Lucia Perillo’s poem “I Could Name Some Names” has these timely lines:
Remember to breathe. “Breathe in suffering and breathe out blessing,” say the ancient dharma texts.
This has become my new meditation.
Breathe in suffering—face it, acknowledge it, accept it, even welcome it. It is certainly the one things that keeps us connected with every other living being on the planet. And always has been. But now more obviously. No one has been spared the pandemic, I may have the smoke of the fire, you may have the deluge of rain, but regardless of the details, we both are suffering.
And as Buddha noted in his first precept—Life Is Suffering. We all experience heartache, heartbreak, loss, disappointment, mortality. No one gets out of this alive. If only we would breathe in this inescapable truth rather than turn to all the distractions and reactions that cause more suffering, both to ourselves and others. Breathe it in. Embrace it. Take it as the dues paid for a human incarnation.
And then on the outbreath comes the blessing. Since we are united in suffering, we all deserve the blessing that helps us bear up, that softens it, that balances it with genuine joy in the sheer miracle of being alive. Lesson number one of the pandemic— find pleasure and solace in the small things, let go of all the crazed hyper-speed power-hungry ambitions you thought you needed to keep going. Attend, notice, pay attention, slow down, find the joy of travel moving from one room to another.
Breath itself is the ultimate gift. Compromised now by the mask that warns us to beware of what particles we breathe, by the Air Quality Index that makes breathing outside yet more life-threatening, by the officially sanctioned barbaric police who denied Eric Garner and George Floyd their right to breathe (and are still walking free).
So while we can and as we can, breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in the suffering of this world, breathe out your blessing to it. All of us. Together. Now.