With most everyone shut off from usual daily activities from work and school to classes, meetings, and even casual socializing at the post office or coffee shop, life for many has moved to screens.
The Internet is whirling with ideas to distract us from the worries, uncertainty, and boredom of stay-at-home isolation. Every day brings more online invitations — writing groups, poetry readings, bread-making, exercise, discussions, musical performances, movies and lots more.
Local meditation groups and teachers offer a different approach rather than putting the stress and fear out of our minds. They have created online opportunities for meditating together while in isolation, practices aimed towards turning inward to experience peace of mind while living with the difficulties and challenges.
Elliott Dacher is a former physician who became a meditation teacher after experiencing the benefits of the practice on many aspects of life and wellbeing. Many Islanders have been introduced to meditation through his courses here since 2007.
Dacher’s scheduled spring course, “Meditation and Mindfulness: Calming the Mind, Reducing Stress, and Optimizing Wellbeing” was cancelled, but he hopes to offer the fall series. Dacher is offering Sunday morning Zoom gatherings. The hour-long sessions include teaching, meditation, and sharing.
“Surrender to the reality of what is.” Dacher advised. “We never had the level of control our ego deluded us into believing. Let go. Let it be.”
“The terms ‘self-isolation’ and ‘social distancing’ that are used for our response to the spread of Covid-19, are also the words traditionally used for inner retreat,” Dacher commented. He suggested this be a time for reflection and inner growth.
“Self-isolation and quarantine can become sacred retreat. We may never have chosen retreat, but in a cryptic way it’s been forced upon us. Please use it.”
Dacher has also posted a streamlined 10-session meditation training audio course titled “Invitation to an Awakened Life.” The series is useful for beginners and for experienced meditators wishing to refresh their practice.
The Bodhi Path Buddhist Center in the West Tisbury woods offers three weekly meditation sessions year-round and often hosts visiting teachers. Although these days participants cannot sit together in the peaceful, brightly painted meditation hall, they can connect online. The virtual meetings follow the regular schedule: Tuesday and Thursday, 6 to 7 pm, and Sunday, 10 to 11 am.
According to Barbara Dacey, co-coordinator with Sharon Gamsby, a facilitator begins the meeting, leads opening prayers and keeps time for three, 15-minute meditation periods. A guide is displayed offering information about Calm Abiding Meditation for first-time participants. The sessions conclude with opportunity for group conversation.
“Meditation offers a chance to calm and focus your mind and this is beneficial at all times. But now, when things are so uncertain, it is especially helpful,” said Dacey. “The teachings of the Buddha emphasize impermanence and change. This is a time in which the teachings come to life right before your eyes and in your heart, and I’m feeling that.”
Contact email@example.com to be added to the mailing list.
The Island Insight Meditation Community hosts Chas DiCapua for monthly Saturday teachings at the Unitarian Universalist Society. DiCapua, who is also a resident teacher at Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, taught online this month, a practice that is likely to continue.
During this troubling time, DiCapua announced that he and IMS teachers, including Sharon Salzberg, are making regular video posts about “how to bring our Dharma practice to bear on these difficult and uncertain times.” Visit Insight Meditation Society on Facebook.
The Island Insight website (islandinsight.org) features recordings of DiCapua’s monthly teachings and blogs. His most recent topic: “Heart-full Practice in the Times of Covid 19.”
Jill De la Hunt, an Island Insight steering committee member is arranging three weekly evening meditation sessions. De la Hunt, an ordained Buddhist and Interfaith Chaplin and LICSW community therapist will lead the sessions as she has facilitated in-person groups for several years. The sessions are offerings of Island Insight. Details will be posted soon on the website.
“There is no need for prior experience or to identify as a ‘Buddhist’ or anything other than interest in meditation,” De la Hunt emphasized. “We can offer basic instruction.”
De la Hunt said that finding equilibrium through meditation is valuable during this anxiety-filled period. Being calm in the face of chaos can be a service to others, helping them feel more peaceful. She cited a story by Thich Nhat Hanh in which people on crowded Vietnamese refugee boats panicked. “But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.”
“Difficult times often generate excessive fear, worry, and anxiety. In meditation, we learn how to embrace all thoughts and feelings (including fear) while changing our relationship to them. We increase our capacity to add perspective and reduce attachment,” said Ed Merck, who leads two online meditation groups. “There will always be fear, a necessary response to real threats. In meditation, we learn to recognize fear for what it is, let it go when unnecessary, and allow the quality of joy to be dominant.”
Merck has practiced yoga and meditation for more than 50 years, and taught both for more than 20 years. He has led Tuesday 9:30 am meditations at the Unitarian Universalist Society for some five years, and last October began a Monday 9 am group at Howes House in West Tisbury. Now he is offering the hour-long sessions online. Combining guided meditation, stillness and sharing, they are open to everyone, regardless of experience.
“I have been surprised at how much connectivity is possible in a virtual environment,” Merck said. “Participants comment that at a time of relative isolation, it feels so good to be in the same virtual room with others.”
To receive a Zoom meeting invitation, email Merck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those early birds who wish to start the day in a clear and centered state of mind, Clark Hanjian, a Buddhist chaplain, offers a half-hour online meditation opportunity at 7:30 am Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. For details, visit clarkh.org/meditation. All are welcome.