What I’m hearing from people is that the uncertainty of this time is what’s creating the most difficulty. As much as we would like to know, to control, and to plan our lives so that they work out in a way that creates more security and ease, we can’t. Life will always be impermanent and therefore always uncertain. We never really know what’s coming next and sometimes the best and most courageous thing we can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep breathing. The power of learning to live a mindful life is to embrace this truth as much as possible and live in the moment with some future planning that you hold loosely.
Rumi wrote a poem called The Guest House:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
May we all be at peace today.
All over the world, people are experiencing fear and uncertainty because of the corona virus. But, this isn’t a new experience for us. Fear and uncertainty is often a part of our underlying condition. The suffering we all experience moment to moment due to the very nature of life–what the Buddha called “conditioned existence.” Because everything changes continually, moment to moment, it feels like there’s no safety in this life… as Pema Chodron says “no ground under our feet.” And, indeed, there isn’t. There’s just what’s happening right now.
Jack Kornfield wrote, “Unhealthy thoughts can chain us to the past. We can, however, change our destructive thoughts in the present. Through mindfulness training we can recognize them as bad habits learned long ago. Then we can take the critical next step. We can discover how these obsessive thoughts cover our grief, insecurity, and loneliness. As we gradually learn to tolerate these underlying energies, we can reduce their pull. Fear can be transformed into presence and excitement. Confusion can open up into interest. Uncertainty can become a gateway to surprise. And unworthiness can lead us to dignity.”
Good advice for difficult times….
I read the following paragraph today on Tricycle’s Dhamma Wheel newsletter. This teaching can seem like it takes the “flavor” out of life, but what it actually does is let us experience each moment as it is without judging it. The experience of the moment maybe painful, but resisting or resenting the pain creates a moment of suffering. Pain and suffering don’t necessarily have to go together. There could be just pain, which passes. Suffering extends the pain, amplifies it. “Just as suffering is constructed moment by moment by attaching to the details of sensual experience, wanting the flavors we like and not wanting the flavors we don’t like, so too that very moment of suffering can be deconstructed by abandoning the wanting and not wanting and replacing it with equanimity. We still experience the flavor, directly and intently, but without being entangled with it—only aware of it.”
Sogyal Rinpoche says imagine “… a sky, empty, spacious, and pure from the beginning; [our nature]’s essence is like this. … Imagine a sun, luminous, clear, unobstructed, and spontaneously present; [our nature] is like this. Imagine that sun shining out impartially on us and all things, penetrating in all directions; [our nature]’s energy, which is the manifestation of compassion, is like this; nothing can obstruct it and it pervades everywhere.”