About twenty-seven minutes into the movie Travellers and Magicians, the monk says to Dondup to be careful of trying to travel to or search for a dreamland. The monk warns that when you wake up from your dreamland, the result might not be so pleasant. This moment in the movie strikes me as the kind of life I have lived; (and to a certain extent, still do) hoping for a better outcome than the one I’ve experienced so far. Within my grasp, I imagine, is a possibility of some alternative future.
Ahhh but as the movie shows us, hope can be elusive and is kind of like living in a dream in which everything that is in front of us (in front of me) gets pushed aside for some future possibility. Sounds like a clear definition of a dreamworld.
Too, searching for some kind of unknowable future state of being is, in fact, one reason for suffering. The kind of suffering that evokes mental and emotional pain and anxiety. Living in a constant state of what could be is a means of denying what is. At least, that is my experience.
So, the big question is, how to manage some imagined future possibility within the framework of no expectations. For example, playing a basketball game with no outcome in mind. Win or lose, the outcome does not matter; it’s playing the game and playing it well that is determinative of your accomplishment. Of course, the problem with this analogy is that our lives are not games to be played. As I can attest to here in COVIDland, these experiences are not playful. We are just trying to make it through without hurting ourselves and each other.
As I think on the idea of no expectations and imagining a possible future, I’m drawn back to the The Tibetan Book of the Dead and the section on “The Nature of Appearances.” In that section, Padmasambhava said, “Now, with regard to the diversity of relative appearances; They are perishable; not one of them is genuinely existent.” (53) In effect, all ideas, thoughts, emotions come from our minds and, as a result, are at their core are empty or insubstantial. The words, “not one of them is genuinely existent” sticks with me as I imagine a world outside of COVID and restrictions, of the chance to experience the world without hesitation.
And then…and then, I think about what my expectations for a non-COVID experience are like, and I suddenly realize the privilege and power implied in the “outcome” of not being under the threat of a virus and disease. What I understand, is that my privilege has given me the opportunity to choose a path unlike so many fellow humans in the world. I’ll have the chance to experience a multitude of moments after COVID, something that billions in the world will not face. My moments of inconvenience with this disease are daily occurrences in places all over the planet. For just one example, food insecurity for children and families represents the kind of restriction on behavior and choices I’m feeling now. Yet for those humans facing terrible questions about not having or finding food, their experience never goes away.
So, I’m pulled back into the realization that this moment is passing for me but not for many in the world. I’m faced with the recognition that, when it comes down to it, having compassion for all of us going through COVID and extending that to all of us who are experiencing any kind of horrible circumstance is the path through this momentary inconvenience for those of us lucky enough to be born in a favorable circumstance.
I wish you well, fellow humans, on this path and strange existence. My wish for you is that you find your own, kind way through the pandemic.