Perhaps never more acutely has the pandemic separated us. Those who are pro-vax, and those who are not are severely pitted against one another, but there is a silver lining to this situation we find ourselves in around the world. Quite possibly, we live in a time that will awaken more individuals than any other.
Suffering and “The Other”
Most Eastern philosophies point to the root of all suffering as desire and ignorance, but when we look even more deeply, the root of suffering is likely the perception of an “other” – someone who is different from us in such a profound way that we find it difficult to relate to them, and in the most severe cases, see them as non-human beings even when they’re going through the very same suffering that we do.
The ego creates an “other” to keep us separate from an experience of humanity as a whole and the empathy and compassion which would accompany such a worldview. The pandemic has given rise to extreme “otherism,” but has also given us an opportunity to see the universality of the human need for health, connection, acceptance, and love.
It’s easy to get along with those who have the same ideas as you, who come from the same race, the same religious or cultural background, or that live within the same socioeconomic standing that you do. What takes an up-leveling of consciousness is the practice of seeing others who annoy us or trigger us as just as God-like as ourselves. In Buddhism, this is called Mettā, but it can be practiced regardless of religious or philosophical leanings. You can wish all people to be free from suffering, or have benevolent thoughts toward them, and just accept that they have different beliefs than your own.
This brings us to the idea of Wu Wei, or non-doing, coming from Daoism. Instead of forcing our ideologies about the disease on others, we can practice non-resistance. This doesn’t mean being lazy or apathetic, but it does mean reading the room and knowing that you can share your thoughts without forcing them onto others who may not be ready to hear you due to cognitive dissonance or their own deep programming.
University philosopher David Chalmers coined talked about the hard problem of consciousness in a 1996 book titled, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. In it, Chalmers and since then others, have determined that our “vibe,” physiologically, and cascading out due to our heart’s magnetic resonance, affects everything and everyone around us. 
What this pandemic gives us an opportunity to do is advance our consciousness by pushing us out of our comfort zone. Before we take up a spiritual path, we are often comfortable and a bit self-absorbed. We go about our daily routines, drinking coffee, going to the gym, working, having drinks with friends, raising children, sleeping – then rinse and repeat. We make most of our decisions based on comfort and security. Nothing feels worthwhile because we haven’t touched on the deeper meaning of existence as a spiritual being.
With pain comes reflection. With suffering comes the chance to ask deeper questions about who we are, and why we’re on this planet. We can become conscious of not only our own suffering but that of every around us. And from here we can start to revolutionize our experience. We can choose differently. We can meditate, eat differently, relate differently, and start to see profound changes in the world. These changes arise not because we stay safe in our banal existence, but because we are willing to look at suffering as the underlying experience of all human beings. We can change our resonance, literally, in meditation, to reflect interdependence, coherence, and connection with everyone on this planet. This is the conscious cultivation of joy.