In Times of Crisis, Draw Upon the Strength of Peace by Kaira Jewel Lingo 

As published 17 June 2020,

Offered by A.M. on October 29, 2020

At many temples in Asia, one encounters statues and paintings of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. Avalokitesvara is sometimes portrayed as female, sometimes male, so we could say they are transgender—and also transcending gender. In some depictions, Avalokitesvara has a thousand arms, symbolizing all the skillful means they have of responding to suffering, and on each of these arms is an eye in the palm of the hand, the eye of wisdom.

We need the eye of wisdom in our palms. If we see deeply into a given situation, then our action will be appropriate action. But if we are caught up in our own story, not seeing the situation in its depth, in its complexity, then our action may actually cause more harm than good. We need to act, but it is also vital that we see clearly.

In those moments when it feels like there’s no way to keep going, that whatever is happening is too much, how do we touch into that sense of space? If we can breathe in and out, putting our mind on our breathing, we create space. We slow things down and let our nervous systems recalibrate and center. The external situation may not change, but we have changed in relationship to our external situation. And—this may sound weird—we can also create more time. This feeling of pressure, of stress, of not having enough time—it’s partly mind-made. It’s our way of looking, our way of being, that creates this. We get in a rush, we feel pressured, and by simply stopping or pausing we can create some spaciousness. Time becomes fuller. When we meditate, focusing on the present moment, we touch into a place that’s only accessible in the present moment, which is not constrained by our ideas of time.

We can shift our experience of things by this basic practice of being with what is here and now. So much of the stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed comes from all that we are projecting onto the future, all the fear. But in this moment, right here, there is the ability to recognize fear, to be with fear, and to not be swallowed by it. There is non-fear, and we can touch that. But if we’re running, then it’s fear that’s running the show. If we can stop, we have the chance to touch into something deeper than being overwhelmed.

It’s important to ask, how are we taking care of each other? This too is the practice of “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” Before every meeting, we can take a few mindful breaths. There are many companies, organizations, and schools that begin their meetings or classes with a bell so that everyone can take some mindful breaths and re-center themselves. It is beautiful to nourish this connection to each other by stopping in this way. It allows us to be a full human being, not looking at our phones all the time, feeling this constant, chronic internal pressure—the sense of “I can’t actually be here because I need to be there.” That’s not being a full human being. In every interaction, can we stop and nourish ourselves? Can we look clearly, slow down enough to see each other, to see this person needs support, this person is about to burn out? Can we bring in elements of play, joy, humor, surprise, and appreciation?

As we work, it is also important to celebrate our successes and accomplishments throughout the process, not just when our project is complete. This keeps the freshness alive and keeps us connected to the goodness of our work rather than simply focused on some distant outcome at the end. It’s also true that there is no way to celebration, celebration is the way!

There is so much that needs to be done, so much suffering to respond to as humanity heads ever faster toward peril and destruction. If we are to help bring about peace and relieve this suffering, we must act and live in ways that create peace now, in each moment. Seeing with the eye of wisdom in our palm, we can act without expectation while nourishing our connection and joy. We must not forget to take care of ourselves and each other so that we don’t burn out. Sometimes, rather than letting urgency rule the day, that may mean pausing to go to the beach. We can deeply attend to our breath and our steps, knowing this will only strengthen us for the significant work ahead.

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© 2020 Chrysanthemum Sangha