Tarn and I go for a daily walk in our neighborhood. Many of our neighbors are doing the same these days, as it is one of the ‘safe’ activities amid social distancing recommendations to help stem the spread of Coronavirus. Today, as we walk the final block before returning home, we notice a couple of women talking near the local mailboxes. As we engage the conversation, I notice a natural circle developing, everyone mindful of the six to ten feet rule. The circle attracts another neighbor and soon we have a mandala of five people and a dog called Simba.
We talk about the beautiful weather and, of course, the virus. It is heart-warming to hear kind words and a little laughter. Six feet of distance does not mean we do not talk with each other, especially outside in the fresh air. I imagine we are gathered around a campfire, swapping yarns and generally enjoying each other’s company. Even though it is obvious we may have differing political views, as one of the women notes, “This crisis is not about politics and ideologies, it is about coming together for a common purpose (my paraphrase).”
It is unfortunate it takes a particularly intense global crisis to bring humans together. Maybe it will foster an interest in sustaining a compassionate sense of interconnection after the adversity passes. Regardless, this is a wonderful opportunity to recognize the natural goodness of people. It reveals the source of Dharma is in the ordinary moments of life. Buddha was not teaching us something we do not know, he was simply reminding us of what we forget when we get too self-absorbed.
Sure, there are some political grumbles and some folks out there think this crisis is some kind of conspiracy. Others are hoarding food and, of all things, toilet paper. Fear makes us do some crazy things. But that should not distract us from helping those who are losing their livelihood and/or being directly affected through illness. When there is a shared need we instinctively muster our inner strength and gather our external resources, making an offering to ease the suffering of others.
I visualize micro social-distance mandalas (of healthy people) sprouting up outside in neighborhoods and in the countryside. This is not always possible or appropriate everywhere as the virus spreads, but in many areas we can talk, laugh, and maybe strategize how we can help. Even in Italy where many are self-quarantined, they are opening apartment windows and singing. It makes me realize how my mind sometimes makes the Dharma complicated when it is right here, right now, echoing through our simple humanity.