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Being Ok in Strange Times.

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    • #3798
      Dayamay
      Participant

      I must admit to having spent the first weeks of this Coronavirus crisis in annoyed skepticism. I felt angry that we were facing another media fear fest after all the previous deadly disease warnings of the last twenty years or so, most of which really didn’t affect the vast majority of people at all. And all of which seemed only really to serve the purpose of causing unnecessary panic and making good headlines. I also lean quite strongly toward the ‘’Conspiracy Theory’’ way of thinking – anything that can be used to control the masses whilst preserving the wealth of the Elite is often exaggerated – if not entirely fabricated in order to advance clandestine agendas.
      So it took me a while to reach the compromise of observing the basic suggestions and guidelines that emerged as the national response to what is now a very serious situation. Once the reality of the situation had sunk in I realised that I actually fall into one of the categories of vulnerability, with my asthma and also that my living in a community environment means that I have to consider how my contracting the virus might impact on the rest of the house or anyone else that has to make contact with me in this eventuality.  I subsequently found myself staying home instead of going to work. I work in a supermarket, which remains one of the only places where people gather under one roof in significant numbers and high risk area for vulnerable people.
      This decision was not an easy one. I do not make a lot of money and have no significant savings, so the prospect of not being able to work fills me with fear. Fear of revisiting the past, when periods of poorness and even homelessness were regular occurrences, and fear of losing what comforts I have managed to provide for myself since finding some degree of financial stability.
      After I made the phone call, which was made even more difficult by the confusion and panic of my Capitalist employers, who seem incapable of conceiving of a good enough excuse for missing a day’s work(let alone a month, at least, as I was suggesting), I eventually felt a sense of relief at the thought of an indefinite period of relative leisure. I gradually relaxed and realised how much I need a proper rest and how little I had acknowledged this need. Deep gratitude set in and I have been, dare I say, enjoying this time ever since. That’s not to say that I’m not visited by regular bouts of panic, guilt and shame still. The conditioning of many years negotiating the ‘’Free Market’’ with all of its various indoctrinal persuasions have instilled in me a deep and irrational need to keep going no matter what! Even though this strategy failed me many times in the past, it still constitutes the basis of my automatic response to financial insecurity and uncertainty.
      So I am in the process of learning to allow myself to stop. I am learning to hear and relate to the various parts of me that are terrified of ‘’losing everything’’, whatever that really means. Especially to a Buddhist monastic, whose worldly belongings would quite easily fit into a small car. This is proving to be a very refreshing and exciting experience. I regularly feel genuine joy as I make contact with profoundly neglected parts of myself and uncover grief and pain that is decades deep, probably more like lifetimes. My regular practice sustains me just as well in a Coronavirus pandemic as it does in the normal drone of everyday life, and the Buddha doesn’t seem at all perturbed.
      In the spirit of this gentleness with myself, I am also allowing myself to enjoy the quietness and slowness of the pace of life that has become the new, if only temporary norm. I have long craved a time when the relentless momentum of the daily grind is reduced to something more manageable. I often crave extreme weather or anything that might disrupt the tedious ‘’business as usual’’ mentality. At first this feels selfish, as I said, parts of me are riddled with residual guilt and shame. But its much more refreshing to look deeply into these parts of me than to ignore them because they don’t fit my ideal picture of myself.

       

      Namo Amida Bu(  :

    • #3800

      So refreshing to read your honest responses, Dayamay. I had a similar dilemma with my food shop workplace. I couldn’t really justify 4 commuter trains each time I went there. At first they were quite stressed out about my decision because there are only a few workers there but they did understand and found me some online work to do, revising price lists. It’s nice to be able to be in a bit of virtual dialogue with you. I miss our trips to Malvern and breakfast conversations with you. I will try and make an online service. As so much is online at this time, I’m actually having to limit what I do online as otherwise I would be glued to the screen. So I’m trying to actually write letters and use the telephone more. Buddhist practice is such a lifeline at times like this. I find it useful to read texts about death. I’m rereading Jiyu Kennett Roshi’s ‘How to Grow a Lotus Flower’ at the moment about her year long meditation when she was seriously ill and very close to death (although after that time she did make a recovery for some more years). She spent a lot of time in the Pure Land during that year (well that’s my interpretation of the text – it certainly reads as the Pure Land) and it’s an inspiring and comforting read. Namo Amida Bu!

    • #3802
      Dayamay
      Participant

      Thanks Shraddha.

      I miss our meal time chats as well.

       

      It’s definitely good to stay in touch with ourselves in testing times and there are usually spiritual benefits and opportunities in the darkness. I always seem to be a bit out of kilter with the status quo in one way or another, which I think must be quite a good thing, since this is, after all, Samsara that we’re living in the midst of!! Interestingly I stumbled upon an article about Kennet Roshi last night after reading your response. It was very inspiring. I think I would have been very moved by her if I had met her. It feels as though we get our fair share of her teachings through Dharmavidya anyway!!

       

      Namo Amida Bu(  :

    • #3805

      Yes, I think we do! I find it interesting to read Jiyu Kennet Roshi in relationship to Dharmavidya. She is a very visual being and it’s interesting to read her taking refuge in Amida Buddha through imagery. Very often that is my quickest refuge in stressful times. I find I can access the visual more easily than the verbal. Of course I can remember Namo Amida Bu but if stressed when I add an image of Amida or just have an image of Amida, I get the meaning much more quickly. It’s interesting that in Amida Shu the core practice is taking refuge in the Buddha as that covers both Jiyu Kennet Roshi’s central practices and Namo Amida Bu (obviously they are the same thing!).

    • #3806
      Dayamay
      Participant

      Yes, I know what you mean. My practice has deepened recently through prolonged visualizations, particularly in sitting meditation. The longer I manage to keep Amida in mind the better the experience, the closer I feel. What seems to help me is to switch between all of the images that I hold in my memory of Amida, one every few seconds. I think my mind responds better to this method, it keeps it busy, like an anchor.  I think Nembutsu sinks into our minds, hearts and lives in stages. This seems to be a new level altogether. I can see very well now how Zen and Pureland are so closely associated. It baffled me at first, but singularly concentrated meditation seems to be a very good conductor for Nembutsu!! If you know what I mean?

      Namo Amida Bu(  :

    • #3807

      I think so. I haven’t quite got to the end of the book yet, and at this stage, towards the end, Jiyu Kennet Roshi doesn’t spell it out but she is advocating using a visualised circular breathing while practicing zazen with a focus on the practitioner’s bonbu nature on the out breath (going down the front of the body) (and I paraphrase here, she doesn’t use the Pureland term, bonbu, but I take what she says as equivalent), then a focus on Amida on the in breath, visualised as going up the back of the body. In this way, the bonbu nature is ‘washed’ in the fountain of the ‘Lord of the House’ (Amida, I think, in Pureland Buddhism). Nice to see you at the zoom service last night! Namo Amida Bu!

    • #3810
      Dayamay
      Participant

      That all sounds great. My own method is not quite that refined but definitely evolving. I tend to just sit with Amida in mind and then offer what comes up. I’ve had some beautiful experiences with this recently actually. Showing him my compulsiveness and fragility. My impatience and inner ugliness. And this deep dread of failure. And feeling received and held despite all of this. Good to be there with you guys on Wednesday. We should arrange a Zoom catch up between You, Ian and myself at some point if you’re up for it. Just to keep the connection alive!! Hope you’re both ok.

      Namo Amida Bu(  :

    • #3813

      Spiritual practice is so important in these times, I think. I’m continuing my morning chanting practice in the garden with the birds – 5 remembrances, part of the longer sutra, an adapted mindfulness text, nembutsu in two forms, some reflections. Ian and me have also started to do a daily 1/2 hour zazen as a quality thing to do together. We’re OK but on our second household isolation, which is a bit much! Ian had a bad cough a few days ago but is a lot better now, however we still have to follow the rules so our neighbours are shopping for us and Ian can’t leave the house and we have to stay 2m apart… a zoom catch up is a great idea. Weekends are probably best for us as we’re not working except for Sunday morning when we zoom with the local Quakers. Hope you’re staying as well as possible.

      Namo Amida Bu

    • #3814
      Dayamay
      Participant

      Sorry to hear that guys. I’m in isolation as well now. I’ve had some shortness of breath and tight chest symptoms, which are probably related to my asthma but I’m following the 14 days solitary advice. I quite like it actually! Feels like all the pressures have gone away. Namo Amida Bu! We could try a zoom call on Saturday if you like. I don’t know how it works outside of group calls. I guess one of you calls the other one or something? Anyway, let me know if you want to try Saturday morning or evening, up to you, I’m going to be here whatever!!

       

      Namo Amida Bu(  :

    • #3816

      Lets give it a go. I’ll talk to Ian and we’ll send you a time. If only I didn’t have to spend so much time in front of a VDU I think I’d find this time a whole lot easier, but who knows! It may be that I’m given exactly the practice I need at this moment!

      Namo Amida Bu!

    • #3817
      Dayamay
      Participant

      Yes, testing times. Email me when you’ve got a time. Namo Amida Bu(  :

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