“The equanimity to face all of this cannot be rooted in denial. Rather, it must be rooted in an acknowledgement of how it all is. But to look head-on at the horrible beauty of the universe as is, without hiding behind fantasy or denial and selective perception, takes guts. To look Shiva in the eye, to acknowledge the violent as well as the gentle, the ugliness as well as the beauty, the greed and selfishness as well as the compassion and mercy, the sickness, death, and decay as well as health and life – and to all of it – ALL of IT – say “YES!” – that is the ground on which true equanimity rests.
“We protect our hearts because of the fear that they will break. Yes, they will break. But out of the pieces will be forged a new heart, a strong and fearless heart, a compassionate heart, a heart that is invulnerable. That is what is required. Nothing less!”
~ RAM DASS
I awoke to this quote my friend sent to me. Ram Dass was an early teacher for me way back in the 60’s and 70’s. As college students living in Boston, my husband and I were able to attend lectures by him, sing Kirtan with Krishna Dass, another devotee of Neem Karoli Baba, their guru, and always read all that he wrote. He remained an Elder and guide for many more years until his death last year.
The above quote touches me directly with the essence of what it is I ask my heart to do. How do I open to the sorrow of tragedy by death affecting thousands, and still hold to the conviction that this crisis presents an opportunity for change, for waking up to “horrible beauty “of the universe as it is? Each of us probably has had a straight arrow aimed at the heart as this crisis continues.
Was it the story of the woman giving birth to her first child who cannot have her husband attend her in the hospital? Was it the death of a parent that could not be shared with their loved ones? Was it the loss of a home that a young family can no longer afford because they lost their non-essential jobs?
I was struck last night when my friend, who has lived in Italy for the past two years, sent me an email. She left Italy for a workshop she was going to lead in the States, just four days before they locked the country down. Fortunately, a client loaned her a summer home to stay in as, of course, the workshop was subsequently cancelled. My friend told me of photographs that a photographer from her village had taken, of army convoy trucks arriving in the small city of Bergamo to cart away the three hundred bodies of those who had perished in one day.
When I think of thousands dying all around the world, people get reduced to statistics in my mind. Three hundred souls I can imagine more easily- too easily. It would account for a majority of the residents in my current community of Kendal. I wept for Bergamo, for Italy, for America, Manhattan, my own county in Ohio and those three hundred deaths and countless stories of loss, multiplied over and over again. We are learning to say, Yes! to our broken hearts, making space for active compassion to take root. Laughter for what the soul has found is yet to arise for me today.