In the face of the fast-moving Coronavirus, all of us are no doubt experiencing creeping pangs of fear. Anxiety crawls through our gut, and dread lodges in our shoulders and neck. Surya and I are worried for our families and members of our community. Fear is palpable on the street as the existential threat to health, livelihood, and survivability continues. We are seeing people respond through consumptive grasping — buying up groceries, hand sanitizer, and TP. Yet under the lining of despair, there is, for those of us engaged in ongoing and deep practice, opportunity for harvesting a kind of potency at this time.
First off, there is the Power of the Pause. While our lives barrel lickety-split down the track, we are now suddenly encouraged, in fact mandated, to take our foot off of the collective accelerator. If we do not succumb to panic we can exhale. As the world brakes and the buzz and burn of traffic is reduced, the atmosphere all around is more serene, sattvic. Not since the tragedy of 9/11 have we come to such a collective halt, and in the midst of the break we are led to wonder, will we ever experience such space and quietude again in this lifetime? Perhaps this momentous brake/break will enable a Big Shift and clarify our intention to take care.
In the pause we exhale, we let go of urgency, rush, and demand. Like in pranayama, when the breath is interrupted between cycles and the entire physiology can reset, we have an opportunity to press the “refresh” button. I always say in SATYA practice, “let the pause do its good work.” The pause allows us to shapeshift into something new and unforeseen. In the process of meditation and yoga, the pause (called nirodha) is essential to transformation — the shedding of the old habit of being. At the very least, and this is great in and of itself, the pause is an invitation to just be.
Each of us wonders, how long will this viral threat last? Will it metastasize and effect us all? Is the person in front of me in line at Trader Joe’s contagious? This is a reminder of another tenet of practice: Not Knowing. Not knowing involves witnessing impermanence, seeing that everything is in flux, from the outermost galaxy down to the cells in your spleen. That everything is “fluxing,” mutable, and uncertain lies at the heart of the Buddha’s teaching on transience. Through a lifetime of practice, we learn to breathe through uncertainty. And it is through not knowing that we attend to the great mystery. There is no better time than now to peer back over our shoulder and ask, “what have we been doing?” and look ahead and ask, “how can we come to a collective homeostasis?”
In the hermetic quarantine that we are now in, there is a cache of real gifts to be uncovered. One is the reckoning that we have have been scorching the very earth that sustains us, with a hellbent urgency for more, bigger, better. The other is the acknowledgment of just how fragile and precious this terrestrial life is. We come to a sincere appreciation for the very fabric of social networks that sustain us — schools, supply chains, farmers, health care providers, sports, the press and… each other. In the midst of the shutdown (and before it all starts up again) our obligation to protect and preserve this treasure-filled blue globe is made all the more clear.
Spiritual seekers have long sought isolation as the fertile ground for revelation, compassionate presence, gratitude, and vision. While we bide our time in our own homes and spaces, may we not tremble in fear like caged rodents, but put into practice the very peace and resolve needed to sustain the wonder of the world that is ours.
Finding the Ease in Disease,