Radhule’s Refuge in the Storm: Connecting in a Time of Conflict and Coronavirus

By Steven Libowitz   |   March 5, 2020

Santa Barbara meditation leader Radhule Weininger sent out a missive to her mailing list over last weekend, and also asked if I could find some space in my column for her thoughts on anxiety over the growing cases of the Coronavirus as well as the coming election. Here’s an edited version:

“I am listening to a rising swell of alarm about the spread of the Coronavirus, knowing that we have a need to inform ourselves, to make ourselves as safe as possible, and to protect ourselves and our families. But terror management can disconnect us, as fear of a pandemic can make us circle our wagons, contract and become less open to others. While this unpredictable, mysterious virus is a real danger, it could perhaps also be seen as a metaphor for so much else that is alarming, uncertain, and potentially dangerous on a very primal level.

“What helps us to protect ourselves in a time like this? And in the midst of all these forces that feel quite volatile and scary, how can we keep our hearts open?

“Recently, I talked with my friend and mentor Joanna Macy (the author, teacher and Buddhist scholar who has offered ‘The Work That Reconnects’ since the 1970s) about the effects we may notice within ourselves when having to deal with an acute or ongoing crisis. She told me that ‘The human spirit does not want to avoid. When we turn away from reality, then our energy contracts and wanes, and we begin to feel dull and tired… We have been given eyes, ears, and intelligence. As humans, we are called to meet courageously what is obstructing our path. That gives us energy. When we meet the challenges in front of us, may they be illness, climate crisis, danger to our democracy or to vulnerable fellow humans, then we become discerning, eloquent, courageous, and able to hold our heads up. Courage gives us the energy to see when things are not right. Then we can feel healthy anger, our passion for justice and democracy. And this awakens our compassion.’

“Courage in French means ‘large-heartedness.’ How do we keep our hearts large and wide open times such as these? Perhaps, as Rumi said, ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’ I want to encourage you, and myself, to ask how we can find our way to this field of compassion. Maybe through spiritual practice, compassionate work for others and our world, or connection with trees, mountains and the earth? No matter what happens, we are held by something deeper that gives us security and makes it possible for us to show up and be present.”

Radhule Weininger, Ph.D. MD, offers donation-based meditation sessions weekly at Yoga Soup, The Sacred Space in Summerland and St. Michael’s in Isla Vista. The community-oriented Solidarity and Compassion Project meets at the Unitarian Society’s Parish Hall from 7-8.30 pm each second Wednesday of the month, featuring guest speakers from the community to discuss healing during difficult times and bringing together members of the leading faith traditions, as well as a variety of thinkers, visionaries and activists. The event on March 11 addresses the theme of “Refuge in the Storm” with meditation, a panel of speakers, discussion, music and sharing community. Visit www.mindfulheartprograms.org.


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