In times of a crisis we are facing a lot of challenges. We might experience pain and suffering directly ourselves. Perhaps we feel isolated, alone, anxious and are afraid. So, first we need to find some space and get a sense of calmness. To create a ‘mindful gap’, as the buddhist teacher Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche calls it. This allows us to look at our own mind more clearly and reduce our own suffering.
To this end there are a lot of practices that can be done. In buddhist tradition we can practice something that is called ‘calm abiding’ (shamatha). In essence, as I was wonderfully reminded by a spiritual friend at NalandaWest lately, this has three ‘aspects’ or ‘trainings’: stop, breathe and relax. It’s that simple. This can be of great help bringing us on a path of freedom, joy and equanimity. On my Instagram I have posted some videos to guide you through it.
In a crisis it also becomes very clear that we are not the only one who is suffering. Others are suffering too. In fact, we are personally only one among billions of other sentient beings. So, though there is wisdom in finding calmness for ourselves first, it is equally important to connect with those around you. Actually, ‘your’ suffering and that of ‘the other’ is inter-connected already. Or, put differently, our well-being is interdependent on the well-being of others. The new coronavirus is illustrating this truth perfectly!
In other words, a crisis is an opportunity for us to contemplate about our own life and strengthening our natural kindness. Towards ourselves and, perhaps even more so, towards others.
Other than reminding us of this, I feel have personally very little to add to the enormous amount of wonderful messages that are currently shared in the world. Articles are appearing about the goodness of people, especially in moments of a crisis. All kinds of spiritual teachers are reaching out to give people some support in their own personal struggle and as a community. At our buddhist centre in Seattle, NalandaWest, we try to offer as much as we can online for people to practice meditation & feel connected with others. So, if you are reading this, take this crisis as an opportunity to contemplate about life and find positive support in the challenges you are facing. And please feel free to give suggestions to others or share resources through comments below.
There is one particular buddhist practice that I do want to point to, this is the practice of tonglen. This practice can helps us to connect with our own suffering, that of others, and to approach both with kindness. Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche has given a very helpful description of this practice in his article about how to take a crisis as an opportunity. You can find it here: http://www.dpr.info/articles/how-to-take-crisis-as-opportunity/.
In short, in these challenging and strange times… make sure you Go Kind – for yourself and certainly also by taking care of others as much as you can! I wish you all the best.