Be the Calm One on the Boat

When the crowded refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if every one panicked, all would be lost. But if even one person stayed calm, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.

–Thich Nhat Hanh

Here are some suggestions that are helping me navigate this complex, raw and unprecedented emotional and political landscape:

1.    Go to yoga class. Yes, practice at home if that’s what you do, but class is special. We get the benefits of practice, and we also get to share space with other like-minded people. We ease each other’s suffering when we practice in community. One of the refuges in Buddhism is Sangha, community. Find yours now.

2.    Several times a day, close your eyes and rest your awareness on five slow breaths. Pay particular attention to the exhalation. Let it be long, smooth and complete.

3.    Take a moment a few times a day to notice that right here, right now, everything is essentially ok. For most of us, our bodies are at least as healthy as they were when we woke up Tuesday morning. There is abundant oxygen, and again, for most of us, plenty of good food and clean water. Think of people who care about you and feel their love. Develop the understanding that right now our needs are met, including the need for love and connection.

4.    Get into nature. Pay attention to the beauty everywhere around us. Soak it up, absorb it. Leave your phone in the car.

5.    Practice noticing Buddha nature in passers-by. For me, neutral people are the easiest ones for this practice. With no emotional threads, it’s easier for me to see that we all carry the seeds of compassion, love and awakening. See if you can sense it in your barista or grocery clerk. It is impossible to be unkind while doing this practice, and kindness is what we all need more than ever.

6.    Try and find one thing about the group of people you feel in opposition to that you can feel compassionate about. For me, I feel real compassion toward fears of living in poverty. There is common ground here. There are common goals we can work toward.

7.    Be alert and ready to act. The world needs us now. Spirituality and passivity do not commingle. Yoga is action, and we must act. When the time comes, I believe we will know what to do if we are open and looking for it. Be ready. Our practice will prime us. Keep at it.

And no matter what, even if the worst happens and all our worst fears are realized, we will go on loving each other, petting our dogs and cats, and being amazed by sunsets and the kindness of strangers. Life will go on, with all its multifaceted and bittersweet beauty.

For now, let’s practice together so that we can be the calm one on the boat.