We are all touched by death and disruption now. All of us have had to let go of plans, to find ways of being with uncertainty.
Welcome to the world of one who has cancer.
Cancers #1 and #2 launched me into years of pain, sequential radical procedures, and more familiarity with hospital layouts than anyone who is not a medical professional should have.
Maybe you don’t have that active medical part… at least not yet. But maybe the possibility of death feels nearer for you. Maybe, in giving up business plans, weddings, meditation retreats, sports events, and nearly all in-person contact, you can feel what it might have been like for me to have everything I was doing drop off a cliff. Just like that. Gone. Would it ever come back? Would I ever again be able to go places? To finish projects? To even think?
So I feel a natural and enormous compassion for the many forms of suffering people are experiencing from COVID-19: the physical suffering, medical suffering, sense of loss, and the profound uncertainty.
But the message I carry back over the River Styx is a hopeful one.
Pain and loss do not equal suffering. If you can watch your mind closely enough to not fall into the imagined disasters of tomorrow, the pain and loss of this moment need not force themselves forward into suffering. Terror is made by our mind’s turning in on itself. Break this pattern, and, for that moment, you’re free.
Following on this, awareness will follow you all the way down to death if you trust it, if you let it. I will say more about this later. For now, I just want to mark that there are few boundaries where awareness cannot helpfully go. This is hopeful.