We are almost at the end of a tumultuous year and what a ride it has been. Whatever expectations we had of 2020 were turned upside down by the cascade of events which transpired from the COVID 19 pandemic, the economic uncertainty left in its wake, to racial tensions arising out of the execution of George Floyd, to the effects of climate change, such as the wildfires in various parts of the world, to the fallout from the US presidential election.
As a result of these events, we have felt the whole spectrum of human emotion from fear and rage to serenity and compassion and continue to do so. If you were to ask me what really stuck out in 2020, it was not the global events which defined it, more so than how it made people feel about themselves and the world we live in.
First of all, 2020 challenged our assumptions of everything that we assume are certainties in our lives. Many people lost their businesses, their jobs, their savings, their relationships, their security and, to date, 1.65 million people have lost their lives to COVID 19.
People have been left uncertain about their present situation and their future. This may seem scary and stressful for most, however, uncertainty is not new to us. In fact, from the time we come out of the womb into this world, we are thrust into the realm of uncertainty, as there are absolutely no guarantees in this life.The wealthiest person in the world can drop dead of a heart attack tomorrow.
What 2020 has done for me is to reaffirm the fact that the only truth, in this world we live in, is the fact that nothing is guaranteed in the physical realm, except uncertainty itself. This is something I already knew and lived long before the pandemic, due to my own spiritual beliefs. Now, people may look at me, a critical care physician, and say that this is easy for me to say because I have a steady income and the pandemic only made me busier.
This may be true, but it does not change the fact that I still faced uncertainty. I may have not had the financial worries that others had to deal with, however, I faced other uncertainties. I have a larger family if you include all my cousins and their children, scattered all over the world, and I am always worried about one of them getting COVID 19. I have a daughter who started university this year and two children in high school and I have been concerned about how pandemic measures will affect their education.
Last but not least, as a critical care physician, I work directly with COVID patients in the intensive care unit who are on a lot of oxygen with some on ventilators, not knowing what their outcome will be. I also am at high risk of contracting COVID, as you can imagine. However, I am not a stranger to uncertainty as I have faced it in many areas of life in the past, too numerous to mention here.
In many ways, 2020 has been a training ground for me to help navigate and, even, dare I say, thrive despite uncertainty. It has taught me that how I manage and live with uncertainty is the true nature of life itself as there is only one guarantee to our physical lives here in this world: one day we will die.
If you realize this fact and you are full of fear and dread then you are lost in the illusion of who you think you are with no knowledge of your true nature. If the certainty of your death, instead, fills you with a deep desire to make the most of every moment and not dwell in the superficiality of your life situation, then you likely have had a glimpse of your true nature.
You see, who we truly are is pure consciousness, not our physical bodies, not our minds, not our thoughts, not our feelings, not our relationships, not the roles we play in our lives, not our material possessions and certainly not what the external world tries to convince us we are. We are anything but what we are told by our peers, the education system, the political system, the healthcare system and any system out there that tries to pigeonhole you into any category.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are not defined by or limited by anything in the physical realm. If we were then we would not have composed such wonderful melodies, created magnificent works of art, crafted mesmerizing stories that we tell in books and on big screens, advanced our technology as we have to save lives and travel into space.
Some see the pandemic as something that has taken away our freedom because, in many parts of the world, we have been forced into lockdown in quarantine. I say that it has liberated us from the shackles of jobs we hated, relationships that no longer served us and a life path that was nothing more than a downward spiral into oblivion.
When you reflect on the year that is, now, almost over, don’t focus on all the negative things that happened but try to take stock of what you have learned through the challenges and adversity and what it has taught you about yourself. I encourage you to journal about it starting now right until the end of the year.
If you do this with resolve and with an open mind, two things will happen. You will find innumerable things to be grateful for which will lift your mood no matter where it is right now. You will also create a platform to launch into 2021 with a different attitude than the one you had towards the end of 2020.
After all, the world we live in is relative and not an absolute reality and can be manipulated at will if we only have the insight and the persistence to change our perception, no matter how dark or dismal things may seem on the outside. The last thing I would like to leave you with is the truth about darkness.
Darkness just creates the tapestry for you to shine your light more brightly. If you understand this then you know why we had to experience the year 2020 and you can become a beacon of hope for others in this world who need your light now more than ever.
Dr. Nauman Naeem