An invitation

 

Yesterday, I went to my local drug store to purchase a thermometer for a loved one who was spiking a fever at home. Walking down the aisles, bare shelves yawned: small tags whispered of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, gloves, thermometers. Asking the pharmacist, he repeated perhaps for the hundredth time that day, “All gone… I’m sorry”. On the street as I drove home, I noticed these signs: a young man stopped to stuff a dollar bill into the can of a street person. A truck flashed its lights at me, yielding for me to turn. Traffic halted for two geese to waddle slowly across four lanes of parkway. This strange moment in time is eliciting unexpected acts of kindness, even while we feel as if we’re in a dream.

We are sitting with the unknown. The unknown is exactly what pulls back the veil. Illness and death are life’s great equalizers. A fever is a fever. A virus seeks a host. We are all potentially at risk. We are all trying to quell the spread. Together.

The Buddha emphasized that if there is something that can absolutely be counted on, it is that nothing can be counted on. Life has always been so. But I forget, most every moment of every day. Lulled by the predictability of my days, I believe that tomorrow will be just like today. Today just like yesterday. The toilet paper will be there.

Fear is an invitation. It is not an invitation to weigh risks or to adjust the externals. It is an invitation to look deeply within and befriend the animal in oneself.

We are sitting with the unknown. The unknown is exactly what pulls back the veil. It offers a glimpse the truth that nothing has ever been certain. This world with all its beauty and all its vibrancy is just so because it is not fixed, because everything is contingent. Life’s natural cousin is uncertainty. The final gift, the one that I keep returning to in these shadowy days, is kindness. A pandemic is a common (pan) experience. We are in this together. We can face it together and we can help one another get through it. Ironically the “social distancing” we are asked to practice is a call to care. It is not a request made for oneself; it is an act of public good.

In a pandemic, self-isolation is called quarantine. In Buddhism, it is called retreat.

From the cave of our home, like the meditators of ancient times, we can consciously kindle the lamp of compassion and connection.

Lama Willa B Miller, Living in this Strange Moment Together

Seeing what we stand on

Some words from poet David Whyte in these anxious times

GROUND is what lies beneath our feet. It is the place where we already stand; a state of recognition, the place or the circumstances to which we belong whether we wish to or not. It is what holds and supports us, but also what we do not want to be true; it is what challenges us, physically or psychologically, irrespective of our hoped-for needs. It is the living, underlying foundation that tells us what we are, where we are, what season we are in and what, no matter what we wish in the abstract, is about to happen in our body; in the world or in the conversation between the two.

To come to ground is to find a home in circumstances and in the very physical body we inhabit in the midst of those circumstances and above all to face the truth, no matter how difficult that truth may be; to come to ground is to begin the courageous conversation, to step into difficulty and by taking that first step, begin the movement through all difficulties, to find the support and foundation that has been beneath our feet all along: a place to step onto, a place on which to stand and a place from which to step.  

from Consolations:  The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.

I don’t think any of us can quite understand the ground on to which we are now settling, due to to the effects of the Coronavirus on our world-wide societies and economies. … This will be a test and a re-ordering, not only of our health and our political and financial systems, but of of our mutual compassion, our willingness to work together and even more perhaps, our willingness to fundamentally change our societies to a more equatable sharing of both rewards and well-being.

from his Facebook page, March 11th 

Noticing our inner critic

What is this self inside us, this silent observer,
Severe and speechless critic, who can terrorize us
And urge us on to futile activity
And in the end, judge us still more severely
For the errors into which his own reproaches drove us.

T. S. Eliot, The Elder Statesman

A waste of time

We spend all our energy and waste our lives trying to re-create zones of safety, which are always falling apart. That’s the essence of samsara – the cycle of suffering that comes from continuing to seek happiness in all the wrong places.

Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Ways Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion

False fear

The mind creates a lot of the dramas in our lives, often making them more frightening than they actually are.

Most of us, in some way, struggle with fear — instinctually tensing against it or becoming overwhelmed by it. Shifting our relationship with fear is central to the evolution of consciousness. While fear is a natural, intelligent emotion, when it goes into overdrive, we are in a trance that contracts our body, heart and mind. Our resistance to fear sustains this trance and perpetuates our suffering. As we learn to attend to fear with mindfulness and care, its grip loosens, and we reconnect with our full aliveness, wisdom and love.

Tara Brach

Our agenda

My analyst once said to me, “You must make your fears your agenda.” When we do take on that agenda, for all the anxiety engendered, we feel better because we know we are living in ‘bonne foi’ [good faith] with ourselves. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the perception that some things are more important to us than what we fear

James Hollis, Swamplands of the Soul