Many of you know and love this teaching
from Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh he writes that ‘When the crowded
Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all
would be lost; but if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it
was enough, it showed the way for everyone to survive.’ What I’d like to
reflect on tonight is what it means to face a pandemic, a time of really
widespread fear, with a compassionate heart and what comes up in me, just to
name it, is this very real mix of a fear I feel grief, my heart’s anticipating real loss, there’s a rawness, there’s a tenderness and with all that
is also a sense of possibility the possibility that this suffering, and it’s so
deep and so wide, will wake up our hearts in the collective way. And I’d like to
name that these are times, when there is real danger around us, that we actually
go on hyper drive with worry and the challenge, as we know, is that fear when
it takes over causes a tremendous amount of suffering and in a pandemic
it’s contagious; so it can become widespread and it becomes one of the
greatest dangers of a pandemic. So again that question: can we be that person in
the boat, who feels the intelligence of the fear but knows how to hold it with
mindfulness and with compassion because this is where the training in
mindfulness comes in and we’re going to explore it bringing RAIN, which is a
weave of mindfulness and compassion, to fear. [bells] Take a moment if you will to adjust how
you’re sitting if that’s helpful and to take a few full breaths and you might
scan and sense whatever might be going on in your life it may be pandemic-related or other, it might be bringing up some form of fear and I want to make
clear this is not a time to bring up a traumatic kind of fear or panic practice
with something that doesn’t feel overwhelming to you right now and as you bring to mind whatever circumstances bring up fear just to make it more immediate, just visualize whatever it is – if it involves
another person, see that person what’s going on for them; if it involves you,
just see the setting that most might in your mind relate to or associate with
the fear; if there’s something being spoken
that brings up fear, something you’re visualizing in the future And begin the practice of RAIN, recognizing whatever is most predominant;
maybe that you mentally whisper the word ‘worried’ or ‘angry’ or ‘fearful’, ‘anxious’, ‘tight’ whatever is predominant. And then let your intention be to allow, that means a willingness
to pause with what is here so that wisdom in you just says: ‘Let be, this
belongs this is a natural part of life, a wave in the ocean.’ And if you can allow even for some moments, that enables you to begin to investigate, the I of RAIN; and you might notice where you feel this in your body is it your throat, your chest, your
belly? Sometimes with investigating you can ask
yourself: ‘What am I believing, what am I anticipating?’ And whatever comes up, then find out how your body
experiences that if you’re believing something bad is gonna happen to you, that you’re going to lose something precious what’s that like to feel in your body? So
again, feeling the throat, chest, the belly, the center line of your body and you might find it helpful to put your hand wherever you can sense fear and for some,
because so many of us are dissociated from our body, it can be very vague and
that’s okay, sense that you’re inviting whatever wants to be accepted and
included into awareness just invite the fear to be felt. Breathing with whatever vulnerability
you’re contacting and with some interest and gentleness:
what does it feel like? How is fear living in this body right now? Perhaps
you can breathe with it and feel right to the epicenter whatever you’re experiencing as you investigate, to again allow it to be there a kind of surrendering
presence, no resistance then with an intimate attention you might ask the vulnerable part of you: ‘how do you want me to be with you, what do you most need right now?’ And sense that you can listen from the
most awake, wise part of your Being from your awake heart: what does this place
most need? Is it love? Is it pure acceptance or forgiveness? To feel
embraced? And sense that your awake heart can offer what’s needed in a very
direct and intimate and immediate way just washing through and bathing that
vulnerable place with some quality of tender presence, of love, of compassion And if for you it’s easier to imagine that compassion and love coming from another source, from a loved
one that you trust who’s wise and you know cares about you or from a spiritual figure or from a formless loving presence just imagine and feel
and sense that love pouring in let your deepest intention be to let that
vulnerable place feel loved washed and bathed in love You might imagine light, warmth, a wash of tenderness become
aware of the quality of presence that’s here let yourself relax open to the rest
and be that presence that open tender presence notice the difference between
being identified as a fearful or agitated self and the spaciousness and openness
and freedom of loving presence and as you’re ready, taking a few full
breaths… So here we are, we’re in the midst of this huge unprecedented
uncertainty and reactivity and fear and confusion and a lot more… In a way, we’ve
been training for this each of us in our own ways, we’ve been training how to open more in our personal life to the joys and the sorrows, to the fears, to the
losses with an awake heart; we’ve been training. So if you’re intentional right
at this juncture and time, if you’re intentional how you want to move through
this, the suffering that arises can turn you towards your deepest resources. Can
we be that person in the boat, who feels the intelligence of the fear but knows
how to hold it, with mindfulness and with compassion? May this suffering awaken this
heart and all hearts; may may it help make love go viral. [bells]