Thoughts from Annie
Be, Block, Build
Get out into nature as often as possible. Here in DC we have Rock Creek Park as well as other green spaces. Even one tree outside your house or apartment may be enough to soothe your nervous system.
Listen to soothing and uplifting music. I’ve been listening to Roll Me Up and Smoke Me when I Die (Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg) and Bulletproof (La Roux). Or anything by Lizzo. Don’t be embarrassed to dance-walk through the city, these are exceptional times.
Listen to a dharma talk. These can be very helpful in bringing us back from the mind-made world to reality and learn skills to help us manage the anxiety. I’ve been listening to Kaira Jewel on the Insight Timer app teaching us how to skillfully move through challenging times. You can also find free talks on DharmaSeed.org, TNHaudio.org or PlumVillage.org.
Our resting and settling is important because we need to be well resourced in order to be there for others during these challenging times. Our rest will allow us to be fresh and present even as the consequences of this pandemic manifest. This pause will give us the grounding we need to see clearly what needs doing, and provide us with the energy to do it.
“RESTORING HARMONY IN THE REALM OF OUR FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS IS A VERY IMPORTANT PRACTICE. RESTORING HARMONY IN THE REALM OF OUR FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS IS A VERY IMPORTANT PRACTICE. WITHOUT COMMUNICATION, THERE IS NO HARMONY AND NO WELL-BEING. IN THIS STATE, YOU CANNOT DO ANYTHING TO HELP YOUR FAMILY OR SOCIETY. IF WE KNOW HOW TO BRING PEACE WITHIN OURSELVES, THEN WE KNOW HOW TO BRING PEACE TO OUR FAMILY. ONCE WE HAVE RESTORED HARMONY AND COMMUNICATION WITHIN OURSELVES, WE WILL BE ABLE TO HELP SOCIETY.” — THICH NHAT HANH, THE MINDFULNESS BELL, 2003
The COVID-19 virus appears to spread quickly and easily. In order to block the virus, we’ve been advised to perform social distancing. So, if we aren’t going to our usual meditation groups or spiritual communities, what can we do? Consider joining an online community, many are popping up. We, at Opening Heart Mindfulness Community, are offering a weekly on-line sangha and a one-day virtual retreat. Lion’s Roar is offering a free Thich Nhat Hanh on-line retreat. Many 12-step groups are meeting online or by phone as well. Google is your friend and will help you find virtual gatherings. And don’t forget the simple telephone as a means to connect with others.
Keep blocking the virus by washing hands often and avoiding direct contact with people who might be sick. If you have elderly people in your life, protect them by keeping them quarantined as much as possible.
“DO NOT TRUST FEAR. DO NOT TRUST PANIC. WE CAN TRUST OURSELVES, STAND IN OUR OWN TRUTH, STAND IN OUR OWN LIGHT. WE HAVE IT NOW. ALREADY. WE HAVE ALL THE LIGHT WE NEED FOR TODAY.” — MELODY BEATTIE, THE LANGUAGE OF LETTING GO
Once we have settled (Be) and taken steps not to get or to spread the virus (Block), we can move to Build systems that protect and support the most vulnerable. There are many ways we can do this.
If we have time to rest and connect right now, then we are the lucky ones. This means that we are the ones who have the ability to be there for those who can’t take a day or week off without experiencing hunger, untreated medical conditions, or worse. There are many people who won’t enjoy the extra time with their children because they will be at work with no safe place for their children to stay. And many people without social or financial pockets from which to pull safety. But it’s not always clear what we can do about this.
One of my Focusing teachers, Barbara McGavin, in writing about the way quarantined Italian people got out on their balconies to sing and connect with one another says, “When what would normally happen, can’t, something else happens instead. Sometimes that is hugely creative and even more than we would have done otherwise.” What is the new normal that we can help usher in?
When our lives are a non-stop race to do more and be more we can’t always remember our interdependence, our interbeing. At times of greater stillness, like right now, we have the unique ability to see that we need each other completely. Dr. Martin Luther realized this while sitting in the Birmingham jail, when he wrote, “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”
AND WHEN YOUR BODY HAS BECOME STILL,
REACH OUT WITH YOUR HEART. — EXCERPT FROM PANDEMIC BY LYN UNGER
As we settle, we have the capacity to look deeply at the suffering of those who are ill, those unable to get the help or food they need, or unable to work. Speaking in 2000 during the AIDS crisis, Thich Nhat Hanh said, “When the church and all its members are aware of the reality of suffering and its root causes, we will know what to do and what not to do for protection to be possible. The appropriate course of action can transform our suffering into peace, joy, and liberation.” He went on to say, “Without understanding and compassion, we will not be able to help anyone, no matter how talented and well-intentioned we are.”
You’ll need to determine for yourself what you have the capacity to build and do during these extraordinary times. Here are a few things that I have come upon so far:
Keep spending money especially at small business, as much as possible. Set up a donation pool to support locally owned restaurants, coffees shops, and the like. If you can afford it, don’t take refunds for cancelled events, give food and money to local food pantries – in DC places like Plenty to Eat, Capital Area Food Bank). (Thanks to Danielle Allen in The Washington Post for some of these ideas.)
If you can afford to donate money, The Greater Washington Community Foundation is encouraging those who want to give to consider donating to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. This Fund will serve as a mechanism to centrally collect donations that can help with emergency preparedness activities or cash and other assistance to those in our community. The Fund will be flexible and will complement the work of public health officials around the region. Grants will be awarded to local nonprofit organizations that have deep roots in our community and strong experience working with our most vulnerable neighbors, such as: the elderly and other high risk populations who are experiencing a COVID-19 impact, whether they are living at home or in group settings; low income families experiencing short term financial crises related to COVID-19; residents who are food insecure; residents who have no medical insurance or who are underinsured; residents who lack access to sick days; residents with limited English language proficiency; neighbors who are self-quarantined without sufficient support from their families and friends; healthcare and gig economy workers; and immigrant and communities of color.
Volunteer with an organization doing aid work – there is a comprehensive spreadsheet for DC-area coronavirus volunteer aid opportunities HERE. Other idea for engagement with groups East of the river in this DCist article.
Join with others locally, by creating GoFundMe campaigns to help those in your community who need it most.
Call or check in with neighbors and other people you know – if they normally travel by public transportation, they might need a ride to the grocery store, doctor, or work. Some people may need child care coverage while their children are out of school. If you’re at home, you might offer to watch their kids while they are at work.
If you have stocked up on basics, offer some of your stockpile to those who run out. The Buddha once said, “If you knew what I know about the power of giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.” Giving to another when they are in need is a precious and vulnerable moment, one that can make us viscerally aware of the truth of interbeing. One day in the near or far future, we may be the ones who need a little toilet paper.
There are many, many ways to serve. Slowing down and resting has the benefit of healing ourselves, and when we slow down, breathe and look deeply, and join with others doing the same, wisdom and compassion will bloom into creative next steps. If you want to join with our community to support people struggling in the DC area, you can email me.
Please be well.