awareness, calm, compassion

Finding freedom and love in isolation

Charles Hastings

If you have been practicing meditation or training your mind, now is the time to have confidence in your practice.

At the moment many of us around the world are advised or obliged to stay at home, not see our friends, avoid contact with other people, as a gesture of caring for ourselves and also caring for others.

Inevitably many of us feel very strange. We have been warned about a tipping point for the world as we know it approaching because of climate change, and then suddenly everything is turned upside down in the space of a few weeks!

How can we deal with the anxiety that we so naturally feel?

We might turn to the obvious channel, entertainment: for example, fictions which take us away into a world where we can forget the present.

Or we may be trying to understand the present situation and seek guidance through the internet. It is certainly useful to know what precautions to take, what will be helpful or harmful, but unfortunately alongside some really useful information there is a mass of useless or misleading stuff. We may have noticed that even to follow the news creates more anxiety for little benefit.

What can really help? There is no doubt that the situation is dangerous. Our own lives or those of our loved ones may be at risk. Even if we are in a relatively protected situation there are millions of people in the world without protection.

If you have been practicing meditation or training your mind, now is the time to have confidence in your practice. Even a limited amount of spaciousness in your mind can make a big difference, not only for yourself, but for those around you. Let’s remember to come back to the present moment as often as we can, to just take a minute to simply be aware. It’s as if you were carrying a great weight and suddenly you could put it down for a moment. That moment of freshness, before the next thought arises.

Even when there are many thoughts, many worries and projections, let’s try to stand back and simply be aware. The movements of our mind are like the waves in the ocean. Their movement is a natural process. Just like the incoming and outgoing tides we encounter all sorts of different happy and sad circumstances that arise and recede. Sometimes the sea is very agitated. Sometimes it is calm.

It may be hard some of us to relate to the depths below the waves, the profound nature of our awareness. However we can quite easily decide to relax with the fact that those movements are a natural process. The less we fixate on them and the less we solidify the images that arise, the more we have a sense of freedom.

To offer yourself ten or twenty minutes a day to sit down and be simply present, simply aware, whether your mind is agitated or not, is to offer yourself a precious gift. By not stirring up more waves you let your mind become calm. When you leave your mind naked its qualities can appear.

Our heartfelt concern and worry can become a welling up of our natural tenderness: we can discover like never before our deep love for those around us, our fellow human beings, and all the inhabitants of our little planet. That pang you feel in your heart is the spark that can awaken true compassion and true love. That deep unconditional tenderness is a soothing balm for the heart which makes every moment meaningful.

CHARLES HASTINGS

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