This time of crisis may put us in touch with our physical vulnerability and the vulnerability of our social and economic life. This can frighten us into being scattered and hardened or it can invite us to be tender and open.
Complying with the precautions of self-isolation and social distancing should not prevent us from reaching out where we can. Compassion is central to our practice. It is lovely to see it springing up naturally in the world around us. There are countless heart-warming stories of people helping others. People buying groceries for the elderly; a 6- and 9-year-old brother and sister playing their cellos putting on an impromptu concert on a front porch for a 78-year-old neighbor. In Spain a fitness instructor hosts a workout on a rooftop while people follow from their balconies. In Texas an anonymous customer left a $9,000 tip to help pay staff after the restaurant had to close.
Whole countries are unifying and mobilizing their resources to support their citizens and urging them to support one another. In Italy, people sing to each other from their balconies.
Crisis invites us all to think of ways to reach out to others. And it is also a time for us to take advantage of social distancing by committing more time to personal practice.
In Psychology Today, Susan Pollak quoted meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg who said equanimity is a ‘secret ingredient’ of mindfulness. It helps us not get overwhelmed and meet challenging events without being shattered. Equanimity helps us meet life with an open and responsive heart. Salzberg says: “The good news is that equanimity is not developed only in sublime and peaceful times, or only on a distant mountain retreat.” This is a practice for times like ours – full of chaos, agitation, and uncertainty. Difficult times. An African saying puts it well: “calm seas do not create skillful sailors.”
Practicing kindness and equanimity helps us work with storms of our lives. We can, if we choose, view this time of heightened awareness and isolation as a natural time for a self-retreat. We are still in the world, but with a more simplified relationship. This is a time when the whole world is slowing down and reassessing its obsession with making and consuming. We are entering a period of natural simplicity with a degree of renunciation.
Despite our relative hardship (for some, great hardship and suffering). This crisis affords us a gift of more space and time – an opportunity for depth and simplicity. A time to nurture the heart. A time to feel the fear and worry that might arise and to hold it mindfully in the open palms of compassion and insight.
We do this work on our own, knowing that our efforts merge with everyone else’s. Our practice, like a singing bowl, resonates, merging with others in the sangha. We sit, walk, eat, and sleep supporting each other and share that support freely with everyone.
During this time of crisis our community and teachers are exercising protective social-distancing. Because we can’t meet in person Jim and Randy will be offering weekly webcast dharma talks.
We will also keep you updated with news about SIMT.