Connection and inspiration in a time of crisis
Fliss Clarke has been attending the Buddhist Centre’s ‘Going Deeper’ courses online throughout the coronavirus pandemic. In this piece, she shares her experience of this.
After completing a Going Deeper course in February I was lucky to spend the week before lockdown on the last retreat at Dhanakosa before such a thing became impossible. I was insulated from the catastrophic news reports and held within conditions of blossoming friendship, beautiful nature and meditation practice as everything outside changed.
I left Dhanakosa bewildered by the empty supermarket shelves and unsettled by the extreme shift from hand washing to DO NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE that happened in the space of a week. Like in Back to the Future II where Marty travels to the alternate apocalyptic 1985, I had surely emerged into the alternate 2020.
A New Reality
Without a flux capacitor to sort this out, I, like us all, had to adjust and learn to live in this new reality. Routine would be key and an essential part of my routine over the last seven months has been Tuesday evening classes with Manchester Buddhist Centre.
Before March ‘zoom’ was a fun verb and an ice lolly. Now it is a primary medium through which I and a cohort of fellow seekers learn about and connect with the three jewels. It is an anchor in the weeks when storms of uncertainty and tragedy rage around us: a screen filled with increasingly familiar and ever friendly faces, lessons and learnings with such direct relevance to our experience of All This, and breakout rooms where we have the opportunity to be real about what we’re feeling.
It is in many ways deeply unsatisfactory when compared to the visceral presence of being within the Centre. I miss the shrine room. I miss the sublime energy of meditating in a room with other people. I miss tea break chats.
In the absence of these things, something surprising has emerged: a deepening of dharma practice and sangha that has seen a WhatsApp group become active with stories, experiences and inspiration, a socially distanced meet up on a sunny August afternoon, and a committed book study group to bridge the gap between courses.
If you’re suspicious of the possibilities of online practice and video courses I completely understand. It is unsatisfactory. It is the First Noble Truth. Accepting this and opening to the possibilities within it has been a source of profound connection and moments of insight for me and my fellow zoom dharma learners. In a period of intense change, anxiety and isolation, the Tuesday evening classes have helped me immensely in the quest to stay sane and maybe even live well.
If you’re looking for a sustaining routine in these difficult times, I deeply and heartily recommend taking up one of the Centre’s online courses or classes. The tea breaks aren’t quite the same but the sessions are very much alive with meaning and connection and – BONUS – you can have your brew in your own favourite mug.
We will be offering more Going Deeper and Introduction to Buddhism courses in the new year. Keep an eye on our website for more information.