luxuriant plants with tomatoes grown in a pot on the terrace of a House
Have you ever heard anyone utter some variation of one of these comments?
“I’m going to start prepping as soon as I can move.”
“I can’t prepare because I live in a tiny apartment.”
“Well, once we are able to get moved to our farm in two years I’ll start prepping hardcore.”
“I’m saving the money for moving instead of using it for preps.”
“There’s no point in prepping here because if the SHTF I’ll be dead.”
Maybe you didn’t overhear someone else saying it. Maybe you said it yourself. One of the most common excuses that people use for prepper procrastination is the unsuitability of where they currently live.
This is the kind of thinking that will get people killed.
While your current situation may be less than ideal, you have to remember that very few locations are actually perfect for prepping. Nearly anywhere you live will be subject to some type of extreme weather, be it crippling cold, blazing heat, drought, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Chemical spills can taint water supplies anywhere. Riots and civil unrest can occur outside of the big city.
The point is, to borrow an old saying, you just have to bloom where you’re planted.
There are many things you can do to create a viable preparedness plan wherever you happen to live. Apartment dwellers at the top of a city high rise, folks in the middle of the desert, those in a beachfront condo, and people in HOA-ruled suburban lots all have to examine their situations, figure out their pros and cons, and work towards resolving what they can. With some pre-planning, there is a lot you can overcome if you have the right mindset. I suspect there are just as many (and probably far more) preppers living in the ‘burbs than there are living in perfect rural locations, with a lake, 10 acres of cultivated farmland, and an off-grid house.
Stop waiting until you move to the perfect location. Make preparations for the situation you have, not the situation you want.
Moving isn’t always an option.
One of the most ridiculous quasi-solutions you will hear is this one: “Oh, you should just move.”
Preparedness forums are rife with this off the cuff advice from people who haven’t thought it through. And if you’re one of the people giving that so-called advice, you need to consider how completely impractical this is.
There is no “just” when it relates to packing up everything you own; abandoning job, family, and friends; and relocating like money is no object.
“Just” picking up and moving isn’t that easy. People have obligations and ties that some Joe-Blow on the internet shouting out advice can’t even begin to understand. Some in the prepping community have a complete disconnect with the realities of everyday people. There are reasons like:
- Not enough money to leave
- A good job (increasingly hard to come by these days)
- Family members in the area that you don’t want to abandon
- No work opportunities where you want to go
- Custody orders that require you to remain in a certain area
- A spouse who is not on board
- A house that won’t sell or with an upside-down mortgage
The list goes on and on. There are as many reasons to remain in one place as there are people living in cities. While we could sit here and logically refute each and every reason a person has chosen to remain, it is only philosophical. It still doesn’t address the practical reasons that people have for staying put. Sometimes people who are interested in preparedness are alienated when it seems that everything is black and white or like their personal decisions are somehow less valid than the decisions of some random person on the internet.
So, if you are interested in getting prepared but feel your current situation is hopeless, ignore the naysayers and forum curmudgeons. Take your current situation, warts and all, and work with it. This doesn’t mean that you should abandon your plans for a better location sometime in the future if such a move is warranted. But it means that you shouldn’t put off important preparedness steps until after that move is made.
Assess Your Situation
You don’t know where to go if you don’t know where you are. The first and most vital step is an honest assessment of your current situation. The situation that you have right now, this very minute, not the one you will have in a month or in a year. Assess your needs regarding the following:
- Long-term sustainability
Once you know exactly where you are with these things, you can begin to look for solutions that will work for you, today. Dig in and make a plan
for the survival of your family.
Survival in a Population Dense Area
A little note to those who say, “It doesn’t matter, I’m in midtown Manhattan. I’ll die anyway.”
No, you won’t. You won’t be that lucky. You will be absolutely thoroughly miserable, breathing foul unhealthy air. You’ll be thirsty enough to drink unsanitary water, which will cause bowel issues to worsen problem #1. You’ll be hungry, but not hungry enough that you die of starvation. You will be at the mercy of thugs better armed than you. You won’t die, not right away, and neither will your children. You will live like I just described, and it will be horrible. Look at the residents of Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy. They didn’t die but they were absolutely miserable, they were terrified, they were eating from dumpsters, and much of it could have been avoided with some basic preparedness.
Before I relocated to the boondocks, I lived in a very metropolitan area. I was lucky: I had 1/10th of an acre. I did everything I could come up with to make my little house as sustainable as possible should the poop hit the oscillating device before I could get out. A disaster in the city IS survivable.
I planted every inch of the backyard (and some of the front) and grew enough food that the home-canned and frozen produce lasted until Christmas. I stockpiled groceries. I had plywood cut and pre-drilled to cover each window of the house. I had printed official looking quarantine signs to hang on the door of my house as a deterrent should the city fall into civil unrest. I put together a little outdoor fireplace in the backyard behind my fence. I got a big dog. I collected rainwater from downspouts at each corner of the house. I purchased an antique oil heater in good working order, and stockpiled heating oil. I had enough seeds to plant for the next 4 years. I located nearby sources of water, wood, and nuts. I got a wagon for hauling stuff if the transportation system was down.
In short, I did everything possible to make the best of a potentially terrible location. It wasn’t perfect, but we were determined to resolve as many of the concerns as possible.
The major challenges that you face in an SHTF situation are the same no matter where you are. Of course, the issues will vary from one situation to another – these lists aren’t meant to be comprehensive. This is a starting point to get your wheels turning, so that you can figure out how you and your family can best survive, exactly where you’re planted right now.
Water preparedness should be at the very top of your list. You can only survive for 3 days without water (and you’ll be weak and suffering way before that). A water preparedness plan is essential for survival, even in a short-term scenario. Here are a few ways you can prep for a water emergency, no matter where you live:
- Store a month supply of drinking water (plan on a gallon per day, per person and pet)
- Acquire a non-electric water filtration system (with spare filters)
- Scope out local water sources that are within walking distance
- Stock up on buckets and be prepared to transport them with a sled, wagon, or wheelbarrow (this depends on the season and climate).
- If you have a house instead of an apartment, set up a water catchment system
- Stock up on water purification supplies (bleach, pool shock, tablets)
- Figure out a system for catching gray water to be reused for flushing, washing, etc.
Figure out how you will go to the bathroom in the event that the public sewer system goes down. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in New York, it was reported that people were defecating and urinating in the hallways of apartment buildings once the sewer system stopped working. Lack of sanitation is not only unpleasant, but it spreads disease. Figure out ahead of time if any of these suggestions will work in your situation, and then stock up on the required supplies:
- Get a porta potty – there are camping ones that will hold several days worth of sewage. (Caveat: You have to have a safe place to empty this should the disaster persist.)
- Make a human litter box using 5 gallon buckets lined with heavy duty trash bags (get the kind designed for contractors). Scoop in a small amount of kitty litter each time you use it. Don’t let it get too heavy to carry outside – you don’t want the bag to rip and spill several days worth of human waste in your home.
- Stock up on water for flushing if you have a septic system
- Learn how to shut off the main valve so that city sewage cannot back up into your house or apartment
- If you have enough outdoor space, keep on hand the supplies to build an outhouse. (Don’t forget the lime!)
- Keep these extra personal sanitation supplies on hand: baby wipes, antibacterial wipes (for cleaning food preparation areas), white vinegar, bleach, hand sanitizer, extra toilet paper.
Not only should you stock up on food, but you need to consider how you’ll cook it. Most preppers have a food supply, but in a down grid situation, food that takes 4 hours to cook will use a prohibitive amount of fuel. If you’re new at this, you might not yet have a food supply. Here are some considerations:
- Have a minimum of 1 month of food for each family member and pet. (Here’s how to build one immediately, and this book will help you learn how to build one over a period of time.)
- Figure out some alternative cooking methods for indoors: a fondue pot, a woodstove or fireplace, or a gas kitchen stove
- If you have outdoor space, look at cooking methods like a barbecue (beware of tantalizing smells and hungry neighbors), an outdoor fireplace or firepit, a rocket stove, or a sun oven
- Be sure to keep abundant fuel for your chosen cooking method.
- Stock up on foods that don’t require cooking or heating.
If you live in a place with cold winters, a secondary heat source should be a priority. Of course if you rent or live in a high-rise condo, installing a woodstove is unlikely to be a viable solution. The cold can kill, so this is a necessary part of your preparedness plan. Consider some of these options for a secondary heat source:
- Use your wood stove or fireplace (if you’re lucky, your house is already equipped with your secondary source!)
- Acquire a personal heating unit. Look for one of the following: an oil heater, kerosene heater, or propane heater (We have this propane heater)
If you absolutely can’t get ahold of a secondary heating system, prepare with non-tech ideas like:
- Arctic sleeping bags
- Winter clothes and accessories
- Covers for windows
- Segregating one room to heat
- Setting up a tent in the warmest room to combine body heat
In a disaster situation, the risk of potentially violent civil unrest always goes up. Used a two-fold approach: try to avoid conflict by keeping a low profile, but be ready to deal with it if it can’t be avoided.
- Have firearms and know how to use them. (Here’s why I believe you MUST be armed.)
- Secure heavy doors with reinforced frames.plywood or gridwork to cover the windows, keeping lights off or low, thorny plants around the perimeter of your house and yard, hardening access points, a big dog, an alarm system, and visual deterrents such as warning signs and quarantine signs.
- Cut plywood or gridwork to cover the windows, making them difficult to breach.
- Keep the lights off or low.
- Nurture some thorny plants around the perimeter of your house and yard.
- Harden the access points to your home.
- A dog can serve as both a warning system and a deterrent
- Install an alarm system
- Use visual deterrents such as warning signs or quarantine signs.
- Create a safe room to which vulnerable family members can retreat. (You can do this, even in an apartment or rental home.)
Don’t underestimate the value of light in a dark world. Most city dwellers don’t consider exactly how dark the night can be without streetlights and lights from houses. Emotionally, having a bit of light can help soothe frazzled children (or adults) and help the night seem a little less scary. Use caution that your light cannot be seen from the outside. Like moths to a flame, people will be drawn to the only brightly lit house on the street. Keep some of the following sources on hand.
- Solar garden lights
- Kerosene or oil lamps (and extra fuel)
- Flashlights (and extra batteries)
- Battery operated LED lights,
- Solar camping lanterns
- Glow sticks for children
Increase Your Personal Sustainability
Of course, all of the above are solutions for a short-term situation. There’s always the possibility that a crisis could persist for a longer period of time. You should include in your plans as many ways as possible to be personally sustainable. This might include some of the following strategies:
- Set up a permanent water catchment system at your home.
- Grow food on every possible space available: balconies, windowsills, courtyards, backyards, front yards, flower beds.
- Consider raising some micro livestock: rabbits and chickens take up very little space and can be raised in most backyards. If your city has an ordinance against backyard chickens, rabbits are quiet and multiply…well…like rabbits.
- Learn to make things from scratch and practice your sustainable skills rather than relying on storebought goods.
This website and this one both have great solutions for preparing in apartments and small spaces. Here is an excellent series about how to homestead when you rent.
Make a Plan
So, if you’re reading this and you’ve been putting off preparedness due to your location, what’s your plan?
If you’ve been feeling disheartened by all the folks grimly telling you that your home is a death trap, what can you do over the weekend to improve your chances, right where you are?
And if you are fortunate enough to be in an ideal location, please share your ideas about overcoming some of these difficulties in a less than perfect place on the map. As a community, we can all help one another solve problems that could otherwise seem insurmountable.
Book. Books and laptop
By Daisy Luther
One day, you’re just moving through life with everyone else in your office or at your church, and then, for whatever reason, the reality of how tenuous our current lifestyle is, hits you squarely between the eyes. You realize that electricity and grocery stores and transportation are all things that you’ve been taking for granted and that these things could actually disappear. Maybe you’re concerned about a natural disaster. Perhaps you saw something on the evening news. It could even be a job loss that puts these things out of reach.
But whatever the reason, suddenly, you know in your heart that you need to prepare for a different type of future, just in case.
Where on earth do you even start with something like that?
Start with information
Before you start making enormous purchases or moving your family to a bunker, take some time to learn.
That is the key that unlocks the door to preparedness.
When you begin reading websites about prepping, sometimes it can be overwhelming. You see people talking about their one-year food supplies, their bug-out lodges, their ammo collection, and their homestead that is so far out in the wilderness that they have to climb a big pine tree on top of the mountain to get an internet connection (where they then boast online about their seclusion on a prepper forum).
Most preppers are just regular folks with a self-reliant mindset.
Getting started does not require a $20,000 investment or your children feverishly packing beans and rice into Ziplock bags late into the night. It requires enough information to properly assess your situation. It requires some guidance to help you develop a plan to keep your family safe, housed, and fed, regardless of what comes in the future.
So I want you to do three things. First, bookmark some websites. Second, begin building your preparedness library with books. Finally, create your own reference book from the information you’re collecting.
#1. Bookmark these preparedness websites. (Free)
The internet is a wonderful place, and best of all, this knowledge can be found for FREE! The more you know about crisis situations, the more ready you will be to face them. Some sites are friendlier to beginners than others, so if you stumble upon a forum where people seem less than enthusiastic about helping people who are just starting out, don’t let it get you down. Move on and find a site that makes you feel comfortable. Following are some of my favorites, and the link will take you to a good starting point on these sites. In no particular order:
Some sites are friendlier to beginners than others, so if you stumble upon a forum where people seem less than enthusiastic about helping people who are just starting out, don’t let it get you down. Move on and find a site that makes you feel comfortable. If you see them utter the words, “If you aren’t already prepared, it’s too late,” run, don’t walk, away from them. No one needs that kind of doom and gloom. It’s stressful, unhelpful, and honestly, kind of mean. Plus, I firmly believe it’s never too late as long as you just get started.
Following are some of my favorites, and the link will take you to a good starting point on these sites. In no particular order:
#2. Build your library. (Small expense)
This is where some money could come into play. Most of the time, people in the preparedness world like to have hard copies of important information. This way, if the power goes out and you can’t access the internet or recharge your Kindle, you still have access to vital advice.
Some of these books are for just such an event, while others are guides to building your self-reliance skills. Commit to picking up a good book each pay period until you have a library to reference during any type of scenario.
- The Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster (This is the be-all and end-all Bible of prepping. I wish I could put my own book first, but Tess’s book is the most complete compendium out there, broken into easy, manageable steps.)
- The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget (This is my newest book, which outlines building your pantry while on a strict budget)
- SAS Survival Guide: How to Survive in the Wild, on Land or Sea (I keep this little gem in my vehicle, my bug out bag, and in my kids’ backpacks. It doesn’t go into lots of detail, but if you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, this small book could save your life.)
- The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 40th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual of Living Off the Land & Doing It Yourself(A compendium of all things self-reliance)
- Prepper’s Home Defense: Security Strategies to Protect Your Family by Any Means Necessary (If you can’t protect it, you don’t own it. It’s that simple.)
- How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times (By James Wesley Rawles, who many consider to be the “Father” of the modern preparedness movement)
- The Prepper’s Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster (Quick, inexpensive preparedness steps that anyone can take)
- The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not on the Way (It’s vital to have a guide on hand that doesn’t rely on 911 for serious injuries, in the event that you’re completely on your own)
- The Organic Canner (It’s awesome to grow your food, but how will you make it last through the winter, particularly during an off-grid scenario?)
- The Complete Tightwad Gazette (While this book is about hardcore frugality, trust me, there’s crossover. There are a lot of great suggestions for creating stockpiles on a budget, living simply, and doing things the old-fashioned way. And saving money is always a good idea, so that you can use it to help you become more prepared.)
Be sure to check out used bookstores, libraries, and garage sales, too. Look for books that teach self-reliant skills like sewing, gardening, animal husbandry, carpentry, repair manuals, scratch cooking, and plant identification. You can often pick these up for pennies, and older books don’t rely on expensive new technology or tools for doing these tasks.
#3. Start a notebook. (Free)
The next step is to create a preparedness binder. If you use a 3 ring binder (swipe your kid’s school binder from last year for a freebie), you can print information from your favorite websites and keep it in the binder for future reference. You should also make your own section, with notes, lists, important phone numbers, and addresses. Add something with pockets to keep photocopies of ID, insurance documents, and physical maps in case GPS is not working.
Keep this in a safe, accessible place. In the event that you have to bug out, you should be able to grab this and take it with you. Some people keep a second copy of the binder in their vehicle with them, in case disaster strikes when they’re away from home. If you do this, consider excluding your personal information from the travel binder, in case it gets stolen.
If you’re new to this, there’s no better time to start than right this minute.
Start reading. Do all of the plotting and planning, and then put your plans into action as your budget allows.
Whatever you do, stop waiting around. Disasters won’t wait until it’s a convenient time for you.
If you have been at this for a while, please share your experience with newbie preppers in the comments below. If you have friends and loved ones you’d like to help get started, send them this article to start them on their journey. Help encourage people to join our community of self-reliance! By turning neighbors and loved ones into allies, you’re building a team instead of burdening yourself with added responsibilities, or worse, having to turn them away later when they’re desperate.
Linda George, Contributor, Waking Times
“Man is the most insane species.
He worships an invisible God and
Slaughters a visible Nature
Without realizing this Nature he slaughters
Is this God he worships.”
So true. We are the most insane species – for many reasons… And this one above all.
I’ve been travelling in India. I don’t think there is anything like a trip to India to confront you with some hard truths. India is hard. Many of the people are beautiful – loving, compassionate, and yes, ‘spiritual’. But at some point along the way, I had to ask myself ‘what is this being spiritual about?’ What does it mean to go to temples, several times a day and pray to man-made idols – figures representing the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses – when outside, life continues in its confusing, chaotic, harsh and often cruel daily grind? Nature appears to be the sacrificial lamb in the drive to acquire a level of security, or necessity, in this material world – and no-one seems to care. The dichotomy between ‘things spiritual’ and ‘things material’ is like a gaping wound. I know; who am I to judge? How do I know how peaceful, how content these people are? It may well be their devotion to their gods gives them something an outsider cannot hope to glimpse. For all that, I cannot be blamed for observing what I happened to observe – and being me, for trying to make sense of it.
India and the East has always dominated the world’s spirituality. The ancient Hindu texts, the Vedas, Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita stand at the pinnacle of spiritual teachings. It goes without saying that we in the west have been on a path more devoted to the material than the spiritual. And thus spiritual seekers have long made the pilgrimage to the sub-continent in search of spiritual enlightenment. India’s holy men, sages and gurus of course are legendary. So much knowledge of the spiritual realms have come out of this parched land and to this day there are those who continue to teach the ancient higher philosophy and inspire seekers of the truth. And there are many more who subscribe to the religion of the masses with its prescribed ritual observances. I appreciate the rituals are a way to bring an awareness of God into everyday (almost every hour) affairs – and this must be a good thing surely. But then what happens? What happens when they turn away from the idols and back to the reality of the street? Do they see God out there – in the natural world? And if so, where is the reverence? Where is the evidence of the reverence?
What, pray tell, is being ‘Spiritual’ really?
Here is what I think. I think – if I had to answer that question in four words, I would say, being spiritual is being aware of our Oneness. Simple. We are One on this planet – and by we, I do not mean just our species – I mean all of life. Everything that has life, is part of the One and to be conscious of this Oneness, this interconnection between all of us, between all of life, is to be spiritual. My implication is that within this awareness, this consciousness, compassion naturally arises. To truly feel the connection is to feel compassion, empathy, love, for all of life. It is to be spiritual. We cannot pay lip service to the concept of Oneness, or spirituality, when we have not kindled within us, the feeling in the heart we know as compassion – or love by another name.
The India connection. I have seared onto my brain images from recent travels there and so I cannot help but question what the heck is going on. Starving a working horse (its work – to pull a heavy cart) to the point where every bone in its body is sharply protruding and seeing it collapse in the street, unable to move – to my mind is the epitome of animal cruelty. Only last night I watched with tears and heavy heart, the story of an elephant – that most intelligent and sensitive of animals, Raja, kept by its Indian owners in chains and shackles, beaten and tortured for 50 years! – Finally saved from its heinous life. Thank God. Everywhere I looked in India, I saw emaciated animals. Cows, that sacred animal, living in piles of rubbish – trying to extract some morsel of food from endless plastic bags. As I write this I am struck with the thought that here in the west our animal cruelty is every bit as cruel, in its own way. The difference is, it goes under cover. Factory farming doesn’t generally advertise its practices. In India, everything is in your face. I have visited a commercial pig farm, here in clean, green New Zealand, in my journalist days, and I can tell you – there is nothing more cruel than the practice of sow stalls – hearing the agonized, human-like cries of a pregnant sow incarcerated in a cage barely bigger than her body. ‘She’ll shut up after 24 hours’ – the farm manager told me.
My heart broke over and over in India for the animals. And for the people. The broken and the poor. What can you say? There are no words. And it broke again every time I saw the land covered with insurmountable piles of rubbish. Insurmountable because it feels no one will ever attempt to surmount them. They are too occupied with praying to their gods. Forgive the cynicism. And stretches of stagnant, black, trash-filled water – that once might have been a clean river or pond. And air, so thick with pollution you could have stirred it.
This earth, our planet, we know is a living being. It is part of us; it is our life. To see it being so desperately trashed; to see intelligent, conscious animals treated so unconsciously – is to see how ignorant our species is. Today on facebook an image screams at me. I can scarcely believe it: a dog, fully alive and awake, one leg severed – in the process of being slaughtered for food in China – or Thailand. It was a petition to stop this barbaric practice. What the f..?!? How the hell can people do this? This is not about food. There are countless sources of protein. How utterly unspiritual can we be. There are times I am deeply ashamed to be human… How can I find peace when I share the planet with people capable of such acts?
When I was in India, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview Swami Nikhilananda, of the Chinmaya mission in Delhi. Here, I hoped, I would find some resolution to my confusion and bewilderment – seeing such obvious spirituality and reverence on one level, and at the same time, such apparent absence of it.
I asked the Swami about God, Mind and consciousness – and he told me about Oneness.
“Brahma (the creator) is the basis of everything. Our mind is part of the Mind of Brahma.
“It is understanding that transforms your vision and attitude. For example, I feel that the world is a strange place to me, I don’t know where it has come from or what it is about. But, when I come to know, through understanding, how we are all connected, how we are all One, I can respond to the world differently. True understanding can find Oneness and your understanding of Oneness itself will bring about transformation – in your attitude to life and to the world.”
So that was it, it was all about my understanding – or lack of it.
“In the Vedanta, it says first understand the whole thing. Understand that everything is One. Then, practice meditation to experience that Oneness.”
Swami explained how the most important thing is to focus on this understanding: “My body is part of the total body. Brahma. The space in me is the space in the world. The matter in me is the matter in the world. My body is part of the total body.
He went onto say: “See everything as divine. Everything you see and feel is divine. Try to see that divinity in everything: the rivers, the animals, the plants, the mountains.”
A ha. There it was. Everything is divine. Everything we see in the world around us is divine, it is part of Brahma. The endless rituals are a mechanism, he explained, to bring awareness of the divine into every day life. They bring awareness of the spiritual dimension into the most mundane aspects of life.
Perhaps I had been seeing through a too narrow perspective. I needed to broaden my vision to be able to appreciate the complete and benign acceptance that this understanding brings to these people. The starved horse? He will soon enough merge back into Brahma. He is part of the all, the oneness. It is of no consequence – his suffering while he is here.
I don’t know. That doesn’t feel right, but I honestly do not know. The world is a strange place.
How many of us consider ourselves spiritual because we do yoga, or meditate occasionally, or simply, because we believe we are awake – that is, we know what’s going on. We know about the global conspiracy, we take responsibility for our health, eat the right foods and take supplements, we don’t trust the government, we read the latest spiritual books and listen to people like Eckhart Tolle… And I am not saying all of this isn’t a good thing – it is. But, if we are truly spiritual then our sphere of concern must extend far beyond the perimeters of our own wellbeing. It must transcend thoughts and feelings which are frankly egoistic and it must embrace the realization that we are all part of the one whole. Our thoughts have constellated around ourselves for too long. It is not enough to read spiritual books or contribute to spiritual discussions or to deliver spiritual talks, sharing our stories on how our ‘awakening’ happened (as a growing number of so-called spiritual leaders in our global community are doing) and offering advice on how to achieve same, while the rest of us hang on every word these people have to say. We are enthralled by their accounts of their ‘near death experience’ (fascinating as they are) or their ‘kundalini awakening’.
I’m over it. We are no different from the ‘spiritual’ people of India who bow and pray before idols of Krishna, Vishnu, Brahma… We are all worshipping an invisible God – while nature, God’s handiwork, is being devastated. Our need for yet more proof of life after death knows no bounds. Really, isn’t it time we moved beyond philosophical kindergarten and grew up. Life is infinite, we are life, we are infinite.
Being awake is not enough. It is one step on the way. Whilst it is true we must attend to our own evolution first, there comes a time when we need to turn our focus from ourselves to the world beyond our skin-encapsulated egos. I for one, have read more ‘spiritual’ books – decades of them – than I can remember. They have probably not contributed to my ‘spirituality’ one ounce. Intellectually, yes, I understand more than I did at 14 when my quest began, and as the Swami said, understanding needs to come first. But my spirituality is my heart, not my head. It is my empathy. It is my connection with the caged dogs in Vietnam, the shackled elephants in India, the legless beggars of Delhi, the animals the world over in factory farms. It is my pain when I see the suffering of the earthquake victims in Nepal – as it is the violation of Mother Earth and the ongoing cruelty of man to his fellow man.
At some point our understanding, our knowledge, needs to be transformed to feeling. If we believe we ‘cannot do anything about it’ – all this pain and therefore subscribe to the ‘ignorance is bliss’ philosophy – then let’s not kid ourselves that we are spiritual. It’s a hell of a lot easier to turn away – and read yet another book on giving up the ego. But to be spiritual is to bear witness and to feel, in our own hearts, something of the pain of others. My deepest feeling is that our heartfelt connection to all of life is a portal to the spirituality the world needs now. This is the reason why, when our hearts break, they actually expand. When we truly feel the depths of pain, our own as well as others, our capacity to love grows. Our world is a mental creation. It is the outworkings of the Mind of God. It is at heart, thought. When we bring emotion to our thoughts and direct them in empathetic connection with others we are shifting the energetic flow. If enough of us open to this flow of connectivity, it may be a turning point. The emotion we need to bring to our thoughts is love. Compassion is love.
Awakening is part of it, understanding is vital – but it is an awakening and understanding without borders. It is not personal. It is not about you, or me and our limited little egos. It is not about your beliefs and my beliefs, your religion and my spirituality. It is about all of us. We need to get beyond our local mind-set and expand our hearts, our compassion, our connection with all of life. Then, and only then, can we say we are spiritual beings.
“Extend your awareness
Into the bodies of other living beings,
Feel what those others are feeling.
Leave aside your body and its needs.
Abandon being so local.
Day by day, constrictions will loosen,
As you become attuned
To the current of life
Flowing through us all”
84 – “The Radiance Sutras”
About the Author
Linda George is a student of consciousness, a writer of words, teacher of yoga, practitioner of astrology, mother of four and cat-mother of four …… She lives in New Zealand.