by Julie Nadler
This is a time of mystery and uncertainty. Take a breath. The veils of separation are parting and the reality of interconnection is apparent to everyone on earth.
— Jack Kornfield
When I moved into my first home ownership, someone said to me, ‘The safest neighbourhood is the one where you know all your neighbours.” Old Lachine was a bit of a sketchy neighbourhood back then but I set about meeting my neighbours: the couple with the son living upstairs, the Russian emigre hair-dresser, the cab-driving lesbian and the Meilleurs across the street who had a garage sale every summer. But most especially, Pierre, who had lived his whole life on this street, raised his own family here, and was an endless source of home ownership wisdom and guidance.
It didn’t matter that along particular lines there was separation. As neighbours, les voisins, we all cared about our little area. Connected and interconnected. Property lines meant nothing when weeds hopped from one property to the other: separation of gardens meant little as we shared plants from one to the other; all driveways needed snow clearing and when one was done, we went over to help our neighbours.
If we extrapolate our understanding of neighbours and neighbourhoods to a more global view, every country in the world is our neighbour. We need to stop seeing the separation along property lines and borders: we need to see them as lines of connection. Just as dandelion fluff does not respect property lines, the Covid 19 virus does not respect borders. We also need to understand that we all want the same thing: our own well-being, a sense of safety and freedom. In our understanding of this, our interconnectedness is obvious.
And once we recognize our world as a neighbourhood anything is possible.
After I had been living in that neighbourhood in Old Lachine for 10 years, I mentioned to my friend/neighbour Pierre that my father had been Jewish. Pierre had let slip a coupe of comments over the years that were mildly anti-Semitic. He looked at me, swallowed and our friendship carried on. Neighbours can help each other overcome prejudices. Neighbours know every human, every neighbour has the same basic needs: to be safe, healthy and loved.
Zen Buddhists call something The Great Courage: loving yourself, fully, right here & right now. No equivocations. A Buddhist meditation practice, metta, teaches us to start with ourselves. So, we start by knowing/loving ourselves. After that one moves on to taking smaller steps that is of the same importance but easier after mastering the first: loving a stranger, a neighbour, then perhaps someone you love and, in the end, someone you do not like. This practice asks us to make good neighbours of everyone.
We have needed this pause, perhaps even needed our isolation to see how much we need one another.
— Jack Kornfield
We have been given this time out. The world we have created has sent us a pause in the form of a virus.
There’s this story about a man who needs saving and prays to God. A boat, a helicopter…different vehicles depending on who is telling the story…come by but he sends them away because he trusts that God will save him. After death he confronts God for not helping and God says, “I did…I sent a boat, a helicopter…you refused them all.”
Covid-19 is not the first message we have received from our planet, but we should recognize it as the one that finds us standing on the precipice of global destruction. What more of a sign do we want that this planet has been made sick by us and is sick of us?
I hear a lot about getting ‘back to normal’. Some of us are even paying lip service to ‘a new normal’. But we can choose what normal is: what is important to you for the future of this planet? If you have a family you want the world to be healthy and habitable for them but this will not work for any of us unless we do it for all of us. As Jagmeet Singh said in addressing Parliament: “We have to do better than normal.” We have to feed the whole world, bring health care to all people, clean the air of all neighbourhoods and accept the value of every inhabitant of this planet. This is our home. We are all neighbours.
The second part of this blog is available at https://yogaonthepark.ca/we-are-all-neighbours-part-2/