Dear CommuniChi patrons and friends,
We are living through an unprecedented time of uncertainty. Although CommuniChi has closed its doors until the COVID-19 public health emergency is over, I send prayers for your well being and offer these reflections for your physical/emotional health, and spiritual nourishment. And I invite your questions and concerns if I may be of any assistance via email or phone.
First the basics in brief, and apologies if this is repetitious for most, but we can’t emphasize it enough. The coronavirus is highly contagious and still multiplying rapidly in most parts of the world, including Seattle. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we work together to save lives by practicing the 6 foot rule of social distancing.
I am checking the website of King County Department of Health daily, and consulting with professional peers and will let you know as soon as I reopen. It could be another few months – we just don’t know. Technically, the Governor’s “Stay at Home” order defines “alternative healthcare” as an essential business and not required to close. However, all of the acupuncture clinics that I am aware of in Seattle have chosen to voluntarily close in order to save lives and minimize the strain on emergency room doctors. When the clinic eventually reopens – and it will – please know that I will be implementing new systems and procedures to minimize the spread of contagious disease.
Staying healthy while shopping. I have no experience with online shopping, but especially for those with any symptoms of contagious illness (cough, fever, runny nose, etc.), this is an option worth considering now. If you do shop in person, plan ahead to avoid frequent shopping trips. As someone who just turned 60, I have been taking advantage of senior shopping hour (7am-8am) at the Columbia City PCC, something many stores now are implementing. While shopping be aware of your proximity to others and try not to touch things unless you intend to buy it. Try not to touch your face or your phone, etc. until you return home and have washed your hands vigorously for 20 seconds with warm soapy water. Update: 3.29.20: The following video may or may not be useful. Washington State Dept. of Health recently suggested that there is a low risk of transmitting the virus through food.
12 Days without a Cell Phone. As many of you know, my last day in the clinic was almost a month ago, when I left to attend what I thought would be a month long silent meditation retreat at Spirit Rock near San Francisco. The day after I arrived, the teachers held a ceremony in the main hall. After turning off and labeling our cell phones with blue tape and placing them in a large bowl, we all bowed to the bowl in recognition of the sacred (and mundane) power these devices have in our world and in our lives – the power to connect, inform, educate, enlighten….and the power to distract and disperse mental focus, leaving us stressed out, excited, agitated, depressed, etc.
Freed from the technological tentacles of our cell phones, within the safety of the retreat space, built upon a container of ethical agreements, including noble silence, we practiced relaxing and receiving whatever our physical and emotional experience in the present moment happened to be. We simply allowed life to unfold, without judgements of “good” or “bad”, as much as possible. Noble silence entails basically focusing on one’s own experience, not speaking except when absolutely necessary, and for the most part avoiding eye contact with others. After 12 days of internal focus, observing the well worn emotional pathways of the mind – both the fears and insecurities, and the capacity for pure hearted love, compassion, and wisdom, we were all summoned to a meeting at 4pm one afternoon for a “mandatory” meeting at which the teachers broke the news about the unfolding coronavirus crisis.
Hours later, I was on a flight back to Seattle. I did not feel fear, panic or a sense of having been cheated out of my retreat. The 12 days of practice had made it clear as the palm of my hand in daylight – things change! Nothing ever stays the same – my body, my mind, the weather, my employment status, the world, the stars. How liberating this basic insight is. Let go and be free! Birth, aging, sickness and death are truths of existence. This “letting go” doesn’t mean that we sink into resignation and become blobs of inactivity. It doesn’t mean that we adopt fatalistic visions of gloom and doom or fall prey to conspiracy theories, but instead keeps us rooted in the present and aware of the infinite possibilities for creating peace and harmony within us and in the world. The liberated heart sees these truths and understands the sufferings of the world, giving rise to compassion and engagement to serve others.
What am I doing to stay healthy now? I take time each day for meditation, reading, writing, gardening, being with my family (those who already live with me under the same roof), fixing things that are falling apart, cleaning. There is a story about one Buddhist monk who attained enlightenment while sweeping the temple floor.
I am also remembering to breathe, staying centered in my body and being cautious and mindful not to over-consume media. It’s a balance. We need quiet time to process the intensity of modern life, but we also need to stay informed and understand what is happening in the world in order to respond skillfully. Both modern researchers and ancient spiritual teachings (Buddhist, Hopi, and many others), point out that environmental degradation and pandemics arise out of a global culture of degenerated ethical discipline – when the forces of greed, ill will and ignorance have come to dominant the lives of humanity. In order to stop future pandemics and the climate emergency, we need to rebuild a culture of cooperation and respect for all life. We need to let our government representatives know that the climate emergency is urgent and solving this problem will require an unprecedented shift in human culture, healing the global wealth divide and racism, shifting to renewable and sustainable energy, ending wasteful consumption, and a million other tasks. But it all begins in the heart and the present moment. What better moment than this one – right NOW – to start walking that path.