Friday, March 27, 2020

Relationship Survival in Tight Quarters

Not everyone is able, or willing to abide by shelter-in-place recommendations at this time.  But for the rest of us, this way of existing can bring up some unique challenges.  One of them is: how to live together with others when some of the ordinary avenues of escape are cut off???

First, my credibility statement!  I'm inspired to write this because over the past couple of years, my partner and I have managed bay-area rental rates by sharing a single room in a community house.  We are blessed by having a living room to spread out to, and I also have a training hall where I go do noisy kicks and punches.  But our personal space is the same room, and we're both people who really enjoy a sense of space that is just our own.  We've survived, and thrived, by using some simple principles that I'd love to share with you.

Last fall Marya went on a trip that she didn't at first expect to accompany me on.  I had rented a "tiny home" from airbnb for just me,  but  thought "it will be fine if I just keep this rental and we share it," when it turned out she could come along.  The house turned out to be very tiny, and it required all of our skills to navigate living in close quarters for that week!  Fortunately, by applying compassionate communication and personal inner practice, the experience ended up bringing us CLOSER together.

Here are three principles you may wish to apply!

1. Use the tech and life-hacks at your disposal!

One thing that really made our time in the tiny home together work was that Marya had recently invested in a set of noise-cancelling headphones.  When it came time to turn things down for the evening and I wanted to read a book while she wanted to watch a show, she could just put on her headphones and we had created a shared space without anyone having to compromise.

Similarly, when I wanted to go to sleep before her show was over, I made use of an eye-mask that I had purchased at the local coop to reduce light-disturbance.  I simply darkened my own space, and she could use the shared space to finish her chosen activities.

Is there simple technology you could use to make your situation easier for you all to manage?  A room divider, perhaps?  Maybe even build yourself a fort in the back yard or the living room as necessary!

One of the best internal "technologies" I know of is having an agreement on "Green, Yellow, or Red Light".  Green means, "go ahead, everything's normal and fun!"  Yellow means, "I need a little  more care right now - please be cautious."  And Red is, "Stop, please leave me alone so I can regulate myself."  If household members agree to respect each other's lights, a great deal of unnecessary stress can be avoided!

2. Employ the Gottman Ratio

The Gottman institute's research has shown that relationships thrive when there is a 5 to 1 ratio of five positive, enjoyable, nourishing interactions for every one challenging, painful, or negative interaction.

In human relationships, we're bound to have challenging interactions, that's just part of the deal.  It's an increased likelihood if we're spending more time together in unusual circumstances!  Instead of being worn down by the futility of avoiding challenging interactions, we can increase the positive interactions so that we can keep this ratio balanced.

How might you do this?  You could do something that costs you little - sweeping the floor when it's not your turn, making someone a coffee or tea, etc. - but which brings sweetness and value to your ship-mate's life.  If you do a bunch of these cute and little things during the day, it goes a long way to making your shared time together feel wholesome and nourishing, rather than like an ordeal.

3. Have methods of repair

Finally, I think it's important to know what to do when none of the above works, and things get really hard.  You've had to call "red light" on someone because you were being too much of a butthead, or they were.  It might seem easy to let things die down and go back to "normal" but usually this subtly injures the relationship and can add up over time.

If you've been a jerk today, you might want to go back and explain yourself (I had to with Marya already today).  Let them know why you acted the way you did and that it's not your intention to make their life harder.  This goes a long way to helping them keep the intention not to make your life harder! 

If they've been a jerk to you, perhaps let them know how that landed for you and what might make things feel right.  Be willing to do what would make it feel right to them when the roles are reversed.  Understand that we're going to make mistakes, but mistakes don't have to be permanent.

When we allow for and focus on relational repair in this way, we're aiming the relationship toward mutual thriving.  We're making a potent statement through our actions that we care for the other and want them to care for us - so we can get through this together.

What if I'm sheltering alone?
Well don't worry buddy, the same rules can apply to you.

What's your tech?  It's doing the right workout for your body's needs, it's having music that can help tune your mind, it's taking supplements and eating foods that keep you healthy and happy.  It's also knowing when you're in a "Red Light" and being willing to just give yourself a break - take a nap, watch a movie, unplug from everything for a minute and let the system settle itself.

What's your Gottman Ratio?  Focus on the positives.  Instead of waiting for the feelings of boredom or despair to creep over you, find 5 things you want to do today?  Do you want to accomplish a writing project, a reading project, a fitness goal?  Do you want to help someone else?  There are plenty of ways to have enjoyable experiences today - if you focus on those rather than on wondering what might go wrong, you'll be more prepared when challenges DO come up.

What's your repair?  It's all about staying out of guilt and shame.  If you reach the end of the day and realize you haven't been living your values for the last 18 hours, the worst thing you can do is to shame yourself.  The best thing you can do is ask within: "How can I make this right?"  And listen for the answer.  Usually the answer is just "try again tomorrow after a good night's sleep!"

I hope these suggestions give you some easy ways to survive tight quarters and face the interesting times we find ourselves in with curiosity, inner strength, and compassion!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The New-Habit Crucible

Have you heard the thing about how it takes 21 days to make a new habit?

That's what was on my mind when I conceived of this blog post.  A lot of the world is sequestered away in social distancing protocols and some of the initial recommendations aimed toward doing that for two or three more weeks.  I thought: 'Wow! What a powerful time to work on making some different habits!'

But the truth is, we don't actually know how long this is going to be going on.  With the way science works, you never can tell when a chance insight will change EVERYTHING, but with the way complexity works, you never can tell how a disease is going to progress.  The wonderful thing here is, though, that the 21 day habit thing is actually not a scientific figure.  Habits can take anywhere between 18 days and 9 months to change!  So while we're in this altered lifestyle for an unknown duration, we could also be working on making changes - without needing to know exactly how long that process might take.

The thing I want to share with you here doesn't have much to do with duration, it has to do with change.  The meditators of old, they prized moments of change because they felt that the mind could be more available or pliable than at other times.  This is perhaps why there's an old trope about the Zen master throwing the student in the creek, or the yoga teacher hitting you with a muddy sandal.  The idea is that by startling one out of habitual tunnel-vision, new insights could be gained.

This is also part of why practices for the "post-death state" are central in much of Tibetan Buddhism. According to their way of thought, when you die, it's impossible to conceive of yourself in the same way as you did just moments before, when you had a body and a certain set of relationships.  This period is called the Bardo, and in that style of meditation is said to be a time when one could make great strides in practice.

You don't have to believe in a Buddhist type of reincarnation to benefit from this idea.  A "Bardo" really just means any "inbetween" time - a liminal period.  If you're one of the people who's employment is threatened right now, there may be a big part of your life that you had identified which feels MUCH less substantial.  Those of us who have healthy or unhealthy relationships that we depend upon may feel shocked or disgruntled at the lack of human contact while secluding - those relationships are feeling less substantial too.  All of this is uncomfortable, but it can also be very useful.

While many of our habits have been forcefully broken by external factors, we find ourselves in a liminal zone, an inbetween country.  If you're not used to this land, it's not pleasant.  But the ancient meditators advised us to rejoice when we find ourselves somewhere like this - because while part of our lives is being shaken up, we have access to many of our habits and behaviors.  We can get in there and make changes we've been longing to make, but were too scared, tired, or resistant.

What changes should we make?  Well, that's up to you - but I'll tell you what inspired this blog today, the clear skies that we're seeing all over planet earth with fewer cars on the road, fewer factories in operation.  The habit of pollution and consumption has been one that we earthlings have been realizing needs to change NOW, but our ways of living have been so ingrained that it's been nearly impossible to conceive of changing our lives that enormously.

We have all just changed our lives that enormously.  And the best news is that we've done it to help each other.  Humans all over have banded together to behave in ways that can protect the most vulnerable among us.

What if we were just getting started?  What if the gardens people started now as a way to fill time became a new habit, and we started conquering food waste, carbon releasing agriculture, deforestation, and diesel use (for food transport) all at one go - while making ourselves healthier in the process.  What if the yoga and meditation we practiced via the many free offerings abounding became a regular part of our lives and we walked forth that much calmer and more ready to tackle the challenges of an ever changing world.

What seemed enormous just a few weeks ago now seems like child's play compared to the muscles we've discovered we have in facing this pandemic.  So, knowing you have this strength, what will you change?  Will you take the low hanging fruit of simply unplugging your most wasteful electrical devices?  Will you grow some of your food at home, or support local CSAs and learn to cook at home?  What habits can you install NOW while everything is up in the air?

We're living in frightening times, and confusing ones, but there are also gifts.  We're being given a glimpse of our own inner strength, our interconnection, and some of us have even gained more time to dream into new ways of being.  Will you take advantage with me and make new habits that help us all share the world in a good way???

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

At home in the void

A lot of us feel like we're sort of between-the-worlds right now

There are a lot of questions alive about what our society might look like in the coming days, month, years.  Or, closer to home, what my own life might look like: Will my job come back?  Will American democracy or economy continue to exist in a recognizable form?

When such uncertainty is upon us, it can be easy to spiral down into a well of worry or frustration, and that is UNCOMFORTABLE.  So I wanted to offer a couple of notions here in case you could use support in facing the uncertainty of the moment.

It would be easy to offer a pat Buddhist response - that we are always in a state of uncertainty and change, whether we know/admit it or not.  But that kind of answer isn't very comforting.  There's a reason we don't usually like to think about that, and to have it brought back up when we need a lil comfort is not always a kind move!

At the same time, many of us could come into a more functional relationship with the Unknown.  Often we like the unknown on our terms.  We like a surprise ending to our mystery novels, we'd like to fall in love once or twice in our lives, but more than that, the unknown can become downright inconvenient.

And so, when the unknown rears its head unmistakably in our lives - in ways we can't ignore - it can be an experience we haven't cultivated many tools for.  We do the best we can, we stay afloat (or we don't), but what if there was a way we could use these times?  What if there was a way to relate with this energy of uncertainty that made our lives richer, our minds sharper, and our hearts more open?

It is possible, but we need to take the hard step of learning to make a home in the void.  Ok, now I get to give you my Zen line - we already live there anyway.  My favorite meme I saw online said something like, "Let go of the idea that you're surrendering control, you never had control so all you're surrendering is anxiety!"  Wow.

But how challenging can it be to surrender the illusion of control in this way?!  Zen practitioners and other non-dual specialists are supposed to be experts at this - but I personally figured out how to use Zen practice to try to get more control: control over my mind, control over circumstances around me - all wasted efforts.

Real Zen practice is to sit within the void and get comfortable there.  It's based on this fundamental realization that we have no choice about whether we're going to be in the void... it underpins our existence - sometimes we get a reprieve from noticing it, other times it's impossible to ignore!  What we do get a choice about is whether we make ourselves comfortable there.

And this IS  a choice.  Comfort isn't actually coming from circumstances.  We all know that some of the richest people in the world are the most depressed and anxious, and some of the poorest are among the most joyful.  True bravery has arisen amidst the deepest terror, and real compassion amidst the most severe discomfort.  Our inner states are something that radiate from within us, not something that comes from circumstances.  This is what makes integrity possible.  You get to choose.

We don't get to choose our circumstances. That is confusing the Unknown for the Known.  We try to choose our circumstances, but we actually miss a chance to find out what might be possible.  When the void arises and we startle back with fear, we're likely to apply any sense of knowing that comes easily to hand.  Enter our negativity bias.  Within the vast space of wide possibility we ask ourselves "I wonder what the worst possible scenario might be?" and because this known is more comfortable than the void, we might even cling to it - cycle it over and over in our minds.

But there are other options.  We could ask ourselves "what might be the best case scenario?"  If this seems far too optimistic to you, please consider that if you're not asking this at least as often as about the worst case scenario, you're not a realist, you're a pessimist.  That's fine if that's what you like, but it can get quite uncomfortable, not to mention have deleterious health-effects!

An ancient yogic training teaches us to start by learning to ask of the void, "I wonder what wonderful things might come about from this?" rather than taking the pre-facilitated low-road of our primate brains and automatically bracing ourselves for stress.  When we do this, we're beginning to grow an extremely important skill of having a "positivity bias" rather than just a "negativity bias".  This allows us to see new and different options, and gives us new capacities to regulate the stress response in our body.

Only after this is a yogin advised to begin to open up and dwell in the reality that we don't know anything about anything at all.  We're instructed to take our time, and step by step drop the arrogance of "knowing," at least a few times each day.  If we're sweet about it, we might come to recognize that the Void is not our enemy.  The masters tell us the Void is more like our mother - the source of possibilities, and a place of rest.  Rather than the endless whirring-stirring of the mind seeking for certainty, we let it go, hold our notions lightly, and be more like the sky than the passing clouds.

When we've come home to our mother, the Void in this way, we're better able to deal with the Known.  Don't think I've forgotten about the very important Known - our lived, practical world!  We're not in some weird spiritual bypass where you can't know anything and we all get to contradict each other in an infinite game of one-upsmanship!  (ick).  The Known is what's right in front of us, the world of tangible effects.  One Buddhist teacher gives a whole talk on how a pen is not a pen - it has Voidness - but then he says in true Zen style, "if you don't think this is a pen, come up and i'll draw a mustache on you!"

The Known is what's right in front of us.  We'll need enough food to feed ourselves - so will the families down the block.  We should probably not breathe on too many of each other for a while, stay at home.  If you don't pay the Netflix bill, you won't have that kind of entertainment later tonight.  When we're not trying to make the Known out of the Unknown these day-to-day matters actually become quite a bit easier!  They're easier because they're not bearing the weight of all of our fears and nightmares.  They're just the tasks that need doing so we can care for self and other.  Wash your hands, disinfect the doorknob, check on your friends, donate to a food bank, sleep enough, exercise, repeat.

In Yogic practice, the world of the Known becomes "ornaments of the Void". We begin to take appearances lightly and use them to create art.  That's all we can truly do, and what a relief.  We no longer try to make the world of tasks and appearances give us certainty and ease - it doesn't have that power.  We bring the certainty of our VALUES, the ease of our loving HEARTS, and we apply them to the tasks of our real lives.  

So, my friends I invite you: rest with me in uncertainty.  It will feel unfamiliar, but if you practice a bit, it will begin to feel unfamiliar like a comedian setting you up for a REALLY FUNNY JOKE, unfamiliar like falling in love, unfamiliar like an orgasm that blasts the thoughts right out of your mind, or like waiting to see what the sunset will look like tonight over the ocean.  We can bring all that wide-open possibility down into the simple acts of making a better world together - step by step, task by task, helping each other in each new moment.

Friday, March 13, 2020

How to do a contemplative retreat

There is power in the re-frame.

I saw a great lil meme today that said we need to re-brand "social distancing" - say instead something like "I've been exiled for the good of the realm!" because it's so much cooler.  Or another recommended using "solidarity distancing".  I like it.

Personally, I've recently become practiced at spending long periods without much social interaction, events, or entertainment, but it's certainly not what a lot of us are used to.  In addition to the fears about what our own health, or the health of our society might come to, feeling socially isolated right now might feel like an additional strain.

With all this, I was reminded of a line from a famous text, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, in which the author recommends avoiding "frequent trips outside."  The yogin recommends this as a way to help hone the type of concentrated mind that the practitioner in retreat aims toward.  This injunction is reminding me of today of the fact that even small changes can induce in us profoundly altered states of consciousness.

A biohacker who's podcasts I've been following recently, Ben Greenfield, makes no pretense about the fact that he uses psychedelics regularly.  Before experimenting with those external agents though, he recommends any aspiring psychonauts to experiment with fasting or three days camping alone.  These simple and drug-free practices can induce intense changes in consciousness and a lot of it is because we are changing our HABITS.  Many humans crave the consciousness-altering effects of drugs, but we get nervous when our consciousness is altered by a change in personal lifestyle patterns.  What if we could learn to love the feeling of being altered even when it's not by our own choice?

So as I'm in a bit of my own contemplative retreat today, I wanted to share some notes with you about how you might feel moved to utilize this vast movement inward that many of us are experiencing to create a mini contemplative retreat practice of your own.  

Here are five easy steps.

1. Have an intention
Like I said in the beginning, there's a power in the framing of things.  Staying home because you "have to," because things are cancelled is much more of a bummer than staying home because you want to protect others, or explore your heart and mind.

So think, what are some goals you have that would be facilitated by spending concentrated time at home, or by yourself?  One of mine is rest and recharging (as an introvert, keeping a full social schedule can be quite depleting for me).  Perhaps you want to create a habit of meditating or praying more?  Maybe there's a craft project you long to do.  Make the intention and you'll be tapping into some of the deep power of your human mind and spirit.

2. Meditate more than usual
In order to do a contemplative retreat, you don't have to stick to a prescribed schedule of meditation.  If we're thinking about the principle above of generating altered states by changing our patterns, then all you have to do is meditate more than usual.  If you don't meditate at all, it might mean trying once per day.  People who already do 2 sessions per day might want to go for three or four.  You'll know when you hit the "sweet spot" you'll start experiencing more clarity or insight than you ordinarily do.

You can also know if you've gone too far because your emotions may get raw, or you might start to feel stir crazy or get cabin fever - walk it back a little bit and watch a movie!

But if you play your cards right, you'll get a sense of why people do meditation in retreat.  There's something about not going outside about a bunch of errands that helps collect the mind.  Something about not managing all the social niceties of interacting with acquaintances that allows something within to get calmer than usual.  Take advantage! 

3. Do some movement
You might be avoiding the gym right now, or you might just be taking a much needed recharge.  Or maybe being free of a commute has left you with some extra free time.  In any case, it's a great time to do some mindful movement practice at home.

In a traditional meditation retreat, a yogin would break up periods of stillness with yogic exercises.  These would keep the body limber  for all that sitting, but even more importantly, these movements were thought to open the meridian channel network and support deeper states of relaxation - like a self-acupuncture session in a way.

Now's a great time to do some yoga, qigong, or tai chi, as well as go for a walk, or even practice some rebounding or body-weight exercises.  Relish the power of exercise to restore the body and also keep the mind fresh and vital.

4. Take in the wisdom
As the mind gets quieter, there's a lot of space.  That space itself is a relief and a wonderful thing, but it's also useful because it can be the openness where new insights can arise.  If we expose ourselves to deep questions, wise words, or potent teachings from this stance of openness, we can help the mind grow toward states of even greater comfort and ease.

It's also easy to get whipped into a frenzy if we're exposing our mind to fearmongers or the type of bickering that can be nourished by social media interactions.  A wonderful practice during a mild contemplative retreat is to place intention around what kind of information we want to take in.  Expose your mind to things that will edify you and steer clear of those which disempower.

5. Set the boundary
The last key is one of the most potent, it's creating a container, which makes what you're doing a sacred practice.  This goes right in line with your intention setting at the beginning, but it's about how you choose to behave for the duration of your contemplative retreat.  In ancient practice, this is referred to as the retreat boundary.

There are inner boundaries and outer boundaries.  For some yogis, they would mark out a piece of land and not leave the borders for a set period of time, but a different kind of retreat means that you'll take a specific state of mind and resolve to keep it, no matter what.

For your contemplative retreat, the boundary might be quite simple - "I commit to meditating for at least 15 minutes per day for the next three days."  Or it could be multifaceted "I will meditate in three periods, I'll keep a vegetarian diet, I'll endeavor to go to bed by 10:30pm, but sleep as late as I wish, I'll limit my social media interaction to 45 minutes per day."  or the like.  It could even be something like "I'll only use my cellphone as a phone, and not a mobile computer to check every 10 minutes!"

ANY of these personal commitments can create enough change in habits to enable the mind to experience some dramatic shifts, and these shifts can be wonderful contributors to our growth, wisdom, and happiness!

During this time when many are staying home for the good of others, it may feel like a big shift, but with the power of intentionality, one can utilize these pattern disruptions to lever the mind into greater states of openness, freedom, and love than ever before.  Who's up for some contemplative retreat?

Thursday, March 12, 2020

An Integral, Buddhist Approach to the COVID Pandemic

Here I am, cancelling in-person meetings for the next couple of weeks as a precautionary measure, based on information that has been coming to light about this virus outbreak in the last couple of days.

Meanwhile, on my social media feeds, it seems like people are responding to this news in the same way they respond to most news - by acting out the responses of different developmental waves.  I'm about to do the same, but hopefully from the Integral wave!

What do I mean by these developmental "waves"?  Well, I learned about it through the work of philosopher Ken Wilber, which draws heavily on the research of psychologist Clare Graves.  Graves proposed that human development is an open-ended process, and grows through some recognizable stages.  It is proposed in Integral Theory that the vantage points below this stage called "Integral" are unable to see the value in each others points of view, and thus are constantly fighting with each other.

Being a world-bridger like I am, I have plenty of friends who are expressing views from these different vantage points.  The Rational/Modernist wave seems to be the most reasonable, basing recommendations on data and research from organizations like the WHO.  This stance can though, at times, get quite judgmental of any other perspective - and not just internally judgmental, downright mean about it.  There is also a large vocalization from the Postmodern/Worldcentric wave, who will be quick to point out that if we had universal healthcare in America, or a universal basic income, we could avoid a lot of hardship.  The Traditional/Mythic-Membership bloc wants you to know that the media is constantly concocting hoaxes that contradict the word of the supreme leader, and you shouldn't believe the hype.  Then you have some outliers from way back down in the Tribal-Animistic wave who say the best way to heal disease is to hurl the right magic prayers and talismans at it.

Personally, I find it painful to live in a world where bickering is a constant - everyone playing a constant game of "Who's Right?" and trying to shout down other worldviews in defense of their own. This is why to me, the phrase from Integral Theory that says "no one's wrong 100% of the time" is so refreshing!

What does this mean?  It memes that if we can get out of our bunkers, we can see that diverse views are not always just another reason to start a fight.  We can relate first from our common humanity, and likely learn a lot from each other.

A common fight I see is where someone coming from a Worldcentric vantage point, with a holistic view reminds us that we mustn't succumb to fear-mongering tactics because all we need to do is make our immune system strong by vibrating with love (or the herbal product they're about to sell you)!

They're not actually wrong about love boosting one's immune system - that's an evidence-based claim.  Where it gets problematic is when this claim is used to minimize the fears of others.  We get so addicted to our stances and the truth we've come to see that we feel we have to fight all other possible worldviews.

It doesn't occur to such a person that someone may be engaging in social distancing practices for the sake of others who are immune compromised and might need a lil more than "love" to keep them thriving.  When we're dug into evangelizing or defending our vantage point, finer nuances and alternate perspectives get lost quickly!

Similarly, those of us with a zeal for science may get so locked down into our viewpoints that we dismiss out of hand ideas that might be important to consider.  It seems obvious - from a scientific worldview - to dismiss "magical thinking", and to go so far as to attempt to shame or ostracize those we accuse and convict of such thinking.  The truth is, though, that prayer, ritual, tradition, visualization, and the like have profound effects on our body and mind.  These ancient tools CAN boost immune response, but additionally they can help people find meaning in a time that is lonely, help communities come to a new vision when old paradigms are crashing down, and sometimes even hold hidden causative factors that, when discovered, form the basis of new scientific and medical breakthroughs.

We ALL lose when we use our own vantage points as weapons and dig ourselves deeper into reactive cognitive dissonance.

That's the Integral part.

The Buddhist part includes two practices:

The first is a practice of radical empathy.  Instead of coming to each engagement asking what we've been acculturated to ask:  "how is this person wrong?" we can come to relationships asking a different question: "how can we share?"

I don't just mean aiming toward sharing our own viewpoint....  Haven't you noticed yet how ineffective this is?  When we share our viewpoint within our own echo chamber, we of course get agreement.  But outside the echo chamber, when our main intention is to convince another?  You'll get very little in the way of great results.

Sharing equally and with empathy, on the other hand, allows us to come together and see each others' perspectives.  The worst case scenario is that you'll do no worse than when you were trying to get your point across - they still won't get it.  But the best case scenario is that not only will you learn a lot about their point of view, maybe even broaden your own understanding - but by your example, others will often become more open to hearing your point of view.  It's like some strange Daoist paradox - the more you give up intending to win, the more winning you'll do!

So that's the first Buddhist part - Empathy!  The second half of the Buddhist message is this:  In the midst of so many ways to respond to troubling news, let's act in the way that is likely to prevent the most harm.

Sure, you might believe that this is all a hoax somehow created to rob you of income or productive days at work, but what if it isn't?  There are very good projections of how this current virus progresses based on what has already happened in China and in Italy.  To take a cautious approach now could mean preventing an overwhelming spread of disease that completely outpaces our healthcare system's ability to handle it - and that means that the most vulnerable people die.

From my place of privilege as an early middle-aged person who eats a lot of vegetables and meditates and exercises all week, I'm not too concerned with my own immune system.  But I am concerned with my friends who have autoimmune or other conditions that leave them less privileged than myself.

I certainly don't dismiss conspiracy theories (have you SEEN our government?!?), and I love the power of mantras and essential oils and compassion, but if cancelling a meeting can prevent human suffering, I'm willing to cancel the meeting.

And hey, if it was overly cautious... you can always complain really loud after it all blows over!  You'll still have a chance to complain, be counter-culture and fight!  Someone will always be there willing to fight you!

Not everyone has the financial privilege or work-flexibility to engage in more extreme social-distancing precautions, but for those of us who do, what does it hurt for us to help make worst-case-scenarios a little less likely?

The final Buddhist message is this:  Before the WHO announced pandemic status and everyone started treating this outbreak as a serious issue, I had this intuition:  "America needs to do a meditation retreat, take this opportunity to go within!"   I share this with you as an option during these times - if you have the opportunity, take a moment to live simply, go within, recharge your system.  Let the power of rest come and claim your body and mind for a week or so.  Recharge yourself with empathy, close the door and take the armor off for a few days.  Let's take a collective pause in solidarity together during these chaotic times and envision something NEW, more functional, and more fulfilling than ever before!  My prayers, mantras, and hand-washings are with you!