Do What is Good to Do, and Let Go
Before I dive into today's topic I thought I'd offer a friendly reminder for all of us to keep our eyes open to everything going on in our world that has nothing to do with COVID-19. That is nearly everything, of course. Here in the North Carolina mountains spring is arriving at last in all its glory. The trees are beginning to bud and some are leafing out; there is birdsong in the morning, and new voices join the chorus every day; the daffodils, as always, are just lovely; the creeks are full and the air is warm.... Our human world is shutting down, but nature unfolds as it has since the beginning of time on this planet, and with such exquisite beauty and harmony as might remind us to keep as large a perspective as we may on what is happening. Life goes on, apart from the fear and suffering that can tend to dominate our thoughts right now. Let us remember to pause regularly to refresh ourselves in the beauty around us, to let go, and to enjoy our precious existence on this earth, even in this challenging time.
I've been thinking that it would be good to have a simple slogan that we might use to remind ourselves how to be a center with the events that are transpiring right now (and everything else in our lives). See what you think of this:
“Do what is good and reasonable to do, and then let go of everything else.”
That kind of covers it, doesn't it? Let's take a few minutes to look into what that means, and to answer the questions that naturally arise.
What is good to do?
The answer to this question changes quickly as time passes and the situation unfolds, and so we need to be present to the information that's coming in and keep our minds open. It's also a question that we each need to answer for ourselves as we interpret the guidance coming in from experts and authorities. Here are a couple things to keep in mind as you are deciding moment by moment what is good for you to do:
Act in the way that is the best and most compassionate for all. We depend upon each other, and so we need to join together and cooperate in order to best deal with the pandemic. A self-centered orientation will tend to destroy the web of relationships that connect us, and will leave us coping in isolation. Be generous. Love. Forgive those who cannot help but to act out of fear. Serve in whatever way you can see to do that. And care thoroughly for yourself—that's as important for the good of the whole as anything else. It is not selfish to care for our own needs. It is selfish to indulge conditioned mind and to put our needs before other's.
Remember the dualistic nature of conditioned mind. Within conditioned mind everything is divided into pairs of opposites. Our job is to abandon our habitual stance on one end or another and move to center. If you are someone who tends to do too much, do less; if you are someone who tends to do too little, do more. If your tendency is to defy rules and guidelines, get with the program; if it's to obsessively follow rules and guidelines, loosen up and relax. If your impulse is to isolate, join in; if it's to cling to relationships with others for safety and security, take time and space to get in touch with yourself. Like that. It's only at center that we may respond effectively to whatever our lives put in front of us.
What is reasonable?
What is reasonable is the same as what is called for in the moment. If you are trying to do more than you can actually do, that is unreasonable. If you are unable to take care of yourself while you do what you do, that is also unreasonable. If there is nothing to do and you do things anyway, that is unreasonable. It is reasonable to go step by step through the day, doing what each moment asks of you, in a calm and measured way.
What is the “everything” we need to let go of?
The “everything” is all that conditioned mind would have us add to our experience in the moment which is not necessary. For example:
indulging in worry, anxiety, and fear (more about fear in a future blog)
playing the victim to our common circumstances
making up problems to solve
indulging any conditioned story that would add meaning to what is happening that is not there
This is not a time to be wandering around in conditioned mind. This is a time to practice being focused and clear.
How do we let go?
Everything we suffer from has the same cause. The cause is our tendency to leave the moment, go up into our heads, and make up stuff about what is happening. To let go you need two things:
You need to be aware of what is actually so. If conditioned mind is telling you a story about what is going on, you need to be aware that it's a story. It's irrelevant what the story is about; if you're aware it's a story, that's all you need to know.
You need to turn your attention away. Conditioned mind is created and maintained through our attention. If you deny it your attention it disappears. If you become aware that conditioned mind is telling you a story, turn your attention away and rest your attention on your breath and your body; on your senses; on the experience of love, acceptance, generosity, courage and determination, or whatever else fills your heart. These thing are all in the moment, and conditioned mind ceases to exist in the moment. Turn your attention away from the conditioned thinking and bring it back here.
Do what is good and reasonable to do, my friends, and let go of everything else. In this way we'll have our best shot at navigating these challenging times without suffering.