AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL PRACTITIONERS
by Jes Bertelsen
April 4, 2020
We are in the midst of a global humanitarian crisis witnessing the vulnerability and profound suffering of so many people around the world.
Because of the coronavirus, all people in Denmark and large parts of the world have been forced into retreat. A worldwide retreat that remarkably, albeit accidentally, coincides with our three-month retreat by the Limfjord, planned long before the present situation.
Suddenly, themes that naturally arise during a retreat have become urgent for many people. Concerns about contagion and the fear of death (our own as well as that of our family, friends and those close to us) have become real and pressing, reminding us of the impermanence and fragility of life.
You might use this opportunity to look at your fear, anxiety and inescapable death. And integrate these provocative feelings with practice (be it yoga, relaxation, mindfulness, witness meditation, prayer, intercessory prayer, dedication, bi-directional consciousness, Dzogchen, etc.).
So why not try and turn this involuntary retreat into a voluntary period of isolation and contemplation, into days of intensive practice or a short retreat, with the intention to benefit others?
The persistent and responsible appeal of the authorities to show community spirit; the necessity to stand together to take care of the sick, the vulnerable, the elderly, the homeless, fits perfectly with the fundamental motivation for spending time in voluntary practice retreat: to deepen the inner work in order to be better able to be kind, helpful, warm-hearted and balanced in relation to other people.
Perhaps this situation is a dress rehearsal for everyone, and not least for those who have a spiritual practice, to remain in contact with the heart and a higher perspective, to maintain a calm centeredness, especially when faced with global crises and likely breakdowns.
In order to work contemplatively with this, you could proceed like this:
Sit comfortably, relaxed, and notice your breathing.
Now, feel your fear of contagion and possible death.
You also feel compassion and concern for those closest to you and for your friends.
Be aware of the necessity for everyone to take their share of the responsibility.
You feel your connection with all of humanity, compassion for people’s concrete suffering and pain.
You are aware of your own body, its vulnerability; yet, you let your breathing calm down anyway.
As if your attention were a bird, you let it fly freely and do not let it land in any of the different feelings or thoughts or disturbing images.
The bird of attention is hovering above it all, watching carefully, but does not focus and does not land.
Attention and our blue planet are floating, right now and right here, in the universe.
And this free floating is sustained by compassion and the sense of community with humankind, with the crisis, your neighbour, your loved one, and with the biosphere.
Sense the source of this freely floating attention.
Try to rest, relaxed and naturally, in the source of attention.
And let kindness and helpfulness spread from there to your fellow human beings.
Just like when you shop for your sick neighbour and place the food in front of her door.
With heartfelt greetings Jes Bertelsen
PS. If you know someone who you feel or think might benefit from this, please share it, and use it freely.
Doctor of Philosophy, Jes Bertelsen is the founder of Vaekstcenteret, as well as its source of inspiration, and spiritual teacher.
At the end of 1982, Jes Bertelsen resigned his teaching position at Aarhus University to found Vaekstcenteret, and hence put into practice the principle that one must live what one believes together with other people.
His writing includes over 20 books - ranging from university time dissertations and doctoral thesis on Kant and Kierkegaard to books with a broader perspective of depth psychology and self-development – to a number of years with emphasis on advanced texts on meditation, and on to the latest two books suited for a more general public. Some books have been translated into Dutch, English and German. Books regarding consciousness and meditation have been translated into a two-volume work in German.
In English, a recent addition is a book entitled: ‘Essence of Mind – An Approach to Dzogchen’.