Responding to the coronavirus: reflections from the Pine Street Sangha and Sati Sangha

This article was co-authored by Linda Modaro (Sati Sangha) and Nelly Kaufer (Pine Street Sangha).

The coronavirus reveals just how uncertain things can become. Health news changes daily, hourly. New cases are being diagnosed. New routes of transmission are being considered. This is destabilizing and scary. Even in times like this, we are careful about what we suggest to our sanghas because we know one suggestion will not work for everyone.

Right now we suggest finding some stable ground, comfort, reassurance within. Finding stability in uncertainty can be helpful, especially if you are finding yourself triggered or activated by past traumas. The stability here is not looking for something permanent, but more like finding your pair of supportive shoes when you are going on a topsy turvy hiking trail, or checking your oil and tires before you leave on a road trip. Curiosity seems to come more naturally when we are less reactive and overwhelmed.

After taking refuge in some stable ground, there’s lots to reflect upon that cuts right to the core of dharma and how we teach reflective meditation.

How we handle the uncertainty depends so much on where we live, our age, our health, and the other people that are close to us and far away; our plans and arrangements for travel, for conferences, for being with loved ones. All of it can feel important. So, to take what is important and go into an internal process, gives you a chance to get some clarity on what is stirred up for you. This is practice. You have been training for it, and now you have time to use it, put it into action.

Perfection is impossible, though it might seem protective. There‘s no perfect way to meditate, that works for all of us all of the time. Trying to meditate perfectly is a recipe for meditators’ guilt or meditators’ narcissism — depending on how well you think you’ve met the benchmark.

We all have been bombarded with information about how to handle the Coronavirus. There are so many suggestions that are necessary, and will create new habits for us regarding public health. We will not all be able to follow them perfectly, and it is likely we will make mistakes, but the stakes can seem higher when life and death may be tied to how we act. The existential reality that we are going to die someday may seem closer to us now.

When we’re uncertain and scared we’re prone to create stories that are rife with too much certainty. Even if the stories we create are awful, they give us a sense of control and that can be relieving in itself. Free floating fear can be harder to tolerate. Do you have an obvious or more subtle story you tell yourself about the virus? Might you loosen it up a bit?

From Nelly: “There are many decisions that aren’t clear. I’m scheduled to go to Seattle next week-end to a square dance party, with about a hundred people. Seattle is the U.S. epicenter for the virus and square dancing entails continual touching of other dancers’ hands, the very activity that they are telling us not to do. And should I fly into the Seattle airport in a plane, a petri dish for viruses?”

From Linda: “After talking with everyone involved, we are going to cancel the March Questhaven residential retreat. It is the cautious, safest move. Thankfully, I know how to put together an online retreat and it works. We all took time off, made room in our schedule to retreat. If anyone else is interested, let me know. Also, Nelly and I have another online retreat planned for April.”

We think the best response to this virus is kindness and caring, both for yourself, the people in your life, and the healthcare workers who are leading the way through this epidemic.

We’re offering an online, daily meditation group

We don’t know how long this period of social distancing will last: these times are stressful, and fear can easily consume us. Nelly Kaufer and I would like to share our reflective meditation practice with you as a refuge and a time for daily connection. We’re offering an open meditation group to both our communities.

  • If you don’t have a meditation practice, this might be an ideal time to give it a try.
  • If you do have one, this might be a chance to boost your daily practice.
  • If you’ve had difficulty establishing an “at home” meditation practice, this might be an ideal time to initiate or strengthen one.
  • If, during these challenging times, you’re finding it hard to practice, to ground yourself, to concentrate, this is a chance to support your practice.

Start date: Thursday, March 19, 2020
End date: TBD
Time: 9am to 10am PST

You do not need to register. You can use this Zoom link – It is an unique link we created for these sessions only:

9am PST – short dharma prompt
20-30 minute meditation sitting
10 minutes reflective journaling
9:45am PST – 15 minute sharing/ closing

*If you are going to be more than a few minutes late, please meditate and reflect on your own, and join us at 9:45am.
**Apologies to our Australian friends. We are brainstorming with Anna Markey and Jenny Taylor to try and put something similar in place down under.



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