I studied world religions in college, but I found Buddhism when I needed it most – in 1999 when my world imploded with a layoff and divorce.
Every week at the Zen Buddhist Temple in Chicago, I would sit in the darkened room with a few other struggling souls meditating in silence or chanting to the beat of a deep drum with tears nobody could see streaming down my face.
This room and these practices were a balm for my ravaged soul.
Our teacher jokingly said few people come to Buddhism when things are going well.
Flash forward 20 years and the upside-down world that is our life during this pandemic.
Lockdown and loneliness
There was a meme on Facebook that amused me, saying you know how isolated you’ve been when a pandemic doesn’t really change your life. I have always worked with clients virtually, so my business and daily work life didn’t change much.
However, my ability to get in-person human contact disappeared, and I started to feel untethered and achingly alone.
No tango classes and no live music in my favorite restaurants.
No friends coming over for dinner.
No face-to-face human contact at all, except on Zoom.
I started to feel myself dipping into despair.
I had to pull up and reorient before I lost myself, so I recommitted to some Buddhist practices as my safety net.
Buddhist Practice 1: Letting go
Anxious thoughts triggered by uncertainty and amped up by social media were affecting my productivity and ability to fall asleep. I started meditating even more than usual, and added in the Letting Go – guided sound meditation by Davin Youngs.
Davin’s rich voice and layered vocal soundscape inspired me to let go of my obsessive thoughts that seemed to be on spin cycle.
I experienced glimpses of peace, which I could then carry over to my daily life.
Buddhist Practice 2: Compassion
In the middle of the bleakest part of lockdown, I also had to come to terms with the fact that the person I wanted to be with didn’t want to be with me. As I started letting go of the anxious thoughts, the sorrowful thoughts bubbled up.
The nihilism of Buddhism and its core belief that life is suffering is somehow calming when you ARE suffering. Go figure.
I think it helps you feel like you aren’t broken or cursed.
Suffering is just a part of life, and we need to work with the bad and the good, the bitter and the sweet.
In an effort to start healing my heart before it completely broke, I once again turned to a guided meditation. I pictured this person wishing my pain and suffering to ease, and I wished that for them. And then I turned my compassion to myself and forgave myself for being in this situation yet again.
I can’t recommend This is Compassion – guided meditation by Davin Youngs highly enough. It always makes me tear up in the best possible way.
Buddhist Practice 3: Just like me
This is a practice I only recently learned about – and it might be the critical practice for this election season.
Families and friends who find themselves on different sides of the aisle might want to try this as they think the other person has clearly taken leave of their senses, or misplaced their moral compass.
Basically, it walks you through multiple life situations and you acknowledge that person has probably experienced these things, too. This diffuses some of the tension you feel internally because this person, in many ways, is just like you. Here’s an example of the “Just Like Me” Compassion Practice.
So, if you’re struggling right now, please consider trying one or all of these practices.
I don’t know how I would be able to get through this current uncertainty without them.