The Inner Guide – March 13 2020

The Inner Guide – March 13 2020

Ultimately, you are your own Master. There is no other. A teacher can help you understand this point. If you do, then you are free. My job is to tell you that your teacher is in you.

Sri M

Today, perhaps more than any time in recent memory, many of us would love to have someone in charge – someone with ‘the answers’ to the challenges each of us are facing with regard to our health, business, finances, social responsibilities, family. Things seem up in the air with no clear way forward. Uncertainty reigns. New information comes out daily as the scientific and healthcare communities learn on the fly how to cope with the unique challenges of this pandemic. News organizations and politicians offer contradictory information and direction. And each of us is left to find our own way through, based on our best guess of the moment.

In practical terms, there are some concrete facts and suggested behaviors that have become clear:

Wash your hands well and often.

Avoid crowds.

If you are sick, stay home.

Stockpile enough food for a 14 day quarantine.

Do not touch your face.

Wash your hands.

Use disinfectant if soap and water are not available (and if you were able to buy some before the stores all sold out of it).

If you are in one of the high-risk groups, be even more careful of where you go and what you do. Err on the side of staying home.

Wash your hands well and often.

(One doctor was quoted as saying, if he had a choice between a facemask and access to soap and water to lessen his chances of getting the virus, he would choose soap and water, hands down.)

That’s about it with regard to what I can do as an individual to guard my own health as well as to lessen the spread of the virus for the well-being of the whole. Nearly everything else is outside my control.

What also is within my control is where I place my attention. The automatic response most of us have built-in is to worry. Run worst-case scenarios of our immediate future and what might befall us. Scan the news and social media for every tidbit of information and build a case: for or against ourselves and our chances of survival, for or against humanity, for or against the government, for or against whatever group we can decide is to blame for the predicament we are in.

None of this does any good. Rather, it raises anxiety and makes me even more susceptible to an infection.

I can place my attention elsewhere. I can look within.

Beyond all the worry, all the fear-based thinking and anxiety, lies the truth of what I am. From this place within, all else can be viewed as what it is – a passing, ever-changing reality. As Pema Chodron says, ‘You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.’

We contact this underlying truth of what we are in meditation, and simply by making this contact we lessen the power that worry and anxiety might have over us.

But this truth of us is also available outside of meditation. It is here, right now, just under the thinking. By assuming it is there I can begin to look for it to guide me. As I stop paying attention to the thoughts and worries, I can begin to hear the faint voice of this underlying truth and the guidance it offers me. I can remind myself that something is in charge, call it consciousness or nature or God. That I am at one with this something. That this something wants nothing for me but my happiness and joy and freedom. That the voices in my head of doom and despair are lies, telling me I am separate from this something that I never, ever could be separate from. That I am worthy of love, worthy of care, worthy of life.

Will this inner guide keep me or my loved ones from becoming sick? Perhaps not. But nor will listening to the voices of worry and recrimination.

And one will allow me to feel at least a bit in charge and held and taken care of. The other will simply continue to frighten me and cause me to suffer.

Today I will do my meditation so that I can be more in touch with the underlying truth of what I am. And I will try through the day to listen to the voice of Truth within, rather than to the voices of fear and panic in my head.

Bud Powell and Jean, Fryman Canyon, before a storm, Studio City CA