by Hanneli Ågotsdatter and Peter Høeg

Translation: Jeanette Lykkegård

March 13, 2020


In Kontemplation, we hold our breath.
Like the rest of Denmark. And the rest of the world.
In a way we have all stopped.
Not physically. The daily chores go on, they have their own drive: the children, who are now home from school and kindergarden, must be looked after, we call our old parents, our close friends and the children who have moved away.
And we ponder upon and try to plan how to get through this in the best way.

So everyday life goes on in many ways, as it have to. This true worldwide; even for those whose living conditions are much more difficult than the ones we experience in Denmark right now.

But something in us is holding its breath. Physically and mentally.
This is understandable.
But when we hold our breath, it is difficult to feel the body. And the heart. And feeling the body and the heart is very much needed now. So therefore we try our best to take extra deep breaths during this particular time.

Meditation – and breathing exercises – cannot and should not replace concrete acts of, for example, helpfulness in the outside world. But meditation – and inner exercises -  can strengthen the connection to the foundation in ourselves from which we can act as accurately and compassionately as possible, even in a crisis situation like the one we find ourselves in now.

This is why a banal little act such as feeling your breath is so important. Compassion is rooted in our physical body. Compassion is closely associated with directly sensing that others feel just like me, they have a body just like me, a body that wishes to live, that does not want foreign organisms to penetrate it and settle on its lungs.
It is through the contact with our own body and heart that we sense the body and heart of our fellow human beings. And understand that while we are used to show empathy within physical proximity of others, right now we may best care for each other through physical distance.

The Corona pandemic comes with an insight - or we can choose to see it this way: It points towards the importance of unison, of being there especially for the vulnerable. It shows us that in some fundamental ways, we are all positioned equally. This virus contagion affects all parts of our communities: it exists in government offices, in the Defense Command, at nursing homes, and in boardrooms. In a very serious way, it draws our attention to the fact that in many respects, nature, which we try to control with force and power, cannot be completely controlled.

So, like the rest of the world, we have stopped. In a worrisome, listening pause.
During this pause we try to remember our breath. And from our breath: leaning into compassion.
Which, in a situation like this, is very accessible. Compassion is not something special or unusual, it is the simple insight that on a deep level, which is currently visible internationally, we all wish for the same. And we all wish the same for each other: to live and be healthy. And basically, this is not always possible. And exactly in the realization that this is not always possible, we can feel the community, we can feel our own natural sense of care for others and particularly for the vulnerable.

That sense of care is deeper than war, conflict and competition. That care is close to our human essence. And the situation we find ourselves in right now, allows us to feel it.



Hanneli Ågotsdatter

M.A., psychotherapist, architect and meditation teacher. She is the founder of Kontemplation which offers MBSR-programs and group retreats where mindfulness, presence yoga, compassion and creativity are interwoven into an integrated practice.

She is a part of the organizational group behind The Danish Society for the Promotion of Life Wisdom in Children, an association placing special emphasis on relational competence, teaching the practice of empathy and presence to professionals working with children and young people.

Hanneli is a contemplative faculty member at Center for System Awareness, Boston and she leads Mind and Life Europe's yearly retreats for young scholars.

Hanneli lives at Vækstcenteret, a contemplative community in Denmark under the guidance of founder Jes Bertelsen. She divides her time between counseling, teaching, and long-term individual meditation retreats.

Peter Høeg

M.A. in literature. Writer. Has a background in sports, dance and martial arts. Peter, besides writing novels, has been teaching litterature and different kinds of creative and physical topics in the public school, in high school and at the university. With, among others, Helle Jensen, Katinka Gøtzsche, Jesper Juul, Michael Stubberup and Steen Hildebrandt, he is a co-member of The Danish Society for the Promotion of Life Wisdom in Children, and a co-author of the book Empathy that describes the societys theoretical and practical foundation.

Photo: Henrik Saxgren

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