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  • Cindy Mundahl

The Opportunity Costs of Survival Mode


This pandemic is proving to be a great education on so many fronts. I feel like the Universe is giving me daily lessons and insights into the human condition that I was often oblivious to before. I’ve discovered that it requires far more mental energy on my part to keep my family safe and maintain a functioning home during this time. I used to take for granted that if we needed more toilet paper or milk that I could just run over to the store to get these items whenever I wanted them. Because of my proximity to resources and my secure job, I didn’t have to devote my mental energy to planning our use of resources or how or where I was going to find them. I simply consumed as if resources were abundant. Living this way also freed me from having to use my mental energy for resource planning, something I find myself doing more of in this time of crisis. It’s a great reminder of the privilege I have to use my time and energy for my personal passions and creative pursuits. Many people who are living paycheck to paycheck, or who are unemployed, don’t have this privilege.


Several years ago, I lost my job when my daughter was just two years old. Like this crisis, that time yielded many lessons and insights. I was suddenly thrust into a position of having to change my priorities and use my time and mental energy to ensure we could survive. Life became even more uncertain and every waking moment was devoted to finding a job and getting the resources we needed to live. Because I’m a single parent, we were suddenly left without an income or health benefits. I was in a state of constant panic because my daughter needed surgery and I wasn’t sure when I would get a job with healthcare benefits. I spent so much time trying to find a job, determine our healthcare options, planning our finances and preparing for job interviews, I had little time or energy left for my daughter or for other pursuits. I was never present for my daughter during that time because my thoughts were on how we were going to survive. I think of that time often now because I’m sure that there are many families that are facing that same situation now, or one even worse. The truth is there are many people that live with that uncertainty everyday, and were living that way even before the pandemic struck. I find myself asking what we as a society are missing out on because so many people are stuck in survival mode.


This survival mode our culture forces many people to live in is often unnecessary. We live in a society that is built on the illusion of scarcity. Our education and healthcare systems are built on the idea that there aren’t enough resources for everyone. We create competition where it doesn’t need to exist. I wonder at the mental, emotional and spiritual cost of forcing so many people to live in survival mode. How many artists, healers, educators or leaders are we squelching by forcing people to live in survival mode? So many people are robbed of the opportunity to live in the present moment, live their best lives, and be the spiritual beings they are meant to be. This way of being shouldn’t be dependent on income, access to healthcare, education level or any other societal construct. It should be the highest priority of a society to ensure that each person is able to live to their fullest human potential.


I hope that one of the outcomes of this pandemic is that we strive for the right for all people to be spiritual beings and that we work to remove barriers to the present moment and the fulfillment of people’s individual purposes. I can imagine a world in which we all get to live our best lives and be our best selves, where we aren’t just surviving, but thriving. I believe that world is possible, but it’s going to take a lot of work; both the inner work to raise our individual consciousness and the external effort to dismantle the inequitable institutions we’ve created that keep the majority of people from living in the present moment and realizing their dreams. I hope post pandemic that we eliminate the barriers that keep so many people from fully engaging in life. We'll all be the better for it.


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