Since I was a child, I’ve carried the question, ‘What should I do?’ I’ve looked at the confusing world and wondered how to understand this and respond to that. The question ‘What should I do?’ seems particularly poignant today as we face a global pandemic. What should we, people embedded in wealth, security, and relationships, do?
Bodhisattvas (beings who aspire to work for the benefit of all) tackle this question directly. They see that everyone is suffering and needs help. We who are on the path of practice are also Bodhisattvas. So how do we tackle this question and help in sustainable, effective ways?
Fundamentally, we must come home to our own goodness. Goodness is there to guide us. Practicing well, by which I mean repeatedly and regularly bringing ourselves back in touch with our interbeing nature, allows us to touch our internal goodness. This goodness, this lovingkindness, is more than our personal goodness; it belongs to all and is concerned for all. It excludes nothing, even ourselves. When we are intimate with this goodness we naturally know what to do. Right action flows from our goodness as surely as breath follows breath, footstep follows footstep.
In order to be in touch with the wisdom of our goodness (or, said another way, the wisdom of our awakened mind) we must give ourselves space. The coronavirus offers this space. Our lives have been upended, our daily schedules cleared so that we have time to deeply touch the source of our goodness.
How we touch this goodness varies from moment to moment and person to person. None will do it identically, so there’s no one right way. The most reliable guide is your own heart. How are you led to find space in this moment? And now, in this moment? And again, in this one? You might discover that extra meditation supports you now, while walking in the woods supports you later. You may choose to collect information now, then enjoy a news fast later. You may need to be with others or be alone, active or still, grieving or smiling. No one can tell you what’s right. Your own open heart is the most reliable guide.
We are inter-beings. Rather than existing as separate selves, we are all deeply, inextricably bound. The pandemic sweeping humanity is a mindfulness bell waking us to this truth. Seen one way, knowing we inter-are points out the vulnerability of no escape: COVID will sweep through the whole of this great human organism. But seen another way, inter-being is liberating because it means we don’t have to solve everything. We need only do what our facet of universal goodness calls us to do.
Hands have many fingers; fingers that work together to hold, soothe, and heal. The pinky feels no need to grasp like the thumb; the index finger shirks no duties to the rest. Each finger is most useful when it allows itself to be itself. So too with each of us. We don’t need to take on the totality of this pandemic. We simply need to see what is in front of us and follow the guidance of our goodness. Sometimes we will know to respond boldly. Sometimes we will know to be still. But in all cases, when we stop and return to our practice, we can be confident that our own goodness will reliably answer the question, ‘What should I do?’