Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Push-ups

INTRO TALK

In addition to being a good exercise, so much can be learned from the simple push-up and its endless variations. But forget about maybe 90% of what think of when you think of push-ups. Try to approach this with a real beginner’s mind. The practice here is quite different from what you may be used to.

As with all the exercises, what’s presented here is just what I’m calling Level 1, meaning it’s a place to get you started. Deeper insight takes time and experience. But whatever we are doing in life, we can only experience what we’re experiencing right now, and we can only see what we can see right now. If we engage fully with this moment, then in the next moment we may see something entirely different.

This approach to push-ups is not as an exercise to build upper-body muscular strength. It will do that to some degree, but in end that’s very limited and there are many more aspects of doing push-ups that are much more interesting and beneficial.

When doing these push-ups, we are developing relaxed strength, whole-body strength, spiritual strength. Some hallmarks of this method are coordinating breath and movement and using only enough tension to accomplish the task. In this way, we are still looking to maximize relaxation in the movement. We’re just making the movement a little bit harder. :)


STEP BY STEP

1. Get into a push-up position. If you need to, go from your knees, making sure to relax the lower part of the legs. As you inhale, start to go down. Note how the tension builds and at about half-way, exhale, releasing as much tension as you can as you continue the rest of the way down. Then go up the same way, inhale and start pushing up. Note the tension building and at about half way, exhale as much tension as you can as you push the rest of the way up.

2. Next, do a few push-ups where on the inhale you go all the way down and on the exhale you push all the way up. And try the reverse, exhaling down and inhaling up. Try not to let tension build up in the movement. Check yourself to see that you aren’t tensing your muscles more than you need to keep form and go up and down.

3. Now, try some freestyle variations. With each push-up, change your hand and feet/knee positions. Breath freely with the movement, as needed, making sure you are never holding your breath

NOTES

a. Don’t be worried about how many push-ups you can do, especially at the beginning. If you focus on numbers, you will not pay attention to body alignment, breathing, and tension. You will end up sacrificing quality practice for achieving a number.

b. Treat the push-ups as part posture exercise — making sure head, neck, back, and hips are in alignment — and in part relaxation under pressure exercise.

c. Make breathing primary by engaging breath before movement, by focusing attention on the breath rather than muscles, and by inhaling into tension and exhaling excess tension.

d. Don’t do so many push-ups that you over-strain yourself. And don’t do so few that you aren’t challenging yourself. The push-ups are designed to put pressure on the body and psyche. You have to work.


GOING DEEPER

Pay attention to how your mind responds to doing push-ups. Do you resist working hard? Do you have negative thoughts? These are just more forms of tension. Inhale into them and release the thoughts as you exhale.

Usually the inhibiting factor is not the capacity of the body to do more push-ups. We are limited more by a buildup of resistance in the mind. Clear the mind of all negativity, and see how much easier the push-ups become.

If you’re having a particularly difficult time, you can work on taming the mind by repeating an internal prayer or mantra. If you don’t know what to say, try the words “Lord have mercy.” It’s pretty neutral and captures the feeling of surrendering your self and the situation to a higher power.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, warm up with some ground checks, turnovers, and crawling; then spend 1 minute on the ground doing push-ups. For deeper practice double the times to 2 or even 4 minutes of steady-paced push-ups.

OBJECTIVES

Maintain calm, clear mind and relaxed body, while under the pressures created by doing push-ups.


COURSE SYLLABUS

preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Crawling

INTRO TALK

Crawling is a rich area of practice, and in some ways our first two lessons can be seen as preparatory for crawling. They help the body form a proper foundation for further ground movement.

The term crawling here refers not to a specific repetitive movement, but for all low movement across the ground. It is a kind “walking” across the ground using any and all body parts, including the spine, shoulders, hips, forearms, legs, et cetera. Because crawling activates all the different body parts independently and within the whole, this is fundamental work for developing all further movements. A lot of time can be spent developing soft, smooth, free, joyful movement on the ground.

Most types of movement training focus on giving you specific sequences of moves or even sequences of muscle activation, while paying no attention to the internal state from which the movement arises. Our practices here are not about teaching you specific movements or sequences, so much as helping you find internal states optimized for discovering freedom. It’s important to plant this seed and recognize that whatever your current range of motion or physical ability, you are able to engage in this practices. Each person’s crawling may look different, but the important work is happening inside, and is gauged more in terms of contrast and quality than form.


STEP BY STEP

1. Start slowly by lifting up different parts of the body, stretching them out or drawing them it, and then move the whole body by bringing these parts back to more neutral positions. Vary your crawling by changes in direction, orientation, and amplitude.

2. Initiate movement on inhale, then extend or complete movement on exhale. Pay particular attention to comfort (no bones banging against hard surfaces) and relaxation (no tension buildup).

3. Work toward continuous, sustained, non-broken movement with steady breathing that adjusts to maintain even tone. That means breathing rate or intensity increases if the crawling becomes more vigorous.

NOTES

a. As with previous drills it is good to practice on a variety of surfaces. Crawling comfortably on hard wood will require slightly different movement than crawling comfortably on carpet, and again when crawling on a pile of rocks.

b. Work toward coordinating breath and movement, so they support each other. To start, engage the breath just before the movement of the body, and make make sure the breathing is not interrupted by movement.

c. When we first begin crawling, we think about and perform one movement, then another, then the next, and so on. Work toward continuous movement by eliminating the separations between thoughts and movements, so it’s all just one movement. We’ll go deeper into this topic in Level 2.

d. To ground yourself, get on the ground and crawl around a little every day!


GOING DEEPER

If you gradually lower the amplitude of your crawling while looking inward, and keep going until there is no outward movement at all, you may notice there is still continuous movement inside the body. You may detect myriad sensations shooting through the body, like electrical impulses prompting potential movements in various direction.

Additionally, as you inhale the the body expands; as you exhale it contracts. And parts of the body are also expanding and contracting independently. The heart is beating and blood is pulsing. The stomach and intestines are digesting and so on.

With breathing, if the body expands or contracts with perfect symmetry, we stay in one place and feel no direction. But if this fundamental movement breaks symmetry, expanding more on the right than the left, for example, suddenly we may feel a direction for movement.

Usually we think we are the origin of our movement. But we are only looking on the surface, content to reassure our egos that we are in control. Look deeper. What is beyond the electrical impulses? What is beyond the breath? See if you can find the source and origin of all movement.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, warm up with some ground checks and turnovers; Then spend 10 minutes on the ground working on crawling. For deeper practice double the times to 20 or even to 40 minutes of continuous crawling.

OBJECTIVES

Understand and maintain comfortable, continuous, fluid movement on the ground, without tension buildup or injury.


COURSE SYLLABUS

preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Turnovers

INTRO TALK

Today we’re going to work on turning over. As I said in the introduction, the basics will seem very simple at first. To see the fruits of these practices, it’s important to commit to doing them with regularity, and to engaging in an active inquiry into the task at hand with a genuine interest in discovery.

Here are some examples of the kind of questions you can ask yourself: How can I make my movement smoother? Am I relaxed? What resistance do I feel to moving on a hard surface? Is my breathing continuous or are there interruptions? How much residual tension am I holding from one movement to the next? Why do I feel bored or anxious?

We’re just getting started, but these basic exercises and the attitude of inquiry that goes with them are fundamental to the process as we go forward. Eventually, within these very simple activities, it’s possible to find infinite depth and great insight.


STEP BY STEP

1. Lie down on the ground and get comfortable.

2. On the inhale or exhale, turn over, front to back, side to side, by leading with different parts of the body. For example start the movement with a hand, elbow, shoulder, foot, knee, hip, or the head, chest, back, and so on. The rest of the body follows, like links in a chain being pulled by the part that initiates the movement.

3. Check yourself to make sure that small amounts of residual tension aren’t being held between movements, or building up over a series of movements. If necessary, slow down and take a few breaths at each stop to ensure maximum relaxation.

NOTES

a. This exercise is an extension of Lesson 1 and the two exercises go together. One focuses on finding maximum relaxation in a variety of static positions, and the next focuses on moving smoothly between these positions without any buildup of tension.

b. Just like Ground Checks, it’s good to try this practice on different surfaces: hard wood, tile, concrete, carpet, mats, dirt, rocks, inclines, et cetera, and to add a variety of obstacles.

c. Mold your body to the ground, being careful to move in such a way that soft body part contact hard surfaces and bony parts are not knocked against hard surfaces. Any pain or discomfort is telling you something. Don’t ignore it.

d. Again this can be used as a bit of a warm-up or as the primary focus of practice.


GOING DEEPER

Turning over smoothly is not just a matter of relaxation. Relaxation will help you to feel what’s going on inside yourself. But don’t stop there.

Usually, there are spikes in localized muscle tension throughout our movement. There are also spikes in psychological tension when we decide to move, initiate movement, and if we experience any discomfort or inhibition.

To turn over smoothly, all these various tensions have to be ironed out and redistributed throughout the body, the mind, and the movement. Relax and slow down so you can notice tension spikes and jerky movement. Allow any tensions that arise to spread out over larger and larger areas, even beyond the body and the mind. Eventually this can lead to insight into how to move and live without any tension at all.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, spend 10 minutes working on ground checks and turnovers. For deeper practice double the times to 20 or even again to 40 minutes.

OBJECTIVES

Again, maintain focus on the work. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the work at hand. Each time you turnover, check yourself to see that no tension is building up during or between movements. Inhale into tension and exhale release, just as in Lesson 1.


COURSE SYLLABUS

preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Ground Checks

 

INTRO TALK

Our journey begins with getting comfortable on the ground. When I teach movement-based practice, I often have people start on the ground, then progress to standing up, and at the end we often move back to the ground.

The pattern reflects our experience in life. In the morning we wake up lying down, we progress to standing, go about our day, and at night we lie back down again to sleep. Likewise, in the whole of our life, we begin as infants on the ground, we wiggle around, move a little, turn over, crawl, sit up, eventually stand up, walk, run, and so on. We go about all the activities of our life, for days, weeks, months, years, decades … and at the very end of our life, we lay back down on the ground. Again, in each moment, thoughts, emotions, and sensations rise up within awareness, run their course, and subside again.

This is the natural progression of activity and life. So it makes sense — for health, for relaxation, for fitness, for joy, for inquiry, and for spiritual clarity — that our practice reflects this pattern in various ways.

In this first lesson, we’re going to work on just getting comfortable on the ground. This is important as way to calm the mind and prepare the body for movement. It’s a matter of making friends with the earth and our environment, and of beginning the process of letting go our tensions and fears.


 

STEP BY STEP

1. Lie down on the ground and get comfortable. Inhale into any tension you have, then exhale and relax. Scan your body for any residual tension and try to release it by inhaling into the tension and releasing on exhale.

2. On the inhale or the exhale, move to a different position and repeat Step 1.

3. Do this with as many different positions as you can. Start with lying on your back, each side, and stomach. Then continue with multiple variations in each of the basic positions. See how many possibilities you can find, and how comfortable you can get.

NOTES

a. You should try this practice on different ground surfaces. A hardwood floor, a tile floor, carpet, grass, rocks, dirt, and so on, all give different feedback. Somewhat hard and uncomfortable surfaces give great feedback.

b. Continue by adding an obstacle or obstacles — a rock, a child’s toy, sticks, whatever — and continue the practice by lying on them in various positions.

c. If you want to focus on the this practice, treat the practice as a meditation exercise. Start by focusing on the relaxation aspect, then move on to more observation and manipulation-based inquiry. What inhibits deeper states of relaxation? How can these obstacles to relaxation be removed?

d. This practice can also serve to just calm down and get ready before more active and intense movement or practice.


 

GOING DEEPER

As you work on these practices, just when you think you’re completely relaxed, you may discover a deeper tension. It’s like a web, sort of holding yourself together. It may feel like if you released that tension, your body would come apart. It may feel like you’re on the edge of a precipice, and if you fully relaxed you would fall.

Remember, when doing ground checks your body is safely on the ground, at one with the earth. It will not come apart or fall. This deeper tension is more like an idea of yourself that you’re holding onto. If you wish to let go of it, give yourself permission to come apart or to fall. Inhale into it … and let go.


ROUTINES

Every day for 1 week, spend 5 minutes working on ground checks. For deeper practice double the times to 10 or even to 20 minutes.

OBJECTIVES

Maintain focus on the work. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the work at hand. With each inhale, try to identify tensions and patterns of tension in the mind and body. With each exhale, try to let go of those tensions.


COURSE SYLLABUS

preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Introduction

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to this series of level 1 practice guides. These exercises have an emphasis on relaxation, mobility, insight, and self-inquiry. The practices will seem very simple at first. But each contains the potential for deeper and deeper inquiry into the body, the mind, the world, and the self.

There will be twelve core lessons, and a few supplementary lessons tying things together. Each lesson will have a video introduction, a video teaching segment, and accompanying written materials, including step by step instructions, notes, training routines, and objectives.

To learn more about my background and approach to practice, visit my website (matthewlowes.com) or read the Practices section of my book, That Which is Before You. I hope you enjoy the guides. See you for the first lesson. :)


COURSE SYLLABUS

preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

Mind-Body Practice / Movement 1 / Preview

FORWARD

I’m going to be putting out a series of video practice guides. With my regular class on hiatus, I wanted to provide some direction for my students as well as reach out to a larger audience. This training may appeal to people interested in movement in general, including martial arts, yoga, or dance, as well meditation and self inquiry.

The lessons will be sequential and progressive, so anybody jumping onboard should start at the beginning. The video lessons will come out Wednesdays, with accompanying written materials. Each lesson can cover a week of daily practice, but the series can also serve as a guide for self-paced practice, especially once you’ve worked through it once.

In some ways, what I’m teaching has its roots in my Systema training and exposure to various meditation, health, and spiritual practices. Since the content is meant for people with broad interests, I’m just calling it a Mind-Body Practice — but even that is too limiting. It can be approached as movement practice, health practice, or meditation practice. However you like. But ultimately, what I’m teaching is a holistic practice as an aide to self realization. In the end, there are no limits to this practice; it is what you discover within yourself.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I want to thank Kaizen Taki of Movement Daily, as well as Vladimir Vasiliev, Konstantine Komorov, and the larger Systema community, without whom I would not have been exposed to this type of training.

COURSE SYLLABUS

preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice

A Mystical View of Current Events

A friend asked me how I was feeling about current events. He asked what a mystic sees in all this, and how I walk within this “painful human dynamic.” It’s a good question, and a difficult one to answer with words, because it calls for an account of the absolute while bearing in mind a relative world focused on present change. Here’s what I wrote:

It’s heartbreaking when I see people gripped by fear, aggression, despair, and suffering. It’s uplifting when I see them embrace courage, hope, friendship, and selflessness in the midst of uncertainty. But from a spiritual perspective, what’s going on and the stakes involved are no different now than they have always been. Delusion and ignorance are the source of suffering. When there is great delusion, there is great suffering. That’s nothing new. It’s been going on for a long time.

The mystical view is one of absolute unity, without any division or separation whatsoever. There is nothing but that unity, that limitless One. All phenomena, including one’s own body, one’s mind, one’s thoughts, the world, others, all things and events, all of time and space, appear — dream-like — within that. Behind it and through it always and everywhere is this limitless reality of being. So while great change may erupt around us — whatever it is — it is not other than divine.

I read a piece by Buddhist teacher Alex Kakuyo recently that said “The world is both a land of suffering and a wish-fulfilling jewel.” And that’s a good way of putting it. The relative and the absolute are not separate. So although delusion is the source of suffering, it is this very suffering that turns us toward the truth, puts us on the path, and leads us to that which is beyond all things.

For any individual at any given time, this turning toward the truth may happen in a very small way, like a whisper one barely hears, tries to ignore, or even actively pushes away. But once truly heard, the sacred fire is lit. And this thirst for truth, when followed, leads all to a heaven that is both this very world and beyond it.

Nothing bad happens when we regard all beings with compassion and see their actions in this light. So I pray for all people to hear that whisper, that call to the truth. I pray that whatever suffering they endure shows them the next step on their spiritual journey, and that they may keep walking, all the way to the end, to realize the great love and the great perfection that is always with us.

Weird Roleplaying Starter Edition

I am releasing a free starter edition for Weird Roleplaying, a universal RPG system designed for for quick character creation, streamlined preparation and gameplay, and easy adaptability to any genre, setting, or source material.

As far back as 2013, I started looking to develop rules-light RPG rules that could be used with a wide array of adventure modules and setting material. I wanted to be able to run games in different genres, using anything I found interesting, without having to learn new systems or switch between systems.

Of course, I started by looking at the universal systems that were out there already. But they were either too minimal or too rules heavy, or they didn’t have the kind of straight-forward approach I wanted. So — as these things go — I wrote my own rules. Inspired by weird fiction throughout the ages, I called my game Weird Roleplaying.

I tested a couple core variants before I settled on the current system, and I’ve been running my games with it ever since. If you grew up playing old-school games like original D&D, Gamma World, and Call of Cthulu, like I did, the feel of these rules will be familiar. And yet, Weird Roleplaying is a thoroughly modern, streamlined ruleset that makes it easy to run games in any world you imagine.

The starter edition is a fifty page, black and white, print-ready rulebook that includes six quick-start settings. The bare-bones setting material is ready to use as is, and provides clear examples of how to tailor the core rules for different genres.

I am working on a complete rulebook that will have a color cover, illustrations throughout, additional content, expanded setting materials, and possibly even some adventures. Keep your eye out for future updates regarding a possible Kickstarter and launch date. Until then, I hope you enjoy the Weird Roleplaying starter edition as much as I have.

Reflection on the Nature of Aikido

I have been practicing Aikido, in one way or another, for 30 years. For all those years, I had one fundamental question about Aikido: What is it? Of course, it’s a martial art, but it’s concerned with much more than fighting, so there’s a lot of mystery and confusion about what exactly it is and why or how to practice. I had many excellent teachers, but I never asked them this question. Somehow I knew that no answer would satisfy me, that I would have to find out for myself. Like many, I went through periods when I had some insights and held this idea or that idea about what Aikido was and how to develop it. And I followed those ideas wherever they led, even when they lead outside the realm of what was being taught in the Aikido dojo, including practicing Systema for fifteen years.

In 2016, I had a sudden, unexpected, and profound spiritual awakening that instantly transformed my perception of reality. I wrote a whole book about that — but let’s just say it was the culmination not just of my training, but of the entire path and circumstances of my life. The clarity that blossoms in the aftermath of such an awakening is beyond imagination. So if I ask myself “What is Aikido?” now, I can answer without reservation. Please take my answer for what it is — a sign post, pointing in the direction I have gone. There is no substitution for practice and experience, and nothing is really realized unless it is realized for oneself.

Let me start with this: everything is fundamentally one thing — although it’s not really a thing because there is nothing else. This oneness is always in harmony with itself. There are no real conflicts within it, and there is no outside of it. What’s seen as a conflict at one level, is harmony at a higher level. And since oneness admits no levels at all, both conflicts and levels are illusory. There is just this one great divine harmony, which is reality itself. What is seen as the separate self — the source of all conflict — is nothing but this great divine harmony. And all notions that we are not that, are just more illusory conflicts.

Aikido, as most practitioners know, means harmony-ki-way. This is sometimes interpreted as a way of “harmonizing ki” or “harmonizing with ki.” That’s okay to begin with, but ultimately those ideas will keep you separate and in the realm of illusory conflicts that need harmonizing. Many Aikido practitioners are merely in a struggle to develop subtler and subtler skill or stronger and stronger technique. That’s not bad, but it has no end, and does not in itself lead to great harmony. For as long as you are struggling to harmonize something or with something, you are in fact in the midst of conflict.

Aikido is a practice for realizing what is already eternally harmonious. Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, said “I am the universe!” not “I can harmonize with the universe.” Realizing unity removes all separation and instantly reveals total harmony, regardless of skill or events. So in the end, the technical aspects of Aikido are beside the point when it comes to this great realization. That may seem like a disappointment to those seeking mastery, but it doesn’t mean skill has only practical value or none at all. Aikido is a vehicle for inquiry, insight, and realization. As such, we can enjoy it, learn from it, teach with it, and pass it on to others. In time, they may develop skill as well, but more importantly, they may realize the truth within Aikido.

O-sensei’s words, “I am the universe!” are not a boast, nor a metaphor. It is true for everyone, but few realize it. O-sensei had great skill, of course, but his true gift was that he realized the source of his power was not himself. True power can only be realized by surrendering the separate self and all its illusory sources of power. True power is to always be at peace with what is, regardless of circumstances. One who has realized that power — even if beaten or killed — cannot be defeated.

So if you look for Aikido in soft, subtle technique, you will not find it. If you look for Aikido in strong martial technique, you will not find it. If you look for Aikido in philosophies and so on, you will not find it. But do not stop looking! There is a oneness and a harmony so profound that the separate mind cannot imagine it. So look everywhere, within and without. Train relentlessly, wherever the path takes you — until at last you realize there was never any conflict to begin with. There, you will find the spirit of great harmony … there you will find an invincible peace.

Prepare for Transformative Change

I hear some talk lately about when things will go back to the way they were … as if they ever do that. On the other hand, I hear some talk about how things will never go back to the way things were … as if that weren’t always the case. I get it: in the current environment, some people are seeing fundamental impermanence more clearly than they have ever seen it before. And the stakes seem higher. But from a spiritual perspective, nothing really has changed in this regard.

All things change continuously. The entire phenomenal universe is a phantasmagoria of change. Nothing ever goes back to the way things were, if they were even that to begin with. Widen your gaze enough, and you will see that mountains rise up and crumble to dust as swiftly as storm clouds blowing overhead. The stars ignite and go out as quickly as match heads. Each moment is always this moment — ever present — and yet things always change. The things cannot be grasped because they are always changing, and the moment cannot be grasped because you cannot be apart from it. So there really is nothing to hold on to.

Usually, we hide this truth from ourselves, principally to stave off terror. We imagine an independent self, and project a past and future, with some sense of stability and permanence. But this is only the imagination at work. That separate self, that stability, that permanence, has always been a kind of illusion. In times of great upheaval, many people may glimpse the real depth of impermanence for the first time. But it has always been thus.

If we are shocked or disturbed by the nature of change, it is simply disillusionment at work. There is fundamentally nothing to fear. Our fears can spur practical action, but we are bound to them only by and precisely to the extent that we cling to our illusions. From the spiritual perspective, disillusionment at work is an opportunity for insight and awakening. Without insight, disillusionment may be experienced as a kind of trauma or an assault against one’s way of life. With insight, it is a catalyst for awakening. So to the degree that our eyes are open to insight — open and accepting — all change can fuel our spiritual growth.

Zen-master Dogen wrote:

“Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is future and the firewood past. You should understand that firewood abides in the phenomenal expression of firewood, which fully includes past and future and is independent of past and future. Ash abides in the phenomenal expression of ash, which fully includes future and past. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death.”

Firewood and ash — birth and death — are only ideas. As are the mountains and stars and your self. Insight into impermanence can encompass everything. This can seem terrifying, overwhelming, as if you are falling into an abyss, which offers no purchase, no hold, and no bottom. But if we can go all in, giving up everything, including ourselves … then our insight may pass beyond the impermanence of all things, and into the absolute, into the divine, into the unchangeable, diamond-like perfection of transcendent wisdom.

From a spiritual perspective, the stakes are no different now than they have always been. And my advice in the current situation is the same advice I would give for any situation. Prepare yourself for transformative change. Seek the truth in yourself and the world. Try to accept the fundamental uncertainty and ever-changing nature of all phenomena. Surrender yourself to the will of God, to the flow of nature and the ungraspable, groundlessness of being. Realize the truth that has always been with you — through every state and every situation — and you will find a love, a joy, and a peace that will endure anything.