All of a sudden, there’s a before and an after. The biggest pivot we’ve ever made. We’re reeling, falling through space, searching for a limb to grab, for ground under our feet.
That’s been my experience during the past several weeks. Was it yours?
I read all about COVID-19, listened to dozens of Dharma talks, and tried to be with what is and get a grip on the scary, confusing, totally unknown new reality. I distanced myself from everyone, eventually including my sons. I live with my youngest and our choreography has now expanded as much as possible in our small space, a gentle distancing. We are both cheerful and productive people, so we work and we smile. He shows me some of the most thrilling “at the buzzer” moments in NBA history to entertain me.
We’ve suspended Sunday dinners with my middle son and his girlfriend, both so beloved. They delivered groceries on Saturday and stood by the door, backs pressed to the wall while I sat all the way across the room, radiating love at them. If I could, I would jump on a plane and go see my oldest and his wife in LA. I always miss them, and so much more right now.
I have a serious chronic lung condition and feel like a sitting duck. I haven’t been out among people in almost 2 weeks, though I cautiously exit my apartment building and take a very long walk through my quiet, mostly deserted neighborhood every day, being careful to cross the street to stay away from any people. (I’m more worried about them than me.) I do a little yoga or the NY Times 6-minute full-body workout. I cook. Today I’m making a fresh batch of Magic Mineral Broth, Rebecca Katz’s famous immune-boosting elixir.
And of course, I meditate, listen to guided meditations and Dharma talks and join my Sangha online. We closed our physical location at the Center for Mindful Living two weeks ago and instantly moved our meditation classes onto Zoom. People are sitting with us, beginners and advanced alike, from all over the world! Seeing everyone’s smiling faces is deeply comforting. Check the calendar and join us!
I’ve been searching, searching, searching for… a place to stand in all this. My 22 years of Dharma practice is always supportive. I just needed to find the light on the path this time. This time, when our fight or flight reflex is, alas, all too appropriate. The sabertooth tiger isn’t at the door but he’s been reported in the neighborhood, so it makes good sense to be alert—but not, on the other hand, to panic.
What’s helped me:
My family, friends and Dharma buddies. Like always. 🙂
Helping manage the Center. Helping others helps us all. 🙂
Walking daily in nature. The cherry trees have been in full, frilly, exquisite flower. 🙂
Listening to Ayya Khema, a Buddhist nun, on dharmaseed.org. Born in Berlin of Jewish parents in 1923, she escaped Nazi Germany in 1938 with a transport of 200 children to Glasgow. After two years, she joined her parents in Shanghai. With the outbreak of war, the family was put into a Japanese POW camp, where her father died. She eventually married, had two children, learned meditation, founded a monastery in Australia, was ordained in Sri Lanka, and founded a BuddhaHaus in Berlin where she passed away in 1997. Full circle.
She has a deep, rich voice and her talks and guidance are so firm and powerfully grounding. I have loved living under her wing for the past week.
And lastly, coming to a key realization, prompted by another favorite teacher, Sayadaw U Tejinaya was profoundly steadying. Tejinaya teaches as the Buddha did to be with what is; but he adds the notation, with a little kindness.
My first epiphany after this whole thing broke was that this is the most visible possible manifestation of the fact that we are all connected. I began imagining a new world that, the virus having broken us open, admits the light, reflects the light of kindness, love, and health for ourselves and the planet; justice, mercy, a sharing, caring economy and shared goodness.
But I was still scared.
The Tenjaniya teaching did it for me. The practice of being with what is with a little kindness took the edge off the fear and shed light on the path. As always, love is the answer and living in each moment rather than panicking about the future. In this moment, where there are no sabertooth tigers. Where there’s room to breathe and be grateful for our breath.
I’ve often heard that love and fear can’t exist in the same space, which perhaps helps explain why being with what is with a little kindness turns my eyes with love towards my community, which turns out is comprised of all living beings. Since I’ve been doing Metta meditation for a long time, I automatically start radiating out Metta for all living beings, starting with myself. Nurtured with lots of Metta, my light burns brighter for all. For you.
May you be held in the heart of lovingkindness.
May you be free from inner and outer harm.
May you be well in mind, body, and spirit.
And may you live in the light of our true natures and be free!