Having been for most of my adult life part of what Morris Berman calls the "New Monastic Society" (we may not live in monasteries, but we do not subscribe to the values of the main stream and we attend mostly to the 'interior', understanding that doing solitary practices is an effective way to change the world), I am surprised by the amount of scurrying around and anxiety in our sangha. I am so deeply concerned for certain communities (refugees, prisoners, homeless, farm workers, those in debt, health care workers, mothers who work from home while homeschooling their children), but confused by the proliferation of on-line activity. I would have thought most of us would have simply settled in, welcoming the opportunity to have more time to practice all that we have been given over the years.
When you can't go out, go in!
"You cannot experience radioactivity and relativity and quantum mechanics without the experience of the laboratory outside. How does one know what is experienced in the laboratory within if one does not go in?" p. 96. Sufi Vision and Initiation. Samuel L. Lewis.
In this time the word proliferation is mostly used to describe virus cells. But perhaps this is a time when we can also see this tendency in ourselves. What a relief it is to experience the relentless, ever-expanding human activity dwindling. Isn't this tendency to proliferate part of what got us into this mess in the first place? How liberating it is to see empty highways, smog-less skylines, animals roaming freely in the forests, and whales birthing in quiet waters. All because human activity has decreased.
What is this tendency toward "more, more, more"?
Is it symptomatic of an inner emptiness that causes us to seek "more" outside of ourselves?
Here in our home monasteries do we see ourselves thinking up projects, making more plans, making more and more zoom dates, writing more and more emails, making more and more phone calls? Or do we welcome the opportunity to embrace an atmosphere of inner quiet? Yes, the whole world is resorting to the proliferation of digital socialization, but as spiritual practitioners aren't we more attracted to mining and refining our inner spiritual resources and spending more time getting closer to the natural world" ?
"In a pandemic, self-isolation is called quarantine. In Buddhism, it is called retreat." ~ Lama Willa Miller
Lama goes on to say, "Fear is an invitation. It is not an invitation to weigh risks or to adjust the externals. It is an invitation to look deeply within and befriend the animal in oneself."
"We are sitting with the unknown. The unknown is exactly what pulls back the veil. It offers a glimpse of the truth that nothing has ever been certain. This world with all its beauty and all its vibrancy is just so because it is not fixed, because everything is contingent. Life's natural cousin is uncertainty.
"But I forget, most every moment of every day. Lulled by the predictability of my days, I believe that tomorrow will be just like today. Today just like yesterday. The toilet paper will be there."
What is behind this tendency to proliferate? Is it fear? In the stillness, might we discover the underlying emotion? And befriend it?
How do you befriend fear? By turning towards it and facing it! Open to it. Where do you feel it in your body? When you feel it closely, how does it behave? Differentiate the sensations from the thoughts that drive it: feel the sensations fully but ignore the thoughts! WHEN YOU KNOW THAT THOUGHTS ARE SIMPLY THOUGHTS, YOU ARE FREE OF THEM! But when you identify with the thoughts and 'buy' into them, you are caught, and you will exacerbate anxiety and turbulent emotions.
If you do this practice you will see disturbances dissolve. Watching tensions dissolve brings peace, tranquility and a kind of nirvanic liberation.
The endless expansion of consumerism and endless variety of distractions of contemporary society is a symptom of a society that is out of touch with inner fulfillment. If we have a tremendous need for digital communication during this time, maybe that is telling us something about ourselves. How much is enough? How much is too much? Maybe instead it's time to begin our inner journey?
There are "2 methods of spiritual training, called the "monkey method" and the "cat method". In the monkey method, the baby holds onto the mother and where ever the mother goes the mother carries the baby. In the cat method, the cat picks up the kitten and teaches it to walk. So the cat tries to make its offspring an adult as soon as it can, and the monkey tries to keep its offspring an infant as long as it can. So you have 2 types of spiritual training: those who lean on the teacher to do everything and those who teach their disciples how to become adults."
p151. Sufi Vision and Initiation. Samuel L. Lewis.
Maybe this pandemic is the call our dancing lives has been preparing us for?
As Lama says, "From the cave of our home, like the meditators of ancient times, we can consciously kindle the lamp of compassion and connection."
May I be free from danger.
May I be peaceful and happy.
May I be strong and healthy.
May I have ease of being.
May you be free from danger.
May you be peaceful and happy.
May you be strong and healthy.
May you have ease of being.
May all beings be free from danger.
May all beings be peaceful and happy.
May all beings be strong and healthy.
May all beings have ease of being.
May I be free from suffering.
May you be free from suffering.
May all beings be free from suffering.
May my goodness and wisdom ever increase
May your goodness and wisdom ever increase
May the goodness and wisdom of all beings ever increase.
— with Darvesha Victoria MacDonald