“There is a
plethora of news reports about the suffering, it’s everywhere one looks. Yet
what about the joys? If all we focus on is the suffering, how out of balance do
we become? Yes it’s vital to bear witness to the joys in and of life as well,
hopefully in equal measure.
And…Yes we need to laugh, yet not just about anything. We
need to laugh about the circumstances we are facing so we might see a deeper
meaning in them. The goal is not to chase the blues away, but to embody them
and fill them with a sense of lightness.
Der ganze Brief von Moshe Cohen im Wortlaut.
I feel so lucky every time I come to Aigen,
and enjoy the beauty and peace that inhabits and surrounds St Virgil. It’s not hard to transport my imagination
right now, and find myself sitting in the cafe looking out the large windows at
those amazing mountains. Today however,
my meditation is here in San Francisco, sheltering in place, looking out on a
quiet grey foggy early morning. No
complaints as there is plenty of beautiful nearby, and in these times, I’m
learning to be more appreciative of what surrounds me.
I can only imagine that many of you, like
myself, have personal concerns with the current situation. Life has been turned
upside down in so many ways. When I
read/hear/watch the reports from the ‘front-lines,’ my concerns quickly evaporate. I am healthy, safe with food and shelter in a
country with relatively good resources close by. When I read stories from hospital nurses in
places like New York City, the intensity
of battles patients can face, I can only
thank my lucky stars and my gratitude opens wide.
It’s easy to say that one should not let fear control us, to choose
love over fear. Yet real life keeps
happening My training demands that I
inject lightness and humor into exactly these type of situations. Often that is
second nature yet sometimes it feels like a bit of heavy lifting. Occasionally I catch myself worrying, letting
fear get a hold of me. Thankfully, those
moments don’t last too long, awareness brings me around to recognize small
waves in the bigger sea, yet they are there.
And that bigger sea is so much bigger,
especially when my mind travels to those countries and places I’ve visited on
Clowns Without Borders projects.
Countries that lack the vast resources of the developed world. Dwelling on the potential disasters that face
us is not a very effective way to create positive change. So like I imagine many of us must do, i
recognize these challenges, and then remind myself to look at what I can do in
the here and now. My wish is to be of
service, to stay connected to the global good and to be part of the solution.
As someone whose job it is to inject
levity and lightness into the world, I am aware of the good it can bring. I am
also aware of how vital it is that this levity be connected to the concerns of
people and not some type of frivolous exercise in empty laughter. These past
days I’ve been meditating on what it means to share humor in these challenging
times. On the need for respect, empathy and compassion with all that we are
In seeking wisdom around ‘levitas gravitas,’ I am often reminded of Bernie
Glassman’s 3 tenets for peacemaking, ‘Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking
Action.’ These tenets are a great guide for an appropriate method of dealing
with these times. That one starts in a place of not-knowing is so vital. Most
of us are facing strong challenges that we are not necessarily sharing
Any impulse to share humor, to invite levity into a situation that could use
some lightening is certainly a generous offer. However, what about those
on the receiving end? Are they wishing for humor right now? Are they even
open to being in connection? How very important for the offerer to have
their listening acutely tuned! Witnessing, listening will most likely
give you the appropriate strategy of action. Leading with lightness rather than
strong humor might well be a good initial strategy in these difficult times.
Yet I bring up these tenets for another
reason, because Bernie would talk about the importance of Bearing Witness to
the Joys And Suffering. There is a plethora of news reports about the
suffering, it’s everywhere one looks. Yet what about the joys? If all we focus
on is the suffering, how out of balance do we become? Yes it’s vital to bear
witness to the joys in and of life as well, hopefully in equal measure. They
need to be present in order for us to keep our equilibrium. Every time that I
think that offering levity might be disrespectful of the sorrow and suffering
that many are facing, I am reminded of Bernie’s words, of how important it is
that we invest in the joy as well.
Yes we need to laugh, yet not just about
anything. We need to laugh about the circumstances we are facing so we might
grok (or see) a deeper meaning in them. The goal is not to chase the blues
away, but to embody them and fill them with a sense of lightness. Thing is,
this is not a one time exercise but rather a continuous cycle of recognizing
and accepting the problems, investigating how we are feeling about them and
re-investing in making small steps in a positive direction. It’s easier said
than done, that’s for sure.
One aspect of these corona times that is giving
me reason for optimism is the great uptick in empathy and compassion that I am
witnessing around me. I think that this is a big part of the solution, that we are becoming, that we see the world
as a global ‘we’, rather than an I.
These corona times offer humanity the time and space to see each
other. It is demanding that we become
more conscious of the fact that we are all in this boat-planet earth-
together. It feels to me, and of course
I could be totally wrong, yet I get the feeling that many people are not only
looking to be the best version of themselves, they are looking out (or start
looking out) for each other.
The other thing that is really giving me
personal strength right now is the beauty of nature, and that it is close
enough in this city of San Francisco, that I can go out and taste it. I feel so fortunate to be able to go out to
the big Golden Gate park, and to go to the beach. If you are imagining warm
white sand beaches full of sunbathers and surfers. That’s Southern California. Up north, the ocean is a bit more wild, the
beach windy and not so warm. Yet breathing in ll the negative ions, feeling the
awesome power of the nature makes me feel so alive.
I can only think to follow the advice of Maesumi Roshi’s (Bernie’s
teacher) : “Appreciate this life.”