Winter can be hard: The pounding winds, the cold weather, the accessibility inhibited, the extra money burnt up as heat. Winter can make us feel alone and isolated, making us long for warmer days, for old friends, for old times, or safe times. COVID and politics can leave us feeling all the colder, ever more isolated. Buddhist nun, Rev. Pema Chödrön, says that this means to realize
our nostalgia for wanting to stay in a protected, limited, petty world is insane… Once you begin to get the feeling of how big the world is and how vast our potential for experiencing life is, then you really begin to understand renunciation. When we sit in meditation, we feel our breath as it goes out, and we have some sense of willingness just to be open to the present moment. Then our minds wander off into all kinds of stories and fabrications and manufactured realities, and we say to ourselves, “It’s thinking.” We say that with a lot of gentleness and a lot of precision. Every time we are willing to let the story line go, and every time we are willing to let go at the end of the out breath, that’s fundamental renunciation: learning how to let go of holding on and holding back.
In the spring, the trees will flow with sap, but if we allow ourselves to stay frozen, like the trees now, like some of us feel, then we’ll remain in this frozen state, like a dam ready to burst. But if we remember to have right intentions, to cultivate presence with one another, to see the joyous things around us, then we can let go and experience a type of freedom, a type of Love.
We look at February in many ways: as a time for romance, as a time for Justice, as a time for cold and winter, in each of these let us love more deeply than yesterday. Thinking of February in these diverse ways, I recall the famous Cornel West quote, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
Master Shinran Shonin, twelfth century teacher and Zen Master wrote, “There is no separation between self and other, and my life exists only because of others. It is the power of others, the power-beyond-myself, that sustains my entire existence. This is the path to beloved Community, this is the path to peace, this is the path to Justice.”
May it be so.
— Rev. Will