April 29, 2020

The Buddhist Lesson we’re all forced to learn during the Pandemic.

Check out Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon


In the interest of using this pandemic downtime as an incubation period for becoming better (whatever that means), I’ve been trying to “let go.”

It’s not working. I’ve not come up with a three-step process to make this happen and no sure-footed advice to the similarly inclined—but you may enjoy commiserating.

How did this start? A couple of weeks ago, I had a profound guidance while meditating. I received the instruction that it was time to just “let go.” I came out of that meditation with a clear purpose. It seemed easy. I was going to let go. How hard could it be? And then it struck me—let go of what? Anyone who has seen my place knows that I’m not the letting go type.

Here’s an example: It’s been over 45 years since I was last in college and yet, here in the middle of our 2020 pandemic lockdown, I’m starting to dream about missing classes. Why?

I’ve had two dreams in the last couple of weeks from which I awoke with a startled realization that I had missed a class or a whole semester of classes. In one, I had a class schedule to follow. My spelling class was listed as TBD. But, then I encountered the two co-professors of that spelling class. They shook their heads with disapproval, and informed me that I’d missed the first class and that it was worth four points. Wow. I’m thinking I’m already behind.

And I’m also thinking that I can’t wait for them to tell me about the “i before e except after c” rule. I’d tell them that I thought that was a wierd rule. But, I awoke before I got a chance to retort and so I’m now chagrined to think I’m down four points, and I don’t know what it all means.

Am I missing some grand lesson in these pandemic times? Why start dreaming about school classes now when I probably ought to be dreaming of my response to St. Peter at the gate—will he be asking spelling questions? I hope those four points won’t make a difference in my ultimate destination.

What else? This: I’m surrounded by a disorganized array of knickknacks, mementos, instruments, and papers. Just at my desk, I have tax papers, a traffic ticket, two unused computer mice (in addition the one I’m using), an eye exam prescription from 2013 sitting atop a pile of other papers, a model railroad car from the early 20th century, a halogen light bulb, which may or may not be functional, an orange X-Acto knife, a bottle of 409 cleaner, a couple of non-winning Powerball tickets, and an Amazon Echo. Question: “Alexa, what the f*ck is this all about?” Answer: “I’d rather not answer that.” True conversation.)

Maybe this is what I’m supposed to let go. All this stuff. Makes sense. I tried. Found out it’s not a passive activity. You might think that letting go would be easier than holding on. Not for me. I had to work myself into anger before I could finally give up some old no-longer-fitting, no-longer-used clothing away. Put it in a donation bin. It was an act of defiance against the standard order of my life. Yay. A couple hours later, I was wondering if it was possible to retrieve those goods. It was not. Probably a good thing.

Lesson: for me, I have to get angry to let go of stuff. This is not discussed by Marie Kondo, so maybe I have an unwritten book inside of me.

But maybe I’m not just supposed to get rid of my physical stuff—maybe the “let go” mantra applies to my mental clutter as well. If you have seen that—and god bless you if you have—you will know I keep a jam-packed disorganized mental house as well.

I have a memory of the first time I became aware of myself. True story. I am four or five and standing on stairs going into the basement where my mother was doing laundry. Next to me is a bottle of detergent. And all of a sudden, I have this unfolding realization that I am actually alive, that this is real, and that person downstairs was not me. Such a profound revelation. A moment of enlightenment.

And it sits right next to the memory of when I first smoked pot. Right next to the uncomfortable memory of the time I told a horrible racist joke on the school bus. And next to the time I felt simultaneously confused and chagrined about a comment my dad made about my muscles—was he complimenting me or passively invalidating me? I never found out so it sits as an unanswered question.

Next to that is my shame at losing gobs of money in the stock market, next to my pride in doing well on the ski slope, next to the thrill of the memory of my first kiss. Next to my belief that the world should be fair (spoiler alert: it’s not), and next to my sense of the inevitability of contracting COVID-19. No hierarchy. Just a random collection of thoughts, emotions, projections, remembrances, and predictions. Is this what I’m supposed to “let go?”

Such a challenge. Perhaps this is the class I’m supposed to be in. Not spelling. But “letting go.”

Clearly, that’s a class I could benefit from. And maybe that’s why I’m dreaming about missing classes—to wake me up to the lesson in front of me.

After all, letting go may be one of the biggest lessons we are all presented with during this pandemic downturn. It’s being enforced as we are mandated to stay home, required to abandon plans, jettison daily routines, and abandon aspirations. Maybe we (yes, I’m speaking to myself here) can also find ways to let go of the notions, considerations, beliefs that have been holding us in place. Letting go of the identities that tie us to the way we’ve been living our lives. Patterns of thinking and behavior that do not serve ourselves or our community—that keep us unwittingly handcuffed.

If we treat this as active agents and not just pawns in some new social order, we may find ways to release ourselves willingly and consciously. It just may be the option that allows us to build something new and better as this wave of infections recedes.


I have no crystal ball. I missed my class on fortune telling also. But for now, I am inspired to let go as best I can. To open the door to new possibilities. And hope that allows me to be of more service on the other side of this powerful event we are all enduring together.

If I had an easy button to make this happen, I’d share it. I mean, I would not let it go, but I’d let you all use it if you want. Promise.





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