In my last blog, I shared my experience of being abruptly pulled out of a silent retreat by COVID-19. I had intended to remain in silence for a month. Nonetheless, I felt fortunate to have participated in 12 days of rigorous spiritual exploration. Having been home for nearly a month and not having held an acupuncture needle in my hands once since late February, I realize that in some ways the retreat never ended. Our world stands at a crossroads of unprecedented significance.
Modern technological society has conditioned us to be uncomfortable living in uncertainty. We long to return back to our “normal” lives, even if that normalcy belies a global crisis, with over a billion people on the planet living in shanty towns, with nuclear weapons and armed conflicts very much a threat to all life. The climate emergency races full speed ahead, with 2020 on track to be perhaps the hottest year in recorded history, and an active hurricane season predicted in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, our attention is locked on a tiny virus, with the aggressive, heroic tradition of modern medicine focused on seek and destroy – as if the virus were “the enemy” rather than merely a symptom of a deeper imbalance. Where have I heard this story before?
Our war with nature and each other may require a different approach that recognizes our interconnectedness, our need to live in harmony with all life, cultivating deep compassion and wisdom rather than the heroic American exceptionalism which divides reality into enemy versus friend, man versus nature, U.S. versus them, and so on.
My own life and mind is often no different. My ego divides, segments and spray paints graffiti across the vast, pure sky of infinite truth in so many unawakened and childish ways. Unconsciously, I have grown accustomed to the idea that spiritual retreat is something that can only be done some place else – on the cushion, or perhaps far away at a Buddhist center.
I am grateful for the virus – not for the widespread suffering, I pray that all are quickly healed and no more fall ill. And I take every precaution to prevent the spread of this deadly disease, which is why I wear a mask when grocery shopping, why I am self-quarantined, and why my clinic remains closed. But I also look past the fear based news headlines which too often demonize the messenger rather than considering how disease is a product of our own delusion, anger, and greed manifesting in the world, harming other living beings and ecosystems.
April 11 to 18, I will go offline again, and back into retreat and noble silence. This time completely carbon neutral at home, quieting my mind, meditating and focusing awareness on connecting with and strengthening these inner qualities which lie within every living being, though often uncultivated. What lies ahead in the outer world is uncertain, just as it always has ever been. The world we create will be entirely of our own making. No supreme being or external magic can save us now. Only through our own actions will the future unfold. Peace and harmony and healing begins within. I look forward to serving you again soon.
Note: I have telehealth appointments available through my online scheduling system Wednesday, April 8 and Friday, April 10, and open community Zoom meditation sessions on Wednesday evenings from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m.