By Brian Luke Seaward
A number of years ago, while in Colorado Springs for an event, I decided to fill up my gas tank for the 90-minute drive back to Boulder. With several credit cards and a one-dollar bill in my wallet, I headed for the nearest gas station and pulled up to a pump. Then I noticed a handwritten sign which read: No Credit Cards, Cash Only. I quickly hopped back in my car, and drove to the next gas station – only to see the same notice. So I hopped back in the car and drove a few blocks further down the road. Within moments, I spotted a gas station across the street, pulled up to an available gas pump and got out to fill the tank. I was astonished to see a similar sign: No Credit Cards, Cash Only taped to the pump. Baffled, I walked into the convenience store, approached the cashier and inquired about the peculiar situation.
He replied, “A solar flare has knocked out several satellites. We’re unable to process any credit cards so it’s cash only today.” I opened my wallet, pulled out my one-dollar bill and handed it to the cashier. I headed back to my car praying that I could add enough gas to get me home. It did.
There are many people in Colorado (and throughout the country if not around the whole world) known as “preppers” – people who are preparing for widespread destruction. They have stockpiles of food, water, fuel, gold, silver, and a cadre of accoutrements to provide security and comfort for the predicted dark future. They have prepared with material goods, but they are ignoring spiritual strengths and measures that could also provide real protection.
Recent fires, floods, and earthquakes have revealed that making sound plans for dealing with cataclysmic events is not only smart, it’s a necessity. While every Boy Scout and Girl Scout knows the slogan “Be prepared,” (there is much merit in keeping some extra money in your wallet for unique gas station moments) the behaviors exhibited by preppers can best be described as “fear-based” and dysfunctional. In these threatening times their efforts to combat helplessness in the face of disaster and their anxious survival mentality of “every man for himself,” can work against them.
Fear can disable our ability to think clearly and take effective action. And fear is contagious – it can tip a whole crowd or community into panic.
Now, when there’s a steady supply of doomsday scenarios, this prepper mentality got me to wondering: what would calm and compassion-based spiritual preparation look like? To be honest, it would look no different in times of chaos and anarchy than it would during times of peace and stability, and for this reason, it behooves us to cultivate and practice this approach every day. By holding a higher vibration of consciousness, a heart-based and clear awareness of ourselves and what is around us, we not only become the calm in the storm, but can spread ripples of peace throughout the community and beyond.
No doubt a spiritual approach would include several aspects, all of which connect to the health of the human spirit. First, we could choose love over fear so the energies of love and compassion could reach out to the far corners of humanity. Here are some other practices that we might include in our lives now. They all constitute the highest realms of human behavior, and provide benefits that we might consider reaching for on a regular basis regardless of fear-mongering news and endless doomsday predictions.
Give Thanks and Gratitude Daily: Giving thanks for a world of blessings, big and small, brings all situations (perceived as either good or bad) into true perspective. Consider making a daily habit of acknowledging three to four reasons in your life to give thanks – before each day ends.
Compassion in Action: Rather than engaging in acts of selfishness, “spiritual preppers” can include helping others in need. They could provide, even now, basic necessities for physical health and survival as well as supporting self-empowerment and self-reliance. In our digital world where alienation and isolation are all too commonplace, sometimes just listening to a neighbor, colleague, or even a stranger is an act of compassion-in-action. We could also make a daily habit of sharing what we have with others.
Sweet Forgiveness: A compassionate heart recognizes fear-based behavior and is able to be both tolerant and understanding of what is driving others (and ourselves) to behave in unhelpful, stress-based behaviors. Forgiveness allows us to let go and move on. We can search the corners of our hearts each day and forgive that person whose awareness of others is clouded by ego and selfishness.
Daily Shadow Work: So much of fear-based thinking and the subsequent behavior stems from being locked into the survival and scarcity mode. The wisdom of Carl Jung reminds us to continually acknowledge our ego’s less than desirable attitudes and actions, and to embrace the immature parts of the ego, those that need light and love. Seek illumination.
Expressive Creativity: The human spirit thrives on creativity, no matter how that is expressed. Whether it’s thinking up a new idea for a meal, designing a garden, taking photographs, or developing a new relaxation App, it’s good for us to engage our creative powers each day. It brightens the lighter side of being human.
Fulfill Your Life Purpose (one day at a time): Research reveals that people who have a meaningful purpose in life are not only happier and healthier, they contribute to makings this a better world for the benefit of everyone. Taking time to review our life purpose and to ground and focus our intentions helps to keep us on a good track.
Random Acts of Kindness: Being kind to people, animals, and Mother Earth herself – particularly to those who act rude, uncaring, or aggressive – is more than a mindset or habit. Kindness can counteract darkness. We can make it a goal to increase the supply of warm-hearted and generous behaviors.
Solitude and Stillness: For the soul to grow, it needs times of stillness and solitude each day. In a world filled with abundant distractions, being dedicated to finding time to sit quietly, to unplug from the digital world, and to meditate is not only a good idea, but a necessity for our minds and our spirits. It helps to keep us spiritually centered.
People have been predicting the end of the world for eons, and we are still here. Perhaps that’s because our planet is a school in which to learn love and compassion. There will always be those who choose to placate the ego with fear-based behaviors and the struggle for physical survival. Each of us has to make our own choices and find our own way in life. We can choose not to be knocked unconscious by fear. We can make our own decisions about how to feel, what to think, and how to act when times get tough.
After my episode at the gas pump several years ago, I now keep some extra money hidden in my wallet, in the event I encounter another solar flare inspired “Cash Only” sign. It’s enough to fill my tank or to practice an act of kindness for someone else who might be in need of a few extra dollars.
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Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D. is the executive director of the Paramount Wellness Institute in Boulder, CO. He is the author of Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, and Stressed is Desserts Spelled Backward. He is also the author of an award-winning college textbook, Managing Stress (9e).
He can be reached through his website: www.brianlukeseaward.net.
The image accompanying this post is by Arnie Chou from Pexels.