In the monastery we have prepared a special box. It contains everything we have for use in case one of the community members gets the virus. So we have everything together in advance to help us nurse someone in isolation (gloves, hand sanitiser, aprons, masks etc.). We also have a nursing procedure written out to help us to look after the patient without spreading the virus. We are doing our best practically and preparing ourselves mentally to accept whatever happens. Today we also placed a small, brightly coloured, yellow box – which will remain empty – within the larger box. The idea is that this little yellow box is a symbol. It is there to remind us that if we look on with wisdom (yellow is the colour of wisdom in all my art work) this will keep a little bit of the heart and mind empty and safe in the midst of the crisis. As we look on with wisdom this creates emptiness in the mind – there is a little detachment, no grasping within the mind. The source of true emptiness, of freedom, lies right there at whatever we are giving our attention to, not in some other place. We find a refuge not by running away but by facing the truth of the situation. Seeing the truth the mind becomes the truth, everlasting, ineffable.
So this little box-within-the-box is a symbol of the true transcendent. It is there to help us to stay light, to keep a light touch, while still fully acknowledging the seriousness of the situation and giving our full attention to dealing with it. This is very different from keeping a little bit of the mind empty, staying a little bit spaced out; which is the old hippy way, perhaps, not the way of mindfulness, of wisdom and compassion.
We would like to wish you all the inner joy of the little yellow box.
Or perhaps we think that if we are really compassionate we should be depressed and anxious about the whole thing? Wouldn’t be very good for the immune system would it? Or be positive and think we will not get it, or that we will be alright if we do, that could make us careless, couldn’t it? No, I think the right way is neither extreme, it is the calm, caring, mindful middle-way of the little yellow box.
I offer this for your reflection