As we emerge from isolation and begin to hug and embrace each other again without masks, I wonder what other masks have been dropped as well in this past year. The tragedy of too many shedding their mortal coil from this invisible and silent scourge has left behind tremendous grief, at times unrelenting. This coming face-to-face with death and the fragility of life has forced many of us to reassess how we wish to lead our lives.

Witnessing quite a few friends change their lives dramatically for their own well-being and happiness, I am reminded time and again of the story of Babaji and how he answered when asked why he didn’t stop the darkness of the world, “…although I cannot stop the darkness, it is my job to help increase the light.” 

The initial wish for change could seem an insignificant one; one of my oldest and dearest friends just wanted a garden to tend to. During the first wave of the pandemic, he was on the frontlines working in an ER in New York City; I prayed for him daily. Earlier this year he fulfilled his longtime dream to have a garden and moved upstate, working at a local hospital there. Seeing him so happy tending to his garden every chance he got, I felt I was seeing a rebirth. 

Another friend from grade school became a well-reputed chef, which meant she never had time to hang out anymore, but during this past year we were finally able to catch up one evening. The slowdown in her work allowed her to think about what she wanted to do next. Her partner was also forced to reassess his life when he was laid off from a very stressful job at a design firm; now he’s building and fixing motorcycles, a longtime passion of his. 

The sense of peace and joy that I felt when visiting my friends was palpable, as their outer and inner worlds became more integrated into one reality. If my friends are able to shine a little brighter from a few changes in their lives, I can only imagine the power of the cumulative light from similar changes people are potentially making around the world.

Let us remember the following words from Paramhansa Yogananda’s chant and rise from the ashes of this pandemic towards a brighter future together:

From joy I came

For joy I live,

In sacred joy I melt again