As we set intentions for the new year, it can be a time for reflection as well. 2020 was surely one of the most challenging and distressing years for many of us. A global pandemic with loss of jobs and social connections with attendant isolation and fear. A terrible loss of life in every corner of the globe. We had an uncaring leader in the White House who encouraged racism, white supremacy and hatred. Police killings of unarmed Black and Brown people continued to make headlines. Climate change fostered terrifying weather and massive fires. We all know this.
Our practice of meditation and kindness became an anchor, a kind of respite, from the suffering within and without. It did not erase the magnitude of our despair but it allowed us to be with our anguish. And it propelled us into the streets to march for racial justice. It enervated mass organization to encourage people to vote. On a smaller scale, we became closer with our neighbors on our streets, offering chore services, rides, deliveries of food and companionship. We realized the preciousness of our families and friends. We reached out more. We checked on each other more.
And we found a renewed dedication to our practice. The Buddhadharma speaks directly to the causes and releases of human suffering. It allowed us to penetrate the dark sorrow and frustration with a measure of equanimity and compassion. As heart broken as we felt (and still feel), we knew we were united with everyone everywhere. The catastrophe touched and touches us all.
The truth is that we are always affected by disaster, whether it is in our town or 3000 miles away. Any atrocity, any suffering of sentient beings, forests, oceans, mountains, the very atmosphere, is felt on a cellular level. At center, we are all interconnected. Thich Nhat Hanh calls this ‘interbeing’.
Our morning practice links us with everyone. And when we can’t meditate, know that someone, somewhere, is meditating for us and all of life.