Taking a breather

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the effort to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. I do; and so for the rest of today, I am going to suspend the attempt to stay on top of information. Perhaps this small note will inspire you to do the same.

My inspiration came yesterday from Adrienne Pan of CBC Edmonton News. On-air, she told one of her newsroom colleagues that she was going to practice a digital detox today. She wasn’t going to tune into news media or social media. Instead, she would focus on other things. Perhaps she was just going to breathe.

Another inspiration for my Saturday news sabbath flows from the absence of CBC TV’s “The National” on Saturdays. For the past few weeks, Kim and I have watched The National every night. It has been solely devoted to the pandemic; it provides what feels to me like a well-rounded package of news, background, and advice; and it makes me feel confident that I have learned much of what I need to know. The absence of The National on Saturday also encourages my news Sabbath.

Researchers, community leaders, and the rest of us have learned a lot about the new coronavirus over the last months. But there is still so much that is not known. Because of this, we are being forced to adopt what Zen Buddhists calls a “don’t know mind,” which is an “open, groundless awareness that doesn’t fixate on outcomes” — or at least this is what I read in an email that a friend forwarded to me from the Buddhist magazine “Lion’s Roar!”

As the situation continues to change, we will learn more. But who knows what the implications of that new knowledge will be for our daily activities, our personal health, the health of the neighbourhood, and the health of the entire world?

I find it difficult not to know what the near- or medium-term future holds, so I am pleased to learn there is a spiritual discipline that teaches us to lean into ignorance rather than to fight it. If I learn more about this practice, I will share it here.

I won’t ignore the pandemic entirely today, of course. Bryan LeGrow and I are preparing a short worship service, which Brian Sampson will livestream (the church’s Internet capacity willing!) tomorrow at 10:30 am. We have much to learn on the technology front, and I have no doubt that our worship life, like the rest of our lives, will continue to evolve rapidly over the next while.

In the meantime, know that I am praying for all the people of Mill Woods United and for all the people to whom we are connected — which means the entire world!

In that regard, I close with some words from that “Lion’s Roar” email I mentioned above:

“We are all in this together — not in some philosophical sense, but in a very literal way. Our survival depends on each other and our willingness to self-isolate, heed warnings, help out neighbors, make sacrifices, and step up like never before. May we do so and take these hard-earned lessons of interdependence to heart, one breath at a time.”

May it be so.

P.S. I enjoyed the virtual supper last night with Kim’s children, Katrina and Kerry, and their partners Vinny and Carlyn. We tried using Apple’s Facetime, but couldn’t get the video to work between three sites. So, we used Facebook Messenger. Below is a group photo of the six of us — but note that the faces of the under 40’s are enhanced by humorous filters.

March 20, 2020 — supper on the first day of spring