As millions across the globe shelter in place, I wonder how many are pondering the state of our world, our accomplishments and failures, life and death in this uncertain time, and our understanding of the universal spirit energy that connects us all.

Two stories come to mind. In “Autobiography of a Yogi,” Hindu master Paramahansa Yogananda taught about faith, spirituality and self-realization. When he took the long journey to meet his most enlightened teacher, Hindu master Sri Yukteswar, Yogananda came to a crossroad, and was unsure which road to take.

There was an old man sitting on a bench. He asked the man if he knew the way. The old man kindly gave him directions. Yogananda thanked him and went on his way. When he arrived at his destination, the man who greeted him, his teacher, was the old man on the bench! Yukteswar’s enlightened spirit had projected across the expanse to give his student directions.

My own story occurred on the early morning of June 4, 2013. The night before, my sisters and I had gathered around our mom at the Wingate Home in Haverhill. After an eight-year battle with vascular dementia, Mom was nearing the end of her journey as Jeannette Ruth Chatigny.

That was the first warm evening of spring that allowed me to open the windows and the door beside the bed. My wife was away at a conference. I fell fast asleep with the crisp air of that beautiful night.

At 3:45 a.m., I awoke from a deep sleep and immediately sat up in bed. My only thoughts were, “It’s OK, Mom, I love you. It’s OK, Mom, I love you.”

That very moment, an incredible wind blew through the room, like a mini tornado, spinning around me, enveloping my entire being. Then, it was gone. I knew that was the moment that Mom had passed.

Her spirit energy had traversed the 12-mile journey from Haverhill to Amesbury, and passed through me to bid me farewell. It was her greatest gift to me. My sister Diane called at 4:05 to tell me of Mom’s passing. I told her I already knew, and of Mom’s gift.

Mankind has evolved scientifically over the millennia. We’ve sent astronauts to the moon, and built weapons that can destroy us all, but we’ve learned almost nothing about the universal spirit that gives us life, sustains us, and grants what we ask. It makes me sad to think about our collective lack of enlightenment.

I’m certainly no Hindu master, but I have learned that whatever we put out to the universe, comes back to us. If we spread love, it returns. If we spread hatred, it returns. If we believe something will happen, it will. If we follow leaders who promote division and hatred, that’s what we’ll get.

Because of our unenlightened minds, history is laden with bad choices. We are all connected and our thoughts and actions unequivocally determine our fate. We are all on different planes of spiritual life, and we live in these imperfect bodies because we have strayed from the purity of the universal spirit. How we live each life determines if we return to purity or regress further away.

Humankind is a mix of good and bad. Our history confirms it, especially our lack of enlightenment. The collective choices we make, good or bad, are always connected. COVID-19 is a symbol of it.

All of humankind is at risk, and connected in it. It is also a symbol of these times. In America, we’ve chosen unfettered capitalism and are exchanging dead Americans for profit. The wealthy get healed, the uninsured may die, and nurses and doctors don’t have the supplies they need to heal or be safe. Yet, not one dime fits in the coffin.

Could COVID-19 enlighten our mindset? Our collective choices determine our life conditions, while our individual life choices determine what plane of life we land on, and how quickly we return to purity.

In the end, it’s quite simple, but few understand it, even fewer teach it, and most are too busy eking out a living to contemplate it.

Bill Chatigny lives in Newburyport.

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