By Taikyo Gilman
I’m sitting outside the Sangha House on day nine of quarantine away from other residents and monastics (I get wifi here), and its a bright, drizzly spring day. A friend down with Covid-19 after we visited—maintaining appropriate distance—and so protecting the other 35 residential sangha members, including our monastic teachers, is a huge priority. So just in case (I feel fine, so far so good), I am practicing solo. The escalation of new cases in New York this week has us all on edge.
With 83 others (maybe you?) I am following the “home sesshin” version of the Founding Sesshin as a cabin hermit. I retreated up the hill when I got the news last week, talking with Gokan and Shoan while on route and later getting a grocery drop delivered to my porch. With a hot plate and my camping gear I am doing well, immersing in liturgy and zazen and care taking while also staying up on the news. Carefully.
Some marvelous resources have come my way this week: #ShelterInPoems from the Poem-A-Day archives at the American Academy of Poems is worth checking out for fresh and true respite, posts which inspire and sustain (check out the hashtag on your favorite social media). I’ve been working with the book Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein to anchor my understanding of practice and how to return to stability, again and again. I’ve also recently been introduced to the practice of Feeding Your Demons by Lama Tsultrim Allione, a way of working with fears and anxiety. Based on the ancient Chöd practice developed by 11th century yogini Machig Labdrön, Chöd is particularly potent during times of epidemics, famine, you-name-it disasters. This interweaving of dharma practice, study and creative expression, as well as good old humor, lovingkindness and common sense, can carry us through these days. And for those not in sesshin, be sure to follow the MRO’s free podcasts and the Sunday program Livestream.
My very warm wishes to all, in particular those medical and social service personal, grocery clerks and cashiers, mail carriers and police who are maintaining the essential services that make New York City and upstate and everywhere on this planet function during this pandemic. May we all be of benefit to ourselves and each other, joyful and life-giving, and live in equanimity with the shifting tides.