Before You Let It Go – Let It In

Dear reader,

May you be reading this healthy and safe, wherever you find yourself.

It is very early on Saturday morning as I write this, the wind is howling outside but the temperatures are finally starting to rise.  Snow is starting to change to rain and, even here, spring feels inevitable if still a good way away.

Like most of the world at this point, Newfoundlanders are staying home; keeping a safe distance between each other in an attempt to reduce the rate of infection of COVID-19.   As a sparsely populated place, we don’t have the density that creates disaster like New York City is experiencing.  Hearing from a doctor friend about his experiences tending to people in the city is heart wrenching and scary.  My son lives in Brooklyn and while he is ok for now,  no one knows what will happen next.  I encouraged both my children to come up here before all the borders were closed and travel forbidden but, when you are 20-something, Mom just sounds alarmist and silly.  Still, there is little comfort in “told you so” at this point.

May all beings be free from suffering and the root of suffering.

Watching everything unfold on my computer screen – news headlines, social media, Zoom meetings – I have found myself getting irritated by people, especially in the yoga community, with messages to stay positive, dance it out, connect to the light and those kinds of things.  Not that these messages are wrong – they are totally correct!  It matters in a big way what we connect to in our minds.  It’s kinda the whole game, in fact.  So why were the memes and free online meditations sending me off into rants that my poor cat was left to witness?

May all beings feel happiness and the root of happiness.

In many ways, this crisis is just getting started.  When we leap to expressing gratitude and sending the love and light, we are missing something – something important.  We are missing how we actually feel.  In the past two weeks, I have felt scared a lot, from heart-pounding fear to that weight in the gut lingering feeling that things are just not right.  I have been more lonely than ever in my life.  I have been angry, sad, delighted, bored, tired, hyperactive, numb, awed and, yes, filled with gratitude, love and deep empathy.  All of it.

May all beings live in sympathetic joy, rejoicing in the happiness of others.

One thing that I have noticed is that, whether we acknowledge this broad range of feelings or not, most of us have moments when we are acting out of some deeply rooted patterns – patterns we have cultivated over a lifetime for survival.  My irritation is surely one!  I want the whole world to behave in a way that I think is correct.  If everyone just did that, then everything would be fine.  Of course, seeing that written on the page immediately shows how absurd that thinking is – and still I get irritated!  The question for me is: can I hold this irritation without needing to fix it, push it down, tell it that is wrong or otherwise add anything extra to it?

To be clear, I don’t need to dig down and live in it but neither must I push it away.  It is asking for something from me and I suspect it is something along the lines of being kind towards it.  I see you, little creature!  Even as you like to lurk in the darkness and cause trouble….  As corny as that sounds, I feel my whole being relax when I can acknowledge that this too is part of me without needing to label it good or bad, right or wrong.  When I am not pushing it away or otherwise trying to cover it up, then I notice it more quickly the next time it starts hissing and spitting like a cornered mink in a henhouse.  When I notice it more quickly, then I can more quickly offer it the kindness it needs so it can settle down again.

Side story:  Last summer I did have an encounter with a mink in my neighbour’s henhouse.  It was killing all their chickens, seemingly just for the fun of it.  I grabbed a broom and started beating the mink with it as (s)he had her jaws on the neck of a chicken.  The mink dropped the chicken and made a run at me!  Me, who was a giant compared to the mink!  Their little face was contorted in a rage – hissing and spitting.  It was wild in every sense of the word.  And…as it raged at me, I thought, “oh yes, I know you.  Hell, I’ve BEEN you.”

May all beings live in equanimity, free from passion, aggression and

This past week, I participated in a virtual sesshin (silent meditation intensive).  Most of it was livestreamed from Zen Mountain Monastery, where I train.  One day in, I got sick and then spent a lot of time in a dance between doing what I needed to take care of myself and chastising myself for being lazy or a “bad student” or being poorly disciplined.  It was a hell realm not because of the discomfort of being sick but because I was not acknowledging what was real – I have a flu and sitting in meditation for ten hours/day is bad idea.  I was behaving based on an idea of what was correct behaviour for sesshin rather than what was actually correct for the situation in front of me.  This misunderstanding caused me much suffering.  Finally, in day 4 or 5, I officially gave up.  Then a funny thing happened – I was still sick but I could sit in meditation with more ease.  I sat when I felt like it and rested when I needed.  I watched re-runs of Seinfeld on my computer, which was not a big deal once it was minus the self-flagellation and guilt.

In his opening remarks to this sesshin, Shugen Roshi said, “we do sesshin in our mind, whether we are in the zendo at the Monastery or at home.”  I would take that even one step further and say, we do LIFE in our mind.

Please be kind to your mind.

Wishing: in gladness and in safety, may all beings be at ease.

Wishing: in gladness and in safety, may all beings be at ease.

Wishing: in gladness and in safety, may all beings be at ease.



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