Just over a year ago, I enjoyed six blissful days of nothing but silence and mindfulness at a meditation center in Massachusetts. I had no phone, no technology, and no idea what was happening in the outside world.
On a clear and crisp Sunday afternoon, I emerged from that purely peaceful place and drove straight into a world on lockdown.
I fell ill a week later, and fought Covid from my couch for six long, blurry weeks, while I watched the fatality rates soaring in our tri-state area. Then I suffered the loss of several loved ones, to the virus, and to its mental health side effects.
I do believe that the residue of that retreat and the foundations of my practice got me (are getting me) through. And while I continue to meditate, my practice has changed significantly. From the outside it might look the same. But on the inside, it is most often torturous.
I sit. I eventually drop in. I practice deep gratitude, and loving kindness. But if I even think about practicing tonglen (very simply explained as the practice of breathing in other people’s suffering, and breathing out compassion and healing for them), I break down. It is just too much to bear…
There are now over five hundred thousand grieving families, in our country alone. Five hundred thousand extended families. Five hundred thousand friend and peer groups. Mourning the loss of a dear one.
The heaviness of this knowledge hangs over my head. The idea of our collective human grief is a thick dark storm-cloud, causing so much turbulence that I’m forced to make an emergency landing. Eyes open, stand up, step away from the cushion.
Half a million of our American brothers and sisters have been lost to covid, and countless others have been lost to the side effects of the pandemic. Two and a half million souls are being grieved around the planet.
How can we sit, knowing there is so much suffering in our world?
How can we process this information on a deeply human level?
How do we lean into this knowledge so that we can pass through the cloud of sadness/anger/grief and take all of the necessary and appropriate action in our lives? For the world?
Tell me, how can we sit with this?