Mindfulness Meets Ukraine

As the pain of the world stretches, an unforgiving wind whips through the trees.

The conflagration that is supposedly not a war feeds off every spare moment. Like an enormous wave we don’t even see, it’s skulking in the background of everything we do.

There is the helplessness, the massiveness. Where can we bring our cup of tea for a break?

Thoughts of violence towards the perpetrator vanish as quickly as they came, like the wind outside, not taking root anywhere.

Even though there is no goal in mindfulness practice, over time, we’ve often wondered what good it is to simply sit with our thoughts, and, over and over again, come back to the present. We spend a lot of time with our thoughts! Our fantasies, plans, fears, worries, ambitions, and struggles appear on the big screen of our mind. Gradually, instead of messing with them when they appear, non-judgmental acceptance has us accommodating our “guests”. The great Zen master Suzuki Roshi instructed,

“Leave your front door and your back door open. Allow your thoughts to come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.”

He was telling us not to schmooze with our thoughts–priceless advice considering the tendency to get caught in the quagmire of polarization, attitudes, opinions, and beliefs.

We are still very much roiled by it all, without imploding.

Mindfulness helps, but doesn’t supply answers; it’s a way to be. At Internet speeds, the latest ruptures find us behind our defenses, at home. Sitting ducks for bad news, we could hold on to each disaster that surfaces, but instead, we bear witness, enabling kindness and compassion, which know no bounds.

If we centralize on ourselves, we connect ego, “me”, to the disaster, and our association becomes long-lasting. A very different response is to de-centralize. We feel the anguish, the dread, bigtime, but we are not a separate, isolated unit. There are many, many others who are in the same boat, and the gate to compassion swings open.

Not insulating ourselves from the pain that is Ukraine and Russia, and also not sinking in the quicksand of fear and panic, let us find space in between.

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