bliss and ecstasy of deep connection and mystical experience. Let your heart and your belly be your guide, and trust the wisdom of your body and your feelings more than your head. If you feel moved, you could join Jem and I on Zoom where I will be sharing chants, body prayers and breath practices from different traditions, for around 30 minutes every Friday at 2.30 pm UTC+1 (that is 230pm in the UK, BST).
If you are a spiritual teacher or guide, then please consider registering on the Deep Adaptation Guidance database here.