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  • D.J. McKay

Practicing with the Coronavirus

I have lived, I know, a most privileged and fortunate life. More than any other of the many gifts I have received, I am grateful to have found a way to live that leads beyond self-centeredness and isolation, and to have had the opportunity to thoroughly learn and practice that way. I remember the time as a confused young man when I first began to understand what spiritual practice is all about and the power that it has. “This makes sense of everything!” I thought, and so it still seems to me all these years later. The way is perfectly simple, but difficult to follow. It asks of us to give up everything we cling to, down to our very identity, but it offers in return a life of ease and freedom. The way is merely this, that we attend in every moment, to the best of our ability, to the process of life unfolding, rather than to the stuff, to the this and that, which unfolds; to the how rather than the what. A life fixated on the content of experience is inherently, necessarily unhappy and devoid of real satisfaction. A life oriented around the pure experience of life as it manifests moment by moment will be filled with peace and contentment no matter what one's circumstances bring. This, to me, is the simple secret of a happy life.

The way says that everything in life is spiritual practice: everything is an occasion to turn inward, to let go of the clinging and the resistance of conditioned mind, and to live from the heart instead. It doesn't matter how large or small the content is—whether it's the death of one's physical body or which pair of sneakers to buy—everything is a mirror in which we may see, if we choose, the state of our heart and mind. This life we have, to me, is fundamentally about training ourselves to live from a place of authenticity and grace, no matter what Life lies before us.

It's been both fascinating and horrifying to watch the spread of the virus from this point of view. It appears as if, by and large, people are not taking advantage of the opportunity. I would like to be wrong about that, but I doubt that I am. The more challenging our circumstances, the more there is a chance to learn and grow; in this case, as the circumstance is global and involves all of humanity, there is the opportunity to deepen our relationship with ourselves and with Life not just as individuals, but as the entire human family. This is an ideal time to look earnestly into the ways in which we cause ourselves to suffer within our own minds and also within the structures of our societies. I'm afraid there is not the willingness to do this great work as a species—the temptation to blame others and indulge in fear is just too great and too seductive—but the opportunity is there.

Those of us who have a practice are in a position to accept the gift of this momentous event if we choose. I don't mean in this to diminish the pain and anguish people are experiencing and will experience as a result, whether that comes from contracting the virus, from financial ruin, or any of the other potential implications. I talked yesterday with someone in Brazil, who told me that a large portion of the population there is simply unable to obey the injunction to stay at home and keep a distance from others because to do so is to starve. I get it that we are, perhaps, sliding helplessly towards a great calamity. And yet it is always the case, in my experience, that a gift of greater awareness, wisdom, and understanding lies at the center of every life circumstance, whatever it may be. As we navigate our way through the weeks and possibly months of chaos and trouble that follow, let's do our best not to miss the opportunity.

Over the next days and weeks I plan to post blogs designed to support those who are choosing to practice with the reality of the Coronavirus; to use this strange time as a vehicle for deeper connection with themselves, with others, and with Life in it's essence. If you have any particular topic you'd like for me to address, be sure to let me know.

Thank you for your attention, be well, and stay tuned!

In peace,