As we navigate the new world of COVID-19, most of us are looking for guidance and some tools to gain comfort. Staying informed about the virus is important, but it’s also important that we stay connected to each other and our practices. We’ve been asking Lama Tsomo lots of questions. This article is the first in a series of question-and-answer sessions with her. We hope you find it as helpful as we have!
If people are feeling frozen with grief or obsessing about what to do, what do you recommend?
Daily practice! Once I actually meditate, I reach moments that are transcendent. And when I sit in reality as it really is, it’s beautiful. Then I remember why I meditate. Practicing makes all the running around I do afterwards more productive.
It seems the more stressed we are the harder it is to meditate. Can you speak to that?
Right now, it’s like most of us are in a pressure cooker. Our living situations are pressurized as we adjust to kids and parents working in a small space. Most of us are not used to being together all day. It is harder to find time to meditate, yet what we need most is a mini vacation every day-a meditation session. That’s what you can have from these practices, a vacation from the pressure cooker in our mind. Practicing Tonglen and other Immeasurables helps us feel our connection with ourselves and everyone. Once we cultivate compassion for ourselves, then we can step it out to everyone else. Then we feel deeply connected with everyone, which can improve our relationships and lessen stress.
On the other hand, there are also people who are now more alone and that’s another kind of pressure cooker. We can’t run away from the uncomfortable things that come up when we must be alone. There are far fewer distractions. It's like a solitary retreat; things are going to come up. I’ve done a lot of solitary retreat, and luckily practice has been the perfect medicine. Whatever practice I happen to be doing at the moment is the very medicine that’s just right for whatever comes up. Look to the practice. I have found that whatever it is, without fail it’s the perfect medicine.
We want our practice to benefit our personal lives, community, and the world, but it’s hard to know what our work in the world is right now. What are some actionable steps we can take to be helpful on these levels?
One way I like to look at it is to consider if there’s one piece of personal, community, and worldthat is being neglected. If there is, I step it out from there and consider what actionable steps can be taken. His Holiness the Dalai Lama just released a response to COVID-19 and has said that it’s important that we think of others in the world who need our help and support right now. Through helping, we will end up feeling better, as will those people we help. I know that people are making masks, crowd sourcing through their communities, and some children’s classes are writing letters to local nursing homes. You could talk with a friend or your Learning Circle to identify what it is you are feeling called to do in the world and strategize about how you will carry that out.
Hold on to your practice and take whatever mini-vacation you can squeeze into your day. We set our altruistic intention to cultivate compassion for ourselves, our community, and our world. It’s ok if it’s challenging; the important part is to keep trying. From this place, we can do what we can to help in our communities and our world. Remember that even though staying home may not feel immediately helpful, that is one of the most helpful things we can do. Be well, friends, and stay tuned for more COVID-19 Care discussions with Lama Tsomo! Please comment below if you have questions that you’d like Lama Tsomo to address!