Facing Pandemic Fears with an Awake Heart

Tara Brach


Poet Martha Pasta Wages. Create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and let these moments right now. Be a pause were you inwardly and feel what is here. What wants attention. Been unwilling to feel. Let yourself touch. What really is living in you right now. Your own perhaps sense of owner ability sorrow fear. You might ask the question that as I as I face. This collective suffering what is being called forth in me. What is it that's being called for? How do you want to be? Who Do you want to be in the midst of this? These are important questions. My French important. Because our prayer as our sensing who do I really WanNa be through this? That has the power to guide us. Many of you know in love this teaching from Zen Master On I circulated at some in the last week or so and it helps me every time I reflect on it. He writes that when the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates. If everyone panicked all would be lost but if even one person on the boat remained. Calm and centered. It was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive. So here we are. We're in the midst of this huge unprecedented uncertainty reactivity in fear and confusion a lot more. Can we be that person? Because in a way we've been training for this each of us in our own ways we've been training how to open more in our personal life to the joys and the sorrows to the fears to the losses within away car. We've been training so if you're intentional right at this juncture in time. If you're intentional how you want to move through this the suffering that arises concern you towards your deepest resources we kind of get back into it into our bravery and into our wisdom and our our love and I'm sure you've seen it in your own life how it's often the periods of suffering the real losses the failures when we actually grow when our consciousness wakes up SOM- so we'll look together now at how these very circumstances of our times the dangers that are presented to our bodies our health our life our loved ones or financial security have these various circumstances can be grounds for compassion. We'll explore that together and I'd like to do this in two parts. I how what's going on and what's coming up in us how we can then create find an inter refuge of love of presence. How can we do that? And the second part is how we can find refuge with each other because if ever there was time for Sanga Ev- ever this world is going to experience truly moving through something holding hands. Whether it's we might call it. Virtually but our hearts together. This is the time so we start with the first and I'd like to name that it's important as we practiced with the fear succumb up as we seek in refuge that we remember that fear is utterly natural and appropriate. When we're facing danger loss I love the language. It's nature's protector. It's telling us to take good care. And in many ways in some parts of the world and with some of US say the United States. We haven't been awake and scared enough to do. We needed to do to prevent as much loss as may becoming. So fear's intelligent part of us and so often when it comes up. There's a sense. Oh I shouldn't be experiencing this. There's something wrong with me for feeling fear in a sense that we should just try to get rid of it so for me. One of the most powerful little practices I do when fear comes. Up Is Mentally. Whisper this belongs. It's like it's a wave in the ocean and it belongs so fear's natural it's intelligent and the challenge as we know is that if we don't know how to be mindful of fear. Fear possesses us. Panic can become truly debilitating when we get hijacked by fear we lose contact with our with our most recently evolved part of our brain our frontal. We we lose contact with compassion. We lose contact with perspective with humor with all executive functioning. So I'm it's matter matter of degree of course but fear when it takes over causes a tremendous amount of suffering and in a pandemic it's contagious so can become widespread and it becomes one of the greatest dangers of pandemic. So again that question. Can we be that person in the boat who feels the intelligence of the fear but knows how to hold it with? Mindfulness and with compassion. Because this is where the training and mindfulness comes in and we're going to explore it bringing rain which is a we've of mindfulness and compassion to fear at first to say on many of you are probably aware that along with my colleague Jack Cornfield. I teach a mindfulness teacher. Certification Program and a number of people in the current cohort are from China and several of them reported in. They told us that the Chinese government has just officially recommended that to reduce stress and report community during these times. Everybody in China. She practiced mindfulness meditation. So I heard this kind of celebrated. It's pretty cool. And some of you might know that I and a couple of colleagues are currently offering webinars. Mindfulness webinars to the House of Representatives and staff. So here we are now waiting for the official word that we're supposed to do physical distancing washing hands quieting our minds and arriving in presence. May It be so so? Let's take a look at. We find that inner refuge of calm in the midst of the storm for ourselves and for the sake of others and we begin. I'd like to start by saying when fear is really strong. When it's the level of panic and trauma were what's called outside the window of tolerance. And that's A. That's a phrase from my friend and colleague Dan Siegel Great Psychiatrist. And he describes the window of tolerance for within a fears within it. Then we can bring mindfulness and compassion and really transform our relationship to it but when it gets outside the window of tolerance we first need to calm down our nervous system. We need to do some a reducing of the activation of the sympathetic nervous system of fight flight freeze so there are a number of ways we can do this and you are probably familiar with them. They're all forms of nurturing ourselves. Helping US feel some sense of safety in love and one of them that is so helpful is breathing along deep breath breathing and counting to five and the in breath and then coming to five and the out breath and if you can do that for a few minutes ten minutes fifteen minutes you totally shift your nervous system. Route other ways of calming fight flight freeze grounding and that means feeling gravity feeling your belonging to the earth part of grounding might be to touch the fabric of what you're wearing into sense the the surface of the desk or the material of your chair named something you're seeing in the room so that you're bringing yourself into the here now with your

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