Opening to an uncertain future
For many of us, the corona time is a time of uncertainty. Even if the Federal Council has now decided to further relax the measures and we are relieved to have a less restricted life, for some of us there are probably still many doubts and questions: “Is everything going to be normal again? Is there going to be a second wave? Should I and can I continue to protect myself? ” The only thing that seems certain is what I have heard more often lately: that it will never be the same as before Covid-19. But of course that is, in a way, a truism; because tomorrow will never be the same as yesterday or today.
It is quite normal that we are unsure when we think about the future – even in good times, without an epidemic. Because the future is by definition unknown to us. And onto everything that is unknown to us, we can project our hopes, doubts and fears. Hope, doubt and fear always refer to something in the future, something that could still happen. But these doubts, hopes and fears, like all of our feelings and thoughts, accompany us in the present. They are taking place now, we can be aware of them and recognize them for what they are: constantly changing activities of our mind that arise and disappear here and now, right behind our noses, so to speak.
This awareness of our consciousness is the gateway to inner freedom. Because the quality in us, which is aware of our experience, is neither a thought nor a feeling, it is aware of thoughts and feelings. We can experience this as a space in which these thoughts and feelings take place. This space of awareness recognizes the thoughts and feels the feelings without identifying with them, it can accept them, let them come and go. This space, the space of our heart, is always here, always present and at peace with thoughts and feelings. If we perceive and consciously embody it, we are at the source of our inner peace. It is always present. Everything else comes and goes. We can accept what comes as it is and let it go when it changes and disappears.
If we try to grasp and control the ever-changing phenomena of our experience, such as the external circumstances of our lives, we can easily get caught up in doubt, fear and insecurity – fear of losing what is familiar and important to us, or to experience something that we do not want in our life – even if we do not know exactly what it may be.
Nevertheless, it is of course helpful to think about the future and plan for it – ideally though with a mind/heart that remains firmly and carefully anchored in the present, aware that it is only ever here and now, and that means exactly … here … exactly … now!
At Dhammapala Monastery, we are currently thinking about the process of reopening the monastery towards our normal mode – or at least a post-Covid variant, with some newly introduced hygiene and protective measures. As you may have already seen on our homepage, we will be accepting overnight guests again from June; at first only those who can stay with us for at least a week – to avoid a too extensive coming and going. The courses that were planned for May and June we have postponed until July. They may also have to be held with a limited number of participants. When and how we will open the monastery for day guests again, we are discussing at the moment. We want to be especially careful about that aspect, because the flow of day visitors is more difficult to oversee. We will probably start in the second week of June by introducing limited opening hours – at lunchtime for those who would like to offer dana and in the evening for those who wish to participate in the puja. When and how exactly this will happen, we will, like all other changes in our essential corona measures announce further measures on the information bar in the center of the homepage.
The main reason why we are hesitant with the reopening the monastery is that it is not just about protecting ourselves, but also about not to turn the monastery, with its usually lively traffic of visitors, into a distribution hub for the virus. In addition, if we encounter the effects of the Corona virus in the monastery, we would have to close it immediately, and then probably more thoroughly than before, which would cause us particular difficulties because of the dependence of the monastic community on lay supporters.
Fortunately, here and now, we are all still healthy and the monastery is in good order. We note this with much gratitude for your continued, generous material support and the tireless work of our small team of helpers who have been with us here for over two months now.
Yes, and the abbot is back too. I survived my journey home as one of a number of masked passengers in a less than half-filled airplane and through almost empty airports and now also completed my voluntary 10-day quarantine period. Now I am looking forward to the future with a little impatience to ‘get into gear’ again. However, I also already had to cancel quite a few journeys planned for this summer: the courses in Serbia and probably also Romania will now take place via video conference – so I have the opportunity to learn something new (welcome to the 21st century, as some of my friends say) and the visit to my parents in Hamburg is also postponed until autumn.
It is a similar story for our monastic long-term guests. While our friends and supporters have to be patient until they are finally allowed to enter the monastery again, they are waiting to be able to leave it! Whether they like it or not, the new Corona virus has shaken up their travel plans a little:
Tan Viranando is now with his parents in Germany and still plans to spend the upcoming Vassa (the traditional rainy season, during which monks are asked to stay at one place) in Sumedharama in Portugal. His plan to walk there, for which he would have started in April, had of course to be abandoned. (Tan Viranando is a bundle of energy, but as far as we know he has no Seven mile boots at his disposition). Maybe he’ll be moving back here from Portugal next year! He certainly would be very welcome.
Tan Bodhinando will not be able to spend the Vassa in India as planned, instead he will go to Muttodaya, a Wat Pah Pong branch monastery near Nuremberg in early June, where he has already stayed for shorter periods in the past. This should also give him the opportunity to see his parents and siblings in the summer, as they don’t live too far from there.
Ajahn Dto is still hoping for a repatriation flight, or, perhaps more likely, for the airport in Bangkok to finally open again in July, to get back in Thailand for Vassa. Ajahn Dto has been with us for a year now, half a year longer than originally planned and if there is no earlier return option, he will stay at least until the second Vassa in August.
Meanwhile, Ajahn Khemasiri now has a return ticket for July 2nd, so hopes to be with us for Vassa. Even if flights from the United Kingdom are still being canceled at the time, he may find another travel option. Since Ajahn Khemasiri is a Swiss citizen, he will definitely have no problem entering the country.
Tan Balado, who would like to board the same flight across the Channel with Ajahn Khemasiri in order to join us for at least a year, could encounter more difficulties as he is Austrian. We hope that by July it will be possible for him to enter directly from England (without having to hide in Ajahn Khemasiri’s suitcase). Perhaps there would otherwise be the possibility for him to enter at least for the “Second Vassa” (beginning of August) directly or via Austria.
You can still find information about our events, including changed dates, in the event calendar or in the central information bar on our homepage.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you again for your patience and extraordinary generosity and wish you all good health, a clear mind and a peaceful heart, hoping to be able to receive you again at the monastery soon.