There is a lot in our current reality that we do not like, or we would prefer to be different:
One point that Ajahn Sumedho would stress regularly, is that loving things is not the same as liking them. Having kindness for ourselves or for other beings is not the same as liking everything. We often come a cropper by trying to make ourselves like everything. This is a completely wrong approach. We’re not trying to like everything, rather we’re recognising that everything belongs. Everything is part of nature: the bitter as well as the sweet, the beautiful as well as the ugly, the cruel as well as the kindly. The heart that recognises that fundamentally everything belongs is what I would describe as being the heart of kindness, the essence of kindness. If we get that really clear within us, and begin to train ourselves to recognise it, we realise that we can cultivate this quality of radical acceptance.
Ajahn Amaro, Radical Acceptance
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.
It’s been a unsettling week. The old rhythms which felt known and familiar are challenged. But as yesterdays post said, it’s the unknown which pulls back the veil…
“How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?” (Plato)…
The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration – how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
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