Yesterday I received a message written by one of the world’s great epidemiologists Dr. Larry Brilliant urging us to “please, please consider everything we do in light of how dangerous this pandemic is right now”. He and other public health colleagues believe we are entering the most dangerous moments in our public health history. And yet, most people are sick and tired of staying home, of scrolling through scary news, facing the dread of losing work if not loved ones, wearing masks and hardest of all, keeping distant from one another.
I’ve been reflecting on my first teacher’s emphasis on training, he called it hard training – sustained periods of intensive mindful awareness practice. Once, when I shared an insight I’d had in a moment of clarity, he said, “Attaining Enlightenment is very easy, but keeping Enlightenment is very difficult.” He was pointing to the need to show up for our life with presence, courage and kindness again and again, to meet the inevitable waves of joys and sorrows wherever we are, moment to moment, as the true practice. This is consistency, constancy. We need it in parenting, raising animals, in business, in the arts, in farming, in meditation – and we need it now.
After so many months of isolating confinement or going out to do life-threatening jobs, many folx are lonely, angry, anxious, depressed, frustrated and rebellious. I know it’s easy to take risks and hard to make good decisions when I’m upset. This is where I call on the strength of my meditation practice, and you can, too. You don’t have to have meditated for 50 years! With a little bit of mindfulness and self-compassion, even strong emotions need not sweep you away into letting down your guard. With enlightened intention, it’s possible to stay committed to your practice and protect yourself and to all those around you. This is not about shame or blame or guilt or repression, it is an invitation to feel and honor your deep strength and love.
Suzuki Roshi once said that meditation practice is like walking for a long time in a slight mist. You might walk and walk and never feel that you are getting wet, but when you arrive where you are going, you will notice that your hoodie is soaked. Your steadiness brings the blessings, step by step.
Now is the time to stay constant and steady. Yes, vaccines are coming, but for most it will not be until months ahead. For now, we are all asked to practice a strange and precious, intimate connection in our COVID care, making efforts to tend and protect all life. Through this, I can feel a true power, how each one of us is connected to the life of each other. This is a practice, vision and love that can help all of us actually feel safer in the world.
Dear everyone, I am with you in this steady, heartfelt practice and I sense you with me. We will get through this together until we can be with each other in person to remember and celebrate.