Working with your mind in the center of a hot spot
Bergamo is a small Italian town between the Alps and Milan: ancient churches and manors tied together by narrow streets and hugged all around by a high fortress wall. Mostly unknown, yet one of many UNESCO World Heritage jewels in this country.
Unexpectedly our small town recently became the center of COVID19 tragedy in Italy, with the highest death toll and nearly every family affected.
Our family has been lucky not to have had any loss, but at the worst point there was so much suffering going on that you could almost feel it in the air all around you.
For weeks I watched a stream of huge military trucks drive down the roads of my childhood, carrying coffins away. I felt deep sorrow for the dead and for their family and friends unable to be together in their grief. There was a mix of frustration and fear. I felt powerless, fragile.
But looking deeper, I also felt a strong connection: to the sick and deceased, to nurses and doctors who couldn’t save them, to soldiers solemnly driving those trucks, to others watching these surreal scenes just as I was doing.
Strangely, for a Buddhist, an experience like this is actually good news: interdependence is striking right to your heart. We are connected to everyone. Each of our activities is only possible because of what many others did to make it so.
When we look at it this way, feelings of powerlessness or loneliness dissolve into warmth.
If we then make aspirations that whatever we do can somehow benefit all others, it brings about a feeling of confidence.
We’re All In This Together: An Exercise
I like remembering our interdependence throughout the day. This practice can help us overcome the sense of aloneness or fragility, reminding us we are all connected.
- I look at what I’m doing, noticing the objects I am using or the food I’m eating. For example, I might be pouring cereal into the breakfast bowl.
- I take a deep breath and focus on the many steps that brought this food to our table.
- Mentally I travel backward, recalling the person who sold me this food, the truck driver who delivered it to the store, those who packed it in the factory, who harvested it from the field. Water had to be given to crops, and before that, seeds had to be spread.
- I appreciate the actions of so many people doing their best so that I can now enjoy eating this food.
- In my heart I thank all of these people and wish them health and happiness. I smile at them all, feeling our connection to each other.