Like many countries, Ireland yesterday went into a more complete lockdown, greatly restricting physical movement. This allows the space for a heightened interior focus. And at the same time there are signs all round of movement towards deeper compassion and more conscious living.
I can’t give you any advice but this:
to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows.
Those of you who have been following the blog for a while know that I like the teachings of Ajahn Sucitto and the Thai Forest tradition, so I turned to one of his works this week on how to work with the interior feeling states provoked at times like this. The practice of meditation is much more than just calming, but moves into clearly seeing the dynamics behind our changing mind states:
What feels wrong at this time? What shouldn’t be here right now? Whatever it is, accept it. The more you don’t want it, the bigger it gets. How do you want things to be right now? Relinquish it. The more you want it, the farther you push it away. Daily life practice is to keep working against that bhava-vibhava, especially the vibhava [the urge to be nothing] that keeps saying “I’m fed up with this. I’ve had enough of this. I don’t want to be in this situation. I can’t stand this another minute!” Accept it; Sidestep the topic and welcome the energy as it arises. I find this very helpful when the mind panics. Then as I look into that, I see that it all nestles down inside that sense of lack, of being deprived of my space, my time or my peace of mind. The cry for peace of mind can get pretty aggressive when it comes out of the place of hanging on!
Ajahn Sucitto, Parami, Ways to Cross Life’s Floods
One way we need to work with the mind these days is to notice the beauty in the ordinary moments of each day…
I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
R.S. Thomas, The Bright Field
These days we have to reduce our activities, which creates conditions that are good for meditation practice. And in an associated way, meditation practice creates the conditions of mind which helps us to work with the new situation.
Sitting in meditation is essentially simplifying space. Our daily lives are in constant movement: lots of things going on, lots of people talking, lots of events taking place. In the middle of that, it’s very difficult to sense what we are in our life. When we simplify the situation, when we take away the externals and remove ourselves from the ringing phone, the television, the people who visit us, the dog who needs a walk, we get a chance to face ourselves.
Charlotte Joko Beck
With the restriction on movement and activities these days due to the virus and our caring for each other by creating some distance, we renounce some of the things we would normally like to do. However, this can make space for noticing what we have in our lives, instead of focusing on what we have not.
The ground of renunciation is realizing that we already have exactly what we need,
that what we have already is good.
Every moment of time has enormous energy in it,
and we could connect with that.
Challenging situations can bring out defensive behaviours, such as seen in supermarkets recently. But we see each day examples of generosity and dedication, such as the report here of a nurse postponing her retirement to continue her work caring for those in hospital and many doctors coming out of retirement to give support to their colleagues.
If you’re a stranger to your own wound,
then you’re gonna be tempted to despise the wounded
Fr Gregory Boyle, in an interview with Sarah Silverman