What I Wish I Could Say

Here’s what I’d like to be able to say to you: “Don’t worry, the situation is under control. The pandemic, tumbling stock markets, social isolation, canceled flights, surging panic, and illnesses and deaths caused by coronavirus (COVID-19) will soon be a thing of the past. Before long we’ll all be able to go back to our normal lives and tell stories about how we got through this.”

Sadly, I can’t — not because I have any special intel, but because I simply don’t know. And like you, I’m scared.

Zen speaks of “don’t know mind,” a kind of open, groundless awareness that doesn’t fixate on outcomes.

As Rev. angel Kyodo williams explains in the forthcoming issue of Buddhadharma, practicing “don’t know mind” involves tolerating the discomfort of uncertainty. And it is a practice: “When confronted with the unknown,” says williams, “those of us who have not trained our minds enter a reactive state in which panic, aggression, or indecisiveness overtake us. In order to avoid such feelings of overwhelm, our minds seek out confirmation of our pre-existing ideas rather than tolerate the discomfort of not-knowing.”

If you’re like me, you’re probably asking yourself, “So how do I meet this moment without adequate training or a pre-existing playbook that even comes close to the reality that’s unfolding?” The answer, it seems, is one breath at a time.

In her article “In Times of Crisis, Draw Upon the Strength of Peace,” Kaira Jewel Lingo writes, “So much of the stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed comes from all that we are projecting onto the future, all the fear. But in this moment, right here, there is the ability to recognize fear, to be with fear, and to not be swallowed by it. There is non-fear, and we can touch that. But if we’re running, then it’s fear that’s running the show. If we can stop, we have the chance to touch into something deeper than being overwhelmed.”

Touching into this moment is not about denying the suffering that’s happening all around us or in us. Rather it is an act of compassion for ourselves and others that helps our innate wisdom to emerge.

When attended to with gentleness and love, connecting to this moment — including whatever suffering may be present — reveals just how interconnected we are with one another and also the planet that sustains us.

In an interview in the May issue of Lion’s Roar magazine, Joanna Macy says, “Our pain for the world … reveals that we are far vaster than we ever imagined ourselves to be. This crumbles the walls of the little separate ego and moves naturally into seeing with new eyes … You see that you are part of everything.”

This pandemic and cascading crisis has shown us that we are all in this together — not in some philosophical sense, but in a very literal way. Our survival depends on each other and our willingness to self-isolate, heed warnings, help out neighbours, make sacrifices, and step up like never before. May we do so and take these hard-earned lessons of interdependence to heart, one breath at a time.

—Tynette Deveaux, editor, Buddhadharma: The Practioner’s Quarterly

Source: Lion’s Roar newsletter@lionsroar.com (https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgxwHMPnfGSgCJHfJrxgWpqxtZZTr)