Covid and Our Changing Lives

The Governor of Missouri stated that all adults in my state will be eligible for the Covid 19 vaccine on April 9th. I can only assume other states will put similar things in place. That’s good news to me because I’ve been waiting for my turn. That’s not to say the Pandemic is over. I think some aspects of this will change our lives forever.

I think Coronavirus is to Millenials what 9/11 was to Gen X’ers like me. Or it is to Gen Z what 9/11 was to Millenials. It’s a watershed moment, we’re all going to remember what it felt like for the rest of our lives.

A great many people said things like “2020 is the worst year ever!” And to me it feels like 2020 is really coming to an end now, three months after the official end.

It’s been a roller-coaster for me.

I gave up on a meditation group I was trying to establish. It was costing me too much money to rent a space. Giving that up was hard for me. I really want to share meditation practice with people, but it is what it is. There are so many places people can go for that in Kansas City. If I could work for someone else as a meditation teacher instead of trying to make my own opportunities I think I’d like that. Some of this was because I really wanted a new spiritual community after I got uncomfortable in my old one (the rime center) a few years ago.

I traveled to Washington DC in March to meet with members of Congress as a representative of Federal workers. That was an amazing experience. I met then-Senator Kamala Harris, among many other people. The last time I was around a crowd was a rally on the lawn of the US Capitol. This was all for my labor union. I was elected to a leadership position near the end of the year. Representing workers that need help feels like a calling to me.

When I got back from that trip in March things changed. That sticks in my memory.

I found out I have the gene for a heart condition and I’ll have to see a cardiologist every year for the rest of my life, but I’m considered low risk as far as this dangerous condition goes. I call it “the other kind of broken heart”

Lots of people had bigger struggles with Covid than me. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work from home for the last year. Alicia has as well. We know how lucky we are and how many people have not been lucky. If/when we have to return the transition will be hard.

Speaking of Alicia. We got married this year. We had planned a big reception, which we felt the need to cancel (we’re having a big first anniversary party in September) so we just had a small simple wedding. It was wonderful. I can say this relationship is the best I’ve ever had by far. I have the family I’ve always wanted.

We also bought a house in Parkville. (a cute little college town outside of Kansas City, if you’re not local). It took us a long time to find a house with enough space, we have four kids. But we did find a wonderful house and we love it here. I’m building a garden full of Buddha statues in the backyard. I call it “the Buddha Garden” but I’m hoping I come up with a better name.

I’m now meditating and burning incense every day, and working in the garden. I’m chanting too, which was always something that I didn’t like very much. I’ve been doing mantras dedicated to personal transformation.

And it all feels like it’s doing something for me.

I’m coming out of this Pandemic a better person than I was at the beginning. I have some optimism.

A Calm and Even Mind in the Pandemic

The world has stopped.

Well, it hasn’t really. But a whole lot of things have. My kids are out of school for the year. This year school ends at Spring Break. I’m not sad about this time at home with them, but I’m nervous I’ll go back to work before summer.

I’m working from home, and I’m one of the lucky ones. Some people are having to go to work during an outbreak. Other people have lost their jobs.  

It’s a really scary time.

But the worst thing to me is probably the uncertainty. We don’t know when this lockdown will end.

I’ve tried to encourage myself by encouraging others, so I’ve been doing videos every day on my Facebook page (facebook.com/dscharpy). I’m teaching from a text called “The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva.” I haven’t had the opportunity to teach a class on Buddhism in a long time and this is sort of scratching that itch for me, although I’d like the chance to do an in-person version and I’m hoping an opportunity like that appears.

Anyway,

There’s a virtue we talk about in Buddhism called Equanimity. It’s learning to face the storms of life with a calm and even mind. It can be a tremendously difficult thing to cultivate and it’s an area where our meditation practice helps us a great deal.

Equanimity is what helps us when everything is going wrong. Equanimity is what stops us from falling apart in an outbreak, when we feel trapped at home. Bad things come and go in life. There are little disasters and big disasters and life seems full of them. Equanimity is what gives us the ability to say, “Right now it’s like this, what can I do to make it better?” instead of always saying, “Why is this happening to me?”

When people talk about the benefits of meditation practice, they often focusing on attention, or clarity. Equanimity sometimes gets left out. But it’s so important and so needed. The truth is that when we’re better at paying attention, when we’re mindful, when we see the world around us clearly, not taking things so hard comes naturally. We learn how to grow that space between stimulus and response so we can hold the question, “What can I do right now?”

When we feel like we’re going to fall apart, we really need the space for that question.

We’re faced with a disaster right now. I told my kids to keep journals because they’re living through a big historical event and the won’t really understand the implications until later. This outbreak is big and there will be consequences for many years to come.

Returning to stillness is our hope for weathering this storm. If you have a meditation practice, don’t let the disruption to your routine make you stop. And if you don’t have one, it’s a good time to start.

We need more mindful people right now.

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Awakening in the Outbreak

I had a new plan all set up.

I had a new time and place set up for a weekly meditation group and I was cautiously excited about it. I was going to start in early April and hoping people would find me.

Now everything in the city is shut down and I’ve had to cancel that group until further notice. It was pretty discouraging when I realized I’d have to do it.

I don’t know if I’ll end up starting that group or not. The truth is I’m not sure my city needs another meditation community. There are a lot of meditation communities in Kansas City.

There’s just not one that has me teaching. I wonder sometimes if that’s as important as I think it is. That’s not the right word. I don’t think it’s important. I just feel like I have something to contribute as a teacher.

Anyway,

I’m home now. I’m one of the lucky ones sent home from work with pay during this crisis. My kids are home too. School has been canceled for at least a month, so they’re having the joy of watching their teachers teach in videos and doing assignments on their iPads. (I think the North Kansas City School District is doing a good job dealing with this situation. Everything they’re doing for “virtual school” seems to be working)

 

But the thing I really wanted to tell you about is this: I’m teaching online.

I’ve gotten inspired. I’m giving teachings every day. I say it’s to inspire and help others, but really it’s to inspire and help myself.

I’m doing live videos on my facebook page every day.

This is helping me keep it together and if it’s helping anyone else, I think that’s great. I’m giving talks on “The 37 Practices of All Bodhisattvas”

This is a text in 37 parts and I’m doing a dive into each one. We all need connection and encouragement right now. So come and let’s encourage each other.

It’s going to be 37 talks for 37 days, if I can keep up with it. I’m really inspired by the teachings in this text and I think you will be too.

As of this writing I’ve done 7 of them. You can go back and find the old ones, or start where you are, it makes no difference.

https://www.facebook.com/DScharpy/

follow my page and you should get notified when I go live.

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I’m also recording the audio for my podcast, so I’m dropping a new podcast episode every day.

If you’re interested in just audio, check out:

RSS Kansas City Meditation Podcast

 

The version of the text I’m using for these talks is called “Illuminating the 37 Practices of A Bodhisattva” and you can get it here if you’re interested:

Illuminating the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva

and if you’d rather not get on facebook, you can also see the videos on YouTube here:

Daniel Scharpenburg YouTube Channel