Times of change

by Gisele Theriault June 07, 2020

Times of change

We are out of quarantine and walking amongst the ghostly quiet Tibetan community of McLeodGanj where more than not are holding a mala in their hand and chanting prayer all the time like a second breathing system. Usually prayer for the cessation of suffering and the root causes of suffering in the world and in those they know. Om mani padme hum.. the jewel in the lotus of the heart.
In this new found freedom, I can almost feel the mountains breathing and the fragrant oxygen from the tree’s dancing leaves. In the lushness of these vertical hills my eyes spot ruby wild strawberries and I am quite sure they are calling my name. How healing is the gift of nature.
Quarantine seemed to last a lifetime with the speed in which the world is spiring out of control towards a demand for change. It is clear that we are at a breaking point. This historic time of social isolation is forcing us to be wide awake and fully present with both what we have to be grateful for and what makes us incredibly uncomfortable. Sustainability as a human race is depending on it. Mother Theresa's words are again appropriate when she said “may my heart be broken so fully that the whole world falls in.”  I think this is happening across the planet. I see it in the faces of the people we see on the streets. Many mindfulness teachers and psychologists that are on the front line offering help in these times of challenge are looking emotionally war torn. Even politicians are having difficulty communicating the affairs at hand. How do we cope with suffering to the degree we are swimming in it? If the global pandemic wasn’t enough, to then go into a deep economic crisis then a civil upheaval in America for injustices that should never be there. Jack Kornfield calls the state of the times a moral crisis and the whole world is responding.

What if these are not dark times but a time where the light is existing so brightly that we can’t mask the dirt or sweep it under the carpet anymore? If there is a brilliant light showing us an ugliness that we can’t bear, it would be more clear that it’s poison that makes us ill. We have a choice to make a difference, to not only own our actions but to create actions that harm no one and benefit broadly. Since we are in a time where we feel more interconnected through our vulnerability, you can also feel that we are powerful in numbers like a tsunami awakening. In Africa there is a beautiful humanitarian term called 'ubuntu', meaning I am because we are. We as individuals benefit as a byproduct of what benefits the whole.

An anthropologist proposed a game to children of an African tribe. He put a basket of fruit near a tree and told them that whoever got there first would win the sweet fruits. When he told them to run, they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat together and enjoyed their treats. When he asked them why they would run like that because one could have had the whole basket for himself, they said, ubuntu, how can one of us be happy if the other ones are sad?”

So how do we hold the collective suffering that we bear at the moment while in our social distancing and try and make sense of the senseless? I certainly don’t have the answers but in my aching questions I stumbled upon an inspiring talk by a monastic from Deer Park. It is both healing and a tremendously powerful teaching of mindfulness at its best. 

Here is Sr Dang Nghiem sharing a beautiful talk on embracing suffering. Something that is very familiar to her. How to grieve
Also, here is one of the best tonglen meditations for working with suffering I have yet experienced. Its from the intensive I took last week in quarantine from the Tushita Centre. These are good times to learn as many ways as possible to respond to our ever changing circumstance rather than be thrown in a constant state of reacting. The first twenty minutes is a calm abiding meditation, then the second twenty is tonglen. Tonglen meditation

A smile and a bow to your heart and how you walk in the world in these times of change. You are not alone. Stay blessed and stay in touch,
Om mani padme hum
what lens do you see through?
Om mani padme hum

Gisele Theriault
Gisele Theriault


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