When everything is going well, it’s easy to be content with life. But when something difficult happens, it’s not so easy. Billions of things could happen that you have not even thought of. “Neyðin kennir naktri konu að spinna” is an Icelandic proverb that translates as “need teaches a naked woman to spin.” In times of uncertainty, we can draw on our resources: our best qualities, other people, and the cosmos.
Think of a time when you were your best self. Where were you, and what were you doing? How did you feel inside? What qualities stand out? I recall bike riding with friends to a small river on the outskirt of our city. Despite our fears, we left our bikes on the bank and made our way across, where we picked and ate berries for hours. Thinking of this moment still brings a feeling of accomplishment and pride. The strengths the ten-year-old I demonstrated were courage and a sense of adventure. It is who I was at that moment. I still sense those qualities within me. As I’ve grown older other traits surfaced: empathy, flexibility, intuitiveness, a sense of humor, and resilience. Our personal qualities are assets we can draw on when needed. Whether inherited or acquired, remembering our strengths helps us face adversity and move on.
Connections to Others
We may think that who we are is the body we inhabit. Here is me, and over there is you. This belief comes from limited perspectives. We don’t exist in a vacuum. We share 97 percent of the same kind of atoms with everything in the galaxy. Neither “I” nor atoms have coordinates, a GPS location. We are consciousness. We are every person (past, present, or future), and the cosmos.
An invisible network of wisdom, kindness, and courage brought us to where we are today. Our web of connection includes family, friends, ancestors, authors, pets, creatures that accompany us in life, etc.. Our mothers and fathers did the best of their ability to take care of us. Even when someone is gone, we feel their presence. Reflecting on the wisdom they shared and their stories of how they got through hard times, we feel their energy and strength and can draw on them in times of need.
The word cosmos means harmony and order, the total of everything. We form an interconnected, multidimensional process from microbes to human beings to galaxies. Like the streams, clouds, and forests, our body is a part of this vastness of connection and infinite strength. Plants and trees breathe the air that sustains us. The clouds in the sky are also in you. Tears and blood, like streams and oceans, are all a part of the moisture we share.
What do you see and feel when you look up into the night sky? You see the constellations, the luminous band of the Milky Way, and perhaps an occasional comet. Perhaps you get a glimpse of the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy about 2.5 million light-years from the Milky Way. In a moments such as this, the thinking mind pauses, and you become fully present. And in this simple and profound moment, we feel the truth of our connectedness.
When challenging moments arrive, illness, wars, and violence, we can draw from our sources of strengths, our best qualities, links to others, and the knowledge we are all a part of the cosmos. The world is not “I” but us, humans, animals, trees, rocks, and rivers. We are all in this together.