Every morning I take refuge in the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha. It’s my morning saddhana (ritual), and I’ve come to lean on it as the anchor for my day. I take refuge.
The root of the word “refuge” is from the Latin for “to turn and flee.” The word has actually come to mean safety and shelter from whatever made you want to turn and flee. So if I really look at it, every morning I take refuge from the tyranny of my thoughts, and every morning I find all the necessary resources in the awakening that meditation can inspire. The millions fleeing from Syria are not so lucky. The doors are closing. The borders are closing. Our hearts, theoretically willing, are closing. Fear greatly limits the possibilities. And now I fear the worst: We simply don’t know what to do.
It saddens me that countries are closing down avenues of entry; but I also feel for those in power. Even with the best of intentions, what would you do? How would you make space for a monthly influx of 30-, 50-, 100,000 people from a country full of hatred for your culture…knowing that you might be making space for a terrorist to carry out the very plot from which the refugees are fleeing. And on a less dramatic, more personal scale, is anyone reading this ready to make space in their own homes for a family of Syrians? It’s an impossible conundrum.
In these instances, I always return to my own mind, to the actions I can take. Where are my borders, and what happens there? Who are the refugees in my psyche? What are they running from? The refugees are my thoughts, and they are running from This Moment. Frantically running from accepting what is. Anywhere but this. Anything but this. Last night, for instance, I was so sleepy. But I’d started watching a movie I’d rented; and somehow, giving into this moment of sleepiness (it was well past my bed time) was out of the question. My habit was to be Anywhere But Here. This is an innocuous example. There are scarier, uglier examples from my life, but I chose this one to show how insidious habit can be…how it can sneak into every single moment of your life.
I am a refugee from myself. Looking for refuge in food, TV shows, approval from people I respect, busy work, knowledge, self-improvement, perfectionism, helping others, spirituality. Nothing intrinsically wrong with any of those things. But when bent to the service of avoidance, they become great obstacles.
If I take refuge instead in the Buddha or the dharma (teachings) or my sangha (friends who are doing their best to also follow the teachings), I am pointed straight back into the boogeyman I’m running from: myself.
The present moment.
May we develop the tolerance for our own suffering, so that we might be present enough, strong enough to alleviate the suffering of others. May we all stop running from ourselves, so we can genuinely provide refuge (spiritually, emotionally and/or physically) for anyone who needs it.