March 25 2020: I read today about a talk from my teacher, Fred Eppsteiner, on transforming adversity into the path of awakening and thought I might share. I wish you peace and ease, wellness in this moment.
As was to be expected, the principal issue on people’s minds was fear. The questions poured out: What if I get the virus? What if a family member gets sick? I’m a caretaker; it will be a disaster if I get sick. My finances have cratered because of the stock market. I’m afraid I won’t make the right decisions. I have an autoimmune disease. I worry about my adult children; one of them has asthma. The CDC tells you to anticipate and it’s driving me nuts. I should have anticipated this, and I didn’t. I have financial insecurity because I’m afraid I won’t be able to help my kids if they lose their jobs. There are shortages in the stores.
My teacher responded with some basic questions: Do you know that you have the virus? I don’t think so. Today, right now, do you know you don’t have the virus? I don’t know that, either. Is that true that you do not know your true health status right now? Yes. Can you learn to be in acceptance and peace with not-knowing?
Your fear doesn’t arrive from the facts of the external world, he continued, but from a conscious and often unconscious perception of danger. Endless anticipation of the future and worrying about it is something we have continuously cultivated in our culture. Anxiety and worry are conditions of our minds and not the actual real time situations in our life.
Whatever issues are arising in us, these “symptoms” are arising from the storehouse consciousness – if we often live in worry and fears, they will come up; if we live with anger, our anger will come up; if we live with doubt, our doubt, and so on. Those afflictive “symptoms” are arising in our minds from sources within that are beyond the circumstances of the situation with the virus right now. We need to recognize that. Symptoms will be different for different people depending on their usual reaction to the unpredictability of life, not being able to control situations and outcomes. That is why meditation is so important, because it helps us look beyond the symptoms and discover the real source of our suffering.
The coronavirus is what’s happening today, but tomorrow we could be faced with some other threat to our wellbeing, even simply walking across the street. Our lives are impermanent. That is reality. Do you know if you are a carrier of the virus? Do you know if anyone you have been in contact with during the last two weeks is a carrier? We just don’t know. Let’s say you test positive. Do you know how it’s going to unfold in your body? We don’t know. If we transform adversity into the path of awakening, we must look into the same afflictive symptoms that arise, again and again, in our minds and learn how to transform them. They are not arising from the coronavirus; they are triggered by it. “We always will find a rationale for our acting out,” my teacher said. “We always say, this time our situation is different. Adverse conditions are an opportunity to either increase our conditioned patterns and suffering or to liberate ourselves. The coronavirus pandemic is bringing out all our ‘stuff.’ Are we going to use the situation to liberate ourselves or to continue to follow our reactive and often destructive emotional patterns?”