“When outer borders are being closed we can begin again to open up our inner borders. And the borders we have built between the inner and outer world. We can devote ourselves again to the feminine wisdom inside of all of us that shows us how to communicate, to be in relationship to each other and to the inner worlds.” ~Angela Fischer
If ever there was a time to use the phrase “we are in this together” it is now. Coronavirus has plunged the world into uncertainty, spreading fear and anxiety. Constant news about the pandemic can feel relentless and overwhelming. What time is the Good News on, I wonder?
Fear and doubt lead us to withdraw into ourselves and veil our natural abilities to connect meaningfully, cooperate and collaborate, and commune together. Yet, it is essential, at this precious moment, that we watch out for each other, practice loving-kindness, and think positive—we will walk the Path together in person again. For now, we are alone together in spirit (and virtually) with wonderful woke friends and family while practicing spacious social distancing. Meanwhile, paramitas—Buddhist virtues—like patient forbearance and mindful attentiveness, energetic perseverance and keen discernment are coming in mighty handy around here! What a useful lesson in cultivating mindfulness to not touch ones face constantly throughout the day.
We suddenly find ourselves in a worldwide moment of pause, an unusual time-out. The earth has presented us with an opportunity to reflect on life as usual and to consider our unmistakable interconnectedness. Talk of freedom, liberation, and independence is fine, as far as it goes, and nothing new; perhaps now we can begin to genuinely understand that self-knowledge and inner self-mastery is the key, and we realize autonomy within interdependence and interbeing.
History has taught us that when the astronauts first saw our planet from space there was a shift in consciousness due to that greater perspective. There is one Earth, one planet, utterly precious. We are all inter-related like kin on this beautiful blue marble. One destiny, one heart & soul.
But decades later we as humanity find ourselves caught even more in an afflicted mindset of separation, extreme partisanship, xenophobia, and world-dominating tendencies, yet are interconnected in ways we do not realize and may have even completely forgotten. Interconnected, of course, over the whole planet: not merely as consumers or as multinational corporations, or mammals, squawking bipeds; but as vulnerable human beings on a vulnerable Earth amidst the endangered species amidst the abundant green flora and fauna of our home planet.
There are many ways to respond to this emergent crisis. The virus brings sickness and even death, and miserable suffering. If we allow for actually feeling and experiencing the pain reaching us, instead of quickly contracting in fear, anxiety, and despair, we will feel it in our hearts and be able to grok it. And then, with the dawn of awakened awareness, we may be able to choose how to respond, not just blindly react—hopefully with warm empathic compassion, generosity and unselfish love. As my late great teacher, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche taught, “Obstacles can arise from good as well as bad circumstances, but they should never deter or overpower you. Be like the earth, which supports all living creatures indiscriminately, without distinguishing good from bad. The earth is simply there.” Remember, the same clear light is shining through each and all of us. So much is actually subjective.
I’m coping by social spaciousness or spacing, and not just distancing or isolation; noble silence, noble solitude, noble self-care, noble Netflix and exercise; moderation; noble facetime and Skype; and staying attentive and informed, without becoming a news junkie.
One reason for the present state of the world is that we have focused on the material world in a way that we have forgotten the immaterial, the inner worlds, and how matter and spirit belong and co-merge together, like yin and yang. In other words: We as humanity have become consumers and human doers at the expense of our very human and extraordinary Being and forgotten how to rest at ease and just be amidst it all. The light, the soul, pure spirit: mystics know and experience that we can ‘meet in the night’ — which means not in our physical bodies. We are not separated through space, nor through time. Join us, in spirit if not physically and in place. To live inseparable from this knowing can and will heal and transform us in these times of self-quarantine.
Humans are social animals, and coronavirus threatens those connections. Human beings evolved to feel safest in groups, and as a result, we experience isolation as a physical state of emergency. If stress is a certain pathway by which fear and loneliness damages health, then even beyond its direct dangers, coronavirus is a dual-threat and anxiety can spread like a pathogen.
The physical retreat and isolation which is necessary from a medical point of view, does not mean we are really separated nor alone. We are all alone together. To respond with love and care requires us to witness what is happening, to face it consciously and not to ignore or deny it. We are asked to grow up which means to be able to witness suffering and darkness without wallowing in collective despair and anxiety. This, we can do.
With love and blessings,
Lama Surya Das
March 22, 2020