“Humbly, we are asked to keep the flow real between what is taken in and what is let out. We have only to breathe to remember our place as a living inlet. Experience in, feelings out. Surprise and challenge in, heartache and joy out. In a constant tide, life rushes in, and in constant release, we must let it all run back off. For this is how the earth was made magnificent by the sea and how humankind is carved upright, again and again, by the ocean spirit that sets us free.”
So much has changed, and is still changing, day by day. While the unpredictable is always a part of life, our regular rhythms, habits, and choices that typically support a sense of control or agency break open in moments of profound disruption. Groundlessness appears and we are seemingly dropped into a new, arising reality.
The word pandemic comes from the Greek pandemos, pan (all) demos (people). Spreading across the globe and our nation, we are acutely aware of the vulnerabilities of those disproportionately affected (e.g., the elderly, the immune compromised, the poor and/or uninsured, the newly unemployed, the college students sent home, the imprisoned, the health care workers and grocery store clerks serving on the front lines, instead of “sheltering in place,” the children without adequate adult support and/or nutrition.) That said, all people know fear and worry in a worldwide health crisis.
This morning as I was reflecting on the disruption of daily life, defined as I/we knew it pre-pandemic, I realized again that mindfulness practices, like yoga and meditation are meant for these times, especially. While everything shifts around us and within us, one can go to their familiar mat and practice moving with breath and awareness and come home to the present moment. We can meet whatever is arising with curiosity, kindness, and care. This nurtures its own form of stability and continuity, in motion or stillness. Our non-judgmental breath holds the same invitations and metaphors as before, of receiving and releasing, freshness and unburdening; our mat is a zone of safety; and the body is a container that can only live in the present moment. This helps us to ground here, where a felt sense of safety can be accessed or cultivated. These practices also allow us to observe and pull back from the ruminating “what ifs” and catastrophic cliffs of of the wandering, spooked mind. These practices of homecoming allows us to look out and remember: The sky is still spacious and the ground is still solid under our feet. A loving, aware connection to self, and in extension shared with others through loving-kindness, can help to fortify us in an unfamiliar landscape. And we can practice again and again, accessing the peace within and our ever-present essential goodness.
May we all be safe. May we all be free of suffering. May we all be healed. May we all be at peace.
Thich Nhat Hanh
artist unknown (Yes, I can’t read the signature. Apologies.)