What the Chilean Miners Can Teach Us About Hope

Even in the darkest places, it is possible to find freedom: freedom from fear, freedom from negativity, freedom from aggression and brutality.
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In a world of negativity bias where knee-jerk reactions to the unexpected get us all in trouble, it is vital to remember that there is an entirely different way available, a better way to live our lives. If you want to have this kind of life, one of greater joy, aliveness, inspiration, abundance and well-being, the following is for you. Around the world, we are witnessing a new chapter, a new way of relating to the unfathomable.

Last week I wrote an article entitled "How Are You Keeping Fear Alive? 3 Steps You Can Take to Build Self-Confidence," which spawned a great deal of deeply moving conversation. Shortly thereafter, colleague Rick Hanson offered material that emphasized the physiological roots of our tendency to stoke the flames of fear as our ancestors did. That we have a tendency towards negativity is an understatement.

We see this every day. With endless rounds of political nonsense spewing from folks like Carl Paladino, who states, "Homosexuality is not a successful option" (as if it were a career choice), and men like Rich Lott, who participates in Nazi reenactments wearing an SS costume, and with the American elections drawing closer, what a marvel it is to turn toward something that not only soothes the soul but lifts the human spirit.

Let's hear it for more marvel moments. In fact, let's study them for lessons learned. For one, laying aside political boundaries, an international love project has been underway for months. Most of those who've rolled up their sleeves for the cause of liberating 33 miners trapped since August 5 in a Copiapó mine have never met those imprisoned below. They are love in action, laboring in their cause. Their devotion is compelling. Here, there is no "your family" or "my family," but only "our family." Never before have human beings survived being buried alive for such a long time. Because these awakened human beings have continued to pour their skill sets, hearts and souls into the work, the news is that freedom is imminent. It's an big story of the heroic. But there's a bigger story going on here than meets the eye.

As each capsule returns to Mother Earth's surface with another miner, let us greet each man as a hero. A Greek word, "hero" means "protector." A hero is the one who says the Jain, seeks truth, controls his senses, and sacrifices impulses. Around the world, throughout time, we've been told heroic stories, regardless of our roots. The archetypal hero, as the legend of Kwai-Yin points out, is the one who brings boundless compassion to the earth. In Sanskrit, we are shown the Bodhisattva, a person who devotes his or her life to helping others reach enlightenment. Although the aspirant may have earned a high station, he or she refuses it. The reason is explained in the Avatamsaka Sutra: "For as much as there is the will that all sentient beings should be altogether made free, I will not forsake my fellow creatures." In other regions, this is referred to in the Golden Rule.

Let's bring this down to Planet Earth. Imagine the tendency for the mine's imprisoned to focus on possible negative outcomes, homesickness and despair over loved ones. Imagine the temptation to give into hopelessness, anger, defeat, aggression. Now imagine something quite different: the refusal to let hopelessness or fear's chaos upset their enduring bond with creation, and learning to be stewards to one another by the way they've rallied day after day.

After nearly 10 weeks in captivity, it seems that the mine is housing Chilean heroes everywhere you look. Unlike so many politicians, Wall Street giants and others these days, the men are vying for neither applause nor their share first. They are wishing to be retrieved last, so that their brothers may go first. What's that old line, "And it is written that the last shall go first..."? From the first sketchy reports of "business down below," the captives refused to accept negativity, realigning with the power of brotherly love, moving from the "get my share first" into a profound level of collaboration.

Although it has been many moons since musicians sang "The Age of Aquarius," these men, through their devotion to connection and transcending the horrific, have given us all a front-row seat to what is possible. Despite endless research projects that show what laboratory rats will do in conditions of confinement (and it is not pretty), and despite historical documentation of scenes of mass hysteria and psychosis that can break out easily when people are mired in fearful situations, something else prevailed since the San José copper-gold mine's collapse, something that must not be forgotten: the gift of choice, the one essential gift.

The gift of choice is the one thing that we must remember if we are to rekindle hope in our own tight situations, be they abuse, unemployment, poverty, poor health, failing relationships and even loss. When we find ourselves in the tightest quarters, may we recall, as they have illustrated, that we are not laboratory rats, condemned to react as our reptilian brains might indicate. We have choice. We can ruminate about the future or waste our energy, time and oxygen fighting paper tigers. We can operate at a lower level of the brain stem. Or we can remember that we are more than that, that we can employ our limbic system and our neocortex in a much more appealing way. We can turn within, to a deeper wisdom, and respond accordingly, in harmony with a higher order. We can stop what we are doing, muck around in fear and sing a gospel of despair, or we can press on, grow and evolve. We can open to the possibility that fear is just foreplay to hope, peace, unity and that creative restoration that supports advancing in the direction of our dreams.

Even in the darkest places it is possible to find freedom: freedom from fear, freedom from negativity, freedom from aggression and brutality. Even in the darkest places it is possible to rekindle the light of hope, as long as we remember that we are not alone, that it's never over until it's over, that even though we may not have concrete evidence (yet), help is on the way. Even in the darkest places, it is possible to awaken to a better way of behaving than is the norm. Even in the darkest places, it is possible to find gratitude for what is rather than regret for what isn't.

Join me in surrounding each returnee, and each rescue worker, with our love, appreciation and warmest wishes for an enriched life. Let us express our gratitude for what we have learned by their example.

Eight tips we've been given for coming through on our own during times of collapse:

  1. Anything is possible if we let go of fear and refuse to fight paper tigers in the dark.
  2. Faith in what transcends adversity comes by focusing on what is present, and by taking action based on the highest possible outcome.
  3. Our history of doubt need not dictate the present outcome for what's troubling.
  4. Collaboration creates celebration.
  5. Awakening is preceded by time in the darkness.
  6. Treasure lives where we least expect to find it. This is at the heart of the alchemy of human transformation.
  7. Courage defeats catastrophic thinking.
  8. Help is on the way, even when it may be invisible. As Chris Williamson sang, "Open my eyes, that I may see, Spirit of Life, illumine me; Open my eyes, Spirit Divine."

Sometimes we see most clearly after we've been blind.

What can you add to the list? When you were in your own form of cave-in (literally or figuratively), what brought back your hope and your faith in an optimistic outcome? How have you witnessed others convert the horrible into amazing grace? I'm listening.

For updates, contact me at carabarker.net or dr.carabarker@gmail.com. To save time, click on Become A Fan at the top of this page. Stay tuned for upcoming developments with the Love Project, including "Practicing Love." Follow Dr. Cara Barker on Twitter. Many thanks for passing this along to those who care about creating a better world.

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