by Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D.
All disease has spiritual origins, and illness is manifested through subtle bodies — the energy body, our emotions, our thoughts — and lastly the physical body. For the shamans, physical and emotional challenges provide an opportunity for initiation and spiritual rebirth into a new way of being. If the opportunity for initiation is missed, a second wake-up call might come in the form of an even more serious malady.
Initiation leads to the death of your old self, to rebirth, and to your illumination.
We pass through a series of awakenings and realizations again and again. Illuminations are a part of our developmental journey – we don’t discard any of them as we ascend to the higher rungs – we transcend and include.
Illumination is an inherent faculty of the brain, and not just a gift that some higher power bestows upon us. And while indeed it is possible to receive truth and knowledge directly from Spirit through mysterious means, they (the Laika) discovered that they could attain illumination by successfully completing certain initiations into the mysteries of life.
Seven life passages (initiations) we all experience during our lives —
birth, manhood or womanhood, first love, marriage, parenthood, sagehood, and death.
Anything short of illumination is not a complete healing. Shamanic healers don’t distinguish cancer, diabetes, or heart disease in their cosmology. Conditions are symptoms of a spiritual illness — the loss of a sacred sense of oneness with the universe, and our neglecting our role as participants in Creation.
You must take part in dreaming the world into being as a participant in creation, or else continue repeating the nightmare of history and have to settle for a world that is being dreamed by others.
We must be willing to follow the path of initiation ourselves, as all great teachers have done. Only then can we begin to craft truly healthy, authentic, and original lives. We are able to grow new bodies that age and heal and die gracefully. We are illumined.
The evolutionary journey from matter to mind to soul to spirit — each step of which transcends and includes the step below it — makes me believe that illumination might be an inherent guiding force of nature.
Initiations are inevitable. If you resist initiation, the universe will conspire to bring you face to face with the end of a stage of your life in some other way. Resistance is futile.
Dissecting the past is a trap. The shaman knows that focusing on our wounds will only reinforce them as we begin to believe that the dramatic personal stories — tragic or heroic — that we tell ourselves about our past are who we are today.
Initiation offers us the opportunity to heal our emotions. All the drama and suffering in our lives is brought about by our unhealed emotions, which give rise to our beliefs about how the world works. The shaman understands that whatever beliefs you hold about the nature of reality, the universe will prove you right.
We can solve any difficulty in our lives — from discovering love to achieving peace in our world — if we heal our emotions and then change our beliefs. You must rewire your brain.
Each initiation marks a break with the past. A mythic initiation requires the death of a personal story and an archetypal rebirth into a new and greater personal myth.
With each passage you discover that you do not die, even when you think the heartbreak is going to kill you, or the loss of your youth is going to devastate you. Eventually, your initiation leads to the discovery of peace, generosity, compassion and illumination.
Seven toxic emotions that must be confronted during initiation — wrath, greed, lust, sloth, envy, gluttony and pride.
When we break free from these deadly emotions and the beliefs they create about scarcity, powerlessness, intimacy, and fear, we discover that although there is violence in the world, we can live free of violence in our home and in our relationships.
We discover that although it is very difficult to change the world, it is not difficult to change our own world.
A rite of initiation allows you to heal through your own power, instead of recruiting others to be bit players in your emotional dramas.
If you do not discover the lessons that toxic emotions have to teach you, you’ll end up marrying someone who will make sure you learn them. Until we heal these deadly emotions, we will continue attracting people who share the same emotional wounds and stories we play out.
Seven virtues known as angels during the middle ages – peace, generosity, purity of intent, courage, compassion, temperance and humility.
You struggle with belonging, self-worth, and anger. You feel as if you don’t belong in this world.
Wrath, healed by Peace
2. Manhood or Womanhood
You’re narcissistic, resentful about what you lack, and obsessed with materialism and power.
Greed, healed by Generosity
3. First Love
You search in vain for the perfect partner, feeling lonely and incomplete. You are unable to have a sexual experience in which you surrender to intimacy.
Lust, healed by Purity of Intent
You’re the eternal single, ambivalent about relationships. You expect your partner to meet all your needs and are unwilling to work at creating a genuine partnership.
Sloth, healed by Courage
You live through your child or your projects, obsessing about outcomes. You’re envious of those who seem to have more options — and even of your own child’s wide-open vistas.
Envy, healed by Compassion
You are crippled by a sense of scarcity and loss, and the desire to regain what is no more. You consume more than you need in order to feel better about yourself.
Gluttony, healed by Temperance
7. The Great Crossing
You cling to unfinished business. You become arrogant and self-important, and terrified of your own mortality.
Pride, healed by Humility
Initiations can take place within the secret confines of your heart, where you go to meet the Divine within, or in the exterior realm, anywhere in the world.
When you fail to complete one of your initiations, one of the seven deadly emotions begins to stir in primitive regions of your brain.
To understand the role of emotions, it’s useful to distinguish them from feelings. When someone cuts in front of you on the highway, you get upset at that driver. Your spontaneous reaction of anger is a feeling that passes because your nervous system resets itself.
Feelings are authentic. By contrast, emotions are like viruses infecting our primitive neurocomputer. If you’re still angry days or years after an upsetting incident, what you’re experiencing isn’t a feeling but an emotion stored in a neural network.
All emotions are viral programs running in the subconscious recesses of our brain. And every emotion creates suffering for ourselves and pain for others. Feelings are new, fresh and of the moment. Emotions are old, tired and programmed into neural networks in the archaic brain.
Exercise: Dissolving Emotions
Enter into a state of awareness in which you experience raw, pure emotion, then allow it to detach from your story. Once the emotion is dissipated, there is no longer “sad”, there is only crying. Experience pure anger without the story of why you are furious, or who you are angry at. As soon as the emotion dissolves, call in the angel of peace, of courage or compassion and allow this feeling to wash over you.
The initiation process breaks up the old emotions, along with their habits and behaviors, washing away the long-established neural pathways in your primitive brain. You become free of emotions and are free to feel again. You lay down new pathways in your brain.
Find the deeper story attached to your emotions.
You don’t’ make plans to change, you change.
Instead of uprooting our anger, envy, gluttony or sloth, most of us live in denial.
You will have to make the great departure from the familiar and plunge into the unknown.
To change your emotional patterns, you must start by recognizing that you are living in a world of your own creation. You are the author of the dream or nightmare you are living.
Four levels of awareness – the reptilian brain, limbic brain, neocortex and prefontal cortex. Each associated with a particular kind of awareness.
Reptilian brain – perceives the physical world without thinking, feeling, analyzing or trying to find a context. You simply experience it and deal with it. I eat and I kill; therefore I am.
Limbic brain – came on line 200,000 years ago. Primary concerns are feeding, mothering, safety, self-worth, establishing and maintaining pecking order and mating. I hoard and I mate; therefore I am.
Neocortex – Came on line 50,000 years ago. A sense of aesthetics and beauty emerged. The primary drive of neocortical consciousness is to understand how things work and why things happen, giving rise to science, ethics and philosophy. I think; therefore I am.
Prefrontal Cortex – Evolved 6,000 years ago. Civilization as we know it burst forth. Alphabetic writing, architects, philosophers. A new level of consciousness was attained by a few from among the masses. The drive of this brain is to create and to discover. So great was its power that we had to attribute its primary quality to a god, Yahweh. I AM; therefore I am. This brain helps you lose your sense of separateness as your identity merges with the mountain and the clouds above. Although the experience of communion may last for only a few moments, its effects last a lifetime and forever alter your perception of yourself and the world. Shamans call it the second awakening, as the first had to do with the awareness that you would die someday.
To undergo initiation, we must stop taking direction exclusively from the limbic brain. We have to forget about embracing “truthiness” and start embracing the truth. We can’t do this until we accept responsibility for the beliefs we choose to hold. Our limbic identity prevents us from having to discover who we are if we’re not the adult child of an alcoholic, a divorced mother, or a whistleblower who got forced out of the organization.
The primitive brain abhors change, while the neocortex delights in it. We can develop the inner witness, the observer. This is the secret for accessing higher brain function. This act of witnessing our emotions is the key to freedom.
We must undergo initiation to bring the higher brain on line.
Illumination has to be accompanied by an experience of symbolic death and rebirth into a new life.
We have developed a marvelous capacity for denial. You are required to face your death (to old beliefs) and discover your courage.
Chronic low level stress keeps us unable to listen to our higher brain. During your initiation, the prefrontal cortex begins to regulate the primitive brain and its fear based programs.
There are two great leaps in awareness that we make during our initiation: the awakening to our mortality, which happens when the neocortex first turns itself on; and the awakening to our immortality, which happens when the prefrontal cortex comes online.
To forget about our mortality we fuss about our problems endlessly, and we start to fool ourselves that by being thus engaged in the struggles of life, we’re outwitting death. Even if our problems cause us suffering.
Another strategy for avoiding death is remaining in a state of pubescent self-absorption. When we’re stuck in adolescent narcissism, which can extend into our 40s and 50s, we’re convinced that we’re totally in charge of our lives despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Shamans engage in a process called recapitulation, where they do a comprehensive life review and say goodbye to their history and forgive all who have hurt them in the past.
Your immortality. Robert Thurman – you’ll realize that no one gets out of here dead. The awakened do not have to carry their wounds with them as karma into their next lifetime.
Eventually the seeker symbolically dies to his earthly existence and awakens to his nature as an infinite being at peace with God. We have a sudden sense of unity with all that is and ever was, a tremendous sense of awe and humility, and a dissolving of the ego. We die to the way of the flesh and are born to the way of Spirit.
The alchemists of the Middle Ages, who supposedly tried to turn base metals into gold and produce an elixir of immortality by chemical means, were actually seeking this spiritual state of illumination, according to Carl Jung’s symbolic interpretation of alchemy. The alchemical process was thus a method of purifying the soul, ridding it of all its toxins so that it could shine brilliantly.
The first awakening then is awakening to you own mortality and the second awakening is realizing your immortality. The second awakening involves an archetypal death and resurrection. During each initiation we experience the death of a grand myth about ourselves. We resist the archetypal death because, however painful the circumstances of our lives may be, we take comfort in their familiarity.
You’ll go through the various stages of life and age until you get to the point where you shed your body and the person known as you no longer exists on earth. If you’ve experienced your immortality, if you’ve felt the tranquility and joy of stepping beyond your personality, beyond time, the loss of your identity ceases to matter so much to you.
The shaman knows he must master the art of dying and being resurrected so that he can undergo the archetypal or sacred death again and again, creating a new life for himself when the writing on the wall says, “It’s time to let go of the old.”
We can’t see what’s up ahead, yet we have to give ourselves over to the process, letting go of control and our sense of who we are. It’s in our nature to endure this night, not with faith and prayer, but with panic and frantic clawing . If we can accept that we’ll probably enter the abyss kicking, screaming, cursing and wishing we could magically be transported back in time to the moment before we took our fall, we’ll move more quickly from resisting this change to working with it and discovering what it has to offer us. I know enough about the journey now to let go with a giant scream and a smile on my face.
Resisting to enter the dark passage of initiation will drain us and throw us into crisis. Depression. Staying overly busy. Anger. Reinventing yourself. All denying the voice within. Your ability to stifle the little voice is so powerful that sometimes it has to find another way to get your attention.
Curing a disease doesn’t necessarily heal the soul. However, allowing the soul to travel forward into the next stage of growth often results in the body’s healing itself.
All deaths are endings, are a passage to the next beginning. Once we understand that all death is merely a transition into a different form of life, change ceases to be so frightening.
Archetypal death is not literal, even though it sometimes feels as if we are physically dying. It includes the death of old ideas, of limiting beliefs that are no longer working for us, of old friendships that were never right, even of old habits such as how we dress and how we present ourselves. As a prelude to a new mythic journey, archetypal death requires abandoning the old maps that once helped us to navigate our lives.
You finally accept that the person you once were no longer exists. I cried at the loss of my youth and was terrified at the prospect of old age. Letting out our feelings lightens us, allowing us to return to a higher brain state and create joy again. Crying is the way the limbic brain heals. Laughter is the medicine of the neocortex.
Once you experience the feelings that surface when you realize that an aspect of your life is ending, you can find a certain perfection to your life right now and see it as the clay of creation. What possibilities lie in that ball of clay?
Stripped of his identity, the initiate is free to discover who he is becoming.
Four Stages of Initiation
In every great initiation, we have to leave the old ways behind. If we want to fly peacefully with eagles, we must reject forever the ways of war.
We often forget that growth requires sacrifice.
Initiation allows us to walk through the door in our new skin. It helps us to make the transition deep in our soul, so that we don’t find ourselves being stalked by our lost opportunities or our biological clock.
What is it that is dying? What is it that is being born?
All initiations require that you undergo a four-stage process:
The Awakening – Something happens that shakes up your world; your eyes open, and nothing is ever the same again. Yet, you continue to cling to who you were, fearful of what will become of you if you shed the skin that has served you so well.
The Great Departure – You realize that the old skin is no longer worth keeping. If you don’t take this step consciously, you are dragged into it kicking and screaming. You’re stripped of your essential self, and the things that mattered to you — the status, the job, the car, the spouse, the house — are taken away from you, literally or metaphorically.
Alchemists called this stage nigredo, the blackening, burning, and breaking down of old structures until you reach a point where you can no longer discern what is real in your life and what isn’t.
You struggle with the pain of your loss. You begin to accept that you can no longer live as who you were. It takes a while to feel comfortable with the new, and often there’s a lingering fear that maybe this stage isn’t so great after all.
When you don’t complete the process of the great departure, you get stuck in your shadow. The unhealed parts of yourself begin to dominate your life. You’re seduced into defining yourself by what you are not instead of discovering what you might become.
The Tests – Immediately after your departure, you enter the stage of the tests, in which you will unearth your emotions and banish your demons. Just when you think you made it over the bridge to the other side, you realize that a list of fearsome tasks awaits you — each of which will invite you to banish one of the seven toxic emotions.
The alchemists called this stage albedo, the whitening stage, in which our facets are ground away and polished, and you are purified.
During this stage we begin to think of ourselves as travelers on a quest. Even if we do not know where we are or where we are headed, we trust that we will be guided.
Jung compared this stage to the alchemical process of turning silver into gold – “yellowing”
During the tests the soul shines with its own light, even in the midst of adversity. Discovering the Wise Old Man or the Wise Old Woman archetype within, which represents our own internal source of wisdom and knowledge.
During the tests you are called to action. You have to embark on the epic journey, face the monsters and demons that lurk deep inside you, and either come back victorious or not at all.
Illumination – In Illumination you resurrect after dying to all the limitations of an old identity.
Known in alchemy as rubedo, or reddening. It’s the stage in which you accept who you have been in the past, and are able to acknowledge what you’ve learned. At this stage, you’re open to all that you might be and become a mystery unto yourself.
Jung referred to this stage as the individuated self, a state of wholeness in which you are no longer identified with or defined by the sum of your parts.
You can’t be defined by anything in your history. Not even the genes you inherited from your parents. Who you are becoming can even transform your physiology now. The shaman believes that at this stage we can even grow new bodies that are free of their genetic inheritances, and that can age, heal, and die differently.
But for this stage to be authentic, we must come back with boons for others. This stage cannot be only about me.
After Illumination you have no need to convince anyone of anything, yet you will share gladly when asked.
The gift of illumination is the second awakening, the realization of your undying self.
Each of us, as mortal human beings, already has a terminal prognosis; we just try not to think about it. We figure we have plenty of time to get our life back on track. During initiation, you must be ready to enter the great unknown and experience the flood of emotions that comes with letting go of everything except faith.
If you resist change, you will be caught in a whirlpool and dragged beneath the waves. In becoming one with the river of timelessness, you start to recognize that the force that’s carrying you along is creative and open to suggestions, yet like a whitewater river, it cannot be controlled. You surrender to the initiatory process and engage with it with childlike curiosity and courage.
Seven Demons and Seven Angels
These demons are psychological forces, the result of viral programs operating in our primitive brain. They arise out of a primordial need to ensure our survival no matter what the cost.
In contrast, the seven angels are the attributes of our new brain. By courting the seven angels of light, we rise above the grip of our more brutish survival instincts.
We succumb to the seven demons whenever we operate from the baser instincts of the limbic brain.
When the old taboos no longer hold a society together, the limbic brain — which operates best with taboos and rules — panics. It no longer knows the rules and feels that its survival is threatened.
The new brain, by contrast, works best with ideas.
We attract and provide nourishment to parasitic people by allowing our psychic wounds to remain unhealed.
When we experience our initiations archetypically, we awaken the angelic forces within us, and they defeat the emotions that haunt us.
You must take seriously the power of the demons that cause your suffering.
As soon as you look at yourself with compassion, you can begin to weave together the tissue needed to close your wounds.
The First Demon: Anger, Conquered by Peace – Birth
Wrath, when we are born into a world that is not safe and welcoming. If there’s strife and domestic problems at home, the child may choose not to be born fully. A part of him will hold back from emerging from the womb: he might be stillborn, or he’ll always feel like he doesn’t belong in the village.
If you haven’t been welcomed into the world by your parents, if they did not communicate a feeling of anticipation and delight at your arrival, your worth wasn’t validated.
Often we try to befriend the demon of wrath because we believe that anger gives us power.
Genuine power lies in the ability to practice peace when confronted by someone else’s fury.
The angel of peace gives you the strength to let go of your self-righteous story. You’re able to step back and recognize how the other person’s behavior is rooted in his own pain and choose not to accept the invitation to an angry tussle. Remember, it’s not the other person who is picking the fight, it’s the demon.
The more peaceful you become, the easier it is to see how much energy other people waste as they carry on crusades against everyone who irritates them.
To create peace, you have to let go of your need to be right. Once you’ve experienced the power of peace, you won’t be so quick to give it up just to be able to claim that you’re right.
Make peace a conscious choice. Give up the addiction to drama.
The Second Demon: Greed, Conquered by Generosity – Manhood or Womanhood
With the arrival of puberty, we’re in the position to no longer simply take from others but to give as well. You start to believe that the world is plagued by scarcity and you hoard what you have, rather than trusting that tomorrow will provide all you require.
What you need is the spiritual power to acquire through the practice of generosity.
We find the courage to be generous when we know that if there seems to be a shortage of something in our lives — whether money, love or time — it’s our perception that’s flawed. Giving generously is easy when we recognize that giving doesn’t deplete us.
Banishing the demon of greed, we find a balance between giving and taking.
The Third Demon: Lust, Conquered by Purity – First Love
The demon of lust appears when we fail to complete the initiation of first love. Lust is a hopeless desire for someone — or something –you feel you can’t have or don’t deserve.
Surrendering to love is terrifying to those who crave control. Men who are generous yet unable to surrender to love will focus on their lover’s pleasure to the degree they are unable to receive from their partners, and this becomes a self-imposed form of punishment.
Lust is not confined to sexual desire. We can lust after power, seducing and manipulating others into giving us what we want.
Lust causes us to barter sex (or something else of value) for approval, admiration, or security. Inevitably what we attract is other predators, who may pretend to be dazzled by us but are just as needy and devious as we are.
Uninitiated lovers only experience sex carnally, and their minds create false beliefs about real intimacy. Awash in a sea of emotions, they become convinced that every one-night stand is the beginning of a deep relationship with their one true soul mate.
When you’re initiated into love, your relationships are about discovery and openness, not exploitation.
It’s our purity of intent that attracts emotionally healthy partners. To practice purity of intent is to have a willingness to trust, and to enter partnership with truthfulness and curiosity. If we practice purity, we to stop worrying about how we look and how we’re performing, and whether others think we’re lovable, desirable, or powerful. Instead, we become “virginal” looking through the eyes of the soul. We no longer struggle with self-worth and are ready to create partnerships.
The Fourth Demon: Sloth, Conquered by Courage – Marriage
Sloth rears its ugly head when we stop growing and learning. Sloth is about expecting that all we’ve worked for and achieved will last forever because that’s what we deserve. Sloth creates a pessimistic attitude and a belief in the futility of your actions. This attitude will suck the energy right out of you.
Courage, the remedy for sloth, means following through on your finest ideas and having the courage to answer the call of our soul.
The sacred marriage in alchemy symbolizes a reconciling of opposites within the personality, by means of making internal conflicts conscious and integrating them into a harmonized sense of self. When these apparent opposites are integrated, one’s false ego falls away and one unites with the Divine.
When you’re courageous, you have a spiritual practice, not just a spiritual library. You understand that all the information in the world does you no good if you don’t turn every prayer into action.
The Fifth Demon: Envy, Conquered by Compassion for Oneself and Others – Parenthood
Envy is feeling jealous of others and coveting what they have. Envy is rooted in what psychologists call projection. We project the positive aspects of our shadow, or unconscious personality, onto somebody else, and think, “If only I could have his success.”
Envy is awakened early on when our own parents fail at the initiation into parenthood. At its core, envy is an active psychic attack on another; a preemptive strike. If you give into this demon, you’ll find yourself gossiping and judging others, tearing them down so that you can feel superior.
To remedy envy requires compassion for yourself. Only by accepting yourself as you are now can you move forward into discovering what’s hidden inside you, the positive shadow elements that need to be brought into the light.
By shining a light on these hidden assets, you can bring in the angel of compassion and stop beating yourself up for not being as good as others who seem to have more talent, money, etc.
Compassion also means awareness of the suffering of others and the desire to relieve it. Compassion for the shaman is not simply feeling sorry for someone, it is doing something about it.
The Sixth Demon: Gluttony, Conquered by Temperance – Sagehood
A glutton has no self-control and gives in to the desire to continually consume. King Midas was the archetypal glutton. In contrast with the alchemist’s quest for spiritual transformation, in which gold symbolizes enlightenment.
The demon of gluttony tests us at the doorway to sagehood, knowing that we may stall there, unwilling to accept our loss of flexibility and strength, and respond to the wisdom that calls to us from the other side of the passage. Hesitating, we try to assuage painful feelings by consuming more than is necessary and reaching in vain for what we can never again have: the youthful energy, physical vitality, attractiveness, quickness and in some cases, the health we’ve lost. In our anguish, we overlook the wisdom we’ve gained as we’ve grown older: the power to step back from the daily drama and disengage from it, to slow down yet remain fit, to be contemplative, and to expand our creativity in new directions.
If we pass this initiation, we’ll embrace the gifts of sagehood instead of pining for the youth that’s passed or worrying about the finite number of days we have left.
We’re able to recognize that we’ll continue on our journey after death of the physical body and can embrace the time we do have instead of squandering it by trying to regain what is long gone in a vain attempt to stave off death.
The angel of temperance banishes the demon of gluttony. Temperance is practicing moderation, taking only what you need. Temperance also allows you to quietly witness what’s going on from the throne of the sage who has seen this film before and knows how it’s going to play out, yet remains refreshingly engaged in life.
You judiciously limit your consumption, knowing that more will become available later.
The shaman accepts that his time is finite, but he doesn’t feel anxiety about it. The grace and dignity that come with the initiation into sagehood more than compensate for any loss of youth.
To temper ourselves means acquiring inner strength and fortitude. To temper ourselves means to become tough on the inside but soft on the outside — and on others around
The Seventh Demon: Pride, Conquered by Humility -The Great Crossing
It’s when self-awareness morphs into pride and self-importance that it’s a problem. Then you’re banished to your own living hell.
Humility conquers pride. Humility means being honest about what you are, so that you neither inflate nor underestimate your value.
Emptying the mind is the ultimate act of humility, because then you can be free even of your own preconceptions. Then you can experience everything newly, as if for the first time. You let go of the cynical “been there, done that” attitude and become an explorer. Humility allows you to become an amateur. You become a lover of life.
Initiation and Resurrection
Spiritual resurrection is common to all initiations and isn’t supposed to be a one-time occurrence in our lives. Anytime we undergo an initiation, we experience a death of our previous identity. When we come through the other side, it’s as if we were a new creature, emerging from the primordial ooze that was our former life.
The new self has a wisdom the old self lacked. It’s not easy to go from caterpillar to butterfly.
The shaman lives audaciously by daring to act differently again and again. Audacity is saying yes to the call to live daringly, but not stupidly.. You are no longer a “creative individual,” you create. Audacity turns on the neocortex, the brain that allows you to perceive your timeless nature. It will allow you to understand and accept that there is no safety, other than within you, so there’s no point in trying to fabricate it.
Patience is about understanding the right moment for action and the right moment for stillness. When you’re patient, you don’t squander resources and you don’t become overwhelmed by your problems.
Patience helps you recognize that many of the most distressing situations will clear up by themselves. Patience means having trust in manana, the moment that will set everything right without our having to orchestrate of micromanage the process.
Transformation always requires death — the death of dreams, of old ways of doing things, of pride, of reputation, and of personal importance.
Patience also allows us to stop obsessing over what isn’t happening and appreciate the movement we see
Discernment is the unemotional examination of the facts. You recognize that you’re part of Creation unfolding and that this Creation is perfect in this very moment.
All great wisdom traditions include the concept of an observer who doesn’t identify with anything that happens but merely watches, whether he’s witnessing tragedy or comedy.
We must play our part in life, according to our given nature, but with detachment, knowing that something greater than ourselves acts through us.