By Dr Nashalla Gwyn Nyinda, Menpa TMD
Living in highly unusual circumstances, we have been facing unknowns, fears surrounding vulnerable friends, family and indeed ourselves in a global pandemic. When we realize, as a global community, we are all suffering together, this helps us understand our sameness as human beings.
The Four Immeasurables practice in Buddhism helps turn the mind towards realities of experiencing the nature of our samsaric world. The interdependence and how we perceive “self” in relation to others is the basis of any practice of radiating light, healing, love and compassion to all who are suffering. By cultivating these four aspects, we achieve happiness for ourselves and others, even amid enormous uncertainty and fear.
The Four Immeasurables
Loving-kindness contains an ardent wish that all sentient beings, without exception, be happy. The attitude of loving-kindness is akin to feelings a parent has for their offspring. Parents want their children to enjoy good health and success in life, without hardships. We expand this same feeling by meditating and wishing all beings happiness. We cultivate an attitude of loving-kindness for others, communities or nations. In all instances, one hopes the person / persons concerned enjoy happiness.
We often practice this wish in a limited fashion. Yet, such a wild and urgent global crisis provides ripe ground to foster meditation and motivation for loving-kindness. This extends not only towards those with whom we feel closeness, affection, love and attachment, it pushes our boundaries and comfort levels to include the entire suffering world.
There is no better ground for compassion practice than the current world crisis. Imagine the parent’s worry over a sick child. Being a parent is hard enough—yet in a global pandemic, it’s a whole new level of fear! Myself, a Tibetan physician, nearly lost my cookies when my middle child had a cough, fever, and sore throat the first week of quarantine. A severe, deep, inner panic required all my presence and training to approach that while avoiding outward fearfulness. I sat at attention all night, dosing herbs, thinking in the dark about parents around the globe gripped in terror. It struck me then: with the deeper level of suffering, that compassion for all beings worldwide facing this new viral illness was the perfect ground for this practice.
My heart ached for those gasping for breath, front-line medical workers making life and death choices, and the heartbreak of losing a patient, let alone an entire ward, including your own colleagues. I felt the fear as my inbox flooded with patients showing positive symptoms and seeking advice. Compassion practice was needed more than ever. Genuine compassion counters cruelty. We saw evidence of this everywhere. New levels of suffering worldwide became the ripest opportunity to encounter sublime states of compassionate mind. In this way, authentic desire to eliminate suffering arises. By repeating the Medicine Buddha mantra, we can extend immeasurable compassion far beyond our earthly gaze and connections. Empathy and compassion can transform into ultimate compassion, extending to all sentient beings, in all realms of existence. This is the ultimate antidote to attachment. Selfless compassion must occur before it becomes immeasurable. This is our opportunity.
Joy / Appreciation
How to practice joy and appreciation in uncertain times? Through wholesome rejoicing in virtuous deeds and actions of all sentient beings who bring happiness to others. Known as the antidote to jealousy and greed, joy and appreciation assist in releasing self-centered attitudes. Think of hoarding supplies and food — then ponder the opposite, neighbors helping neighbors.
Now, more than ever, we can cultivate appreciation and joy in simple acts of daily life. I took great comfort from nature, early morning walks before others ventured out, watching a bald eagle in awe. I pondered appreciating opportunities of open time and rejoiced in practicing opportunities to extend our consciousness beyond normal life drudgery. When one practices meditation of appreciative joy, extending outward to all beings, incredible opportunities to transform our jealously and attachments arrive. When we move beyond our communities, or views of cherishing oneself and those we love the most, the experience of appreciative joy transforms our minds to sublime states of immeasurable joy.
Equanimity is the last Immeasurable, the final key in transforming attachments to tirelessly held ideas of “self above others” into realizing interdependence. Equanimity regards all beings as equals, irrespective of a current relationship to oneself, an antidote to clinging and aversion. The gift of a pandemic revealed a human experience in challenging situations, making this tangibly global. No continent untouched; no class, race, or being on earth exempt from effects of this virus. Covid-19 became the ultimate teacher in accepting suffering.
Traditionally, Buddhist teachings remind us that particular relationships are the result of previous karma ripening. Lately, it feels as if the earth, abused for her air, land and water, has collectively put humanity in a “time out” of sorts. As though we are children being told: go to your room and ponder what you have done. In the ultimate view, our attitudes of equanimity must extend to all sentient beings. For this to occur, we must not cling to relatives and friends while regarding others with indifference or hatred. A year onward, I sit making the final edits to this piece at the side of my dying father. I ponder equanimity and ardent wishes to relieve suffering of all beings as equal to my love and care for him. What better opportunity to practice than now?
May each one of us take the hard lessons in real suffering as a precious opportunity to practice and contemplate deeply our interconnectedness. With love and prayers for all beings without exception.
About the Author
Nashalla Gwyn Nyinda, Menpa, TMD began studying Tibetan Medicine in 1999. Encouraged by her root teacher, The Very Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche, she interned at Chagpori Tibetan Medical Institute’s Clinic in Darjeeling, India for two years. Nashalla’s Menpa degree was conferred in 2009 by Qinghai Tibetan Medical College and The Shang Shung Institute of Tibetan Medicine. She founded The Sowa Birthing Method, a bodywork series geared at decreasing medical intervention and postpartum depression. Her Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies from Naropa University focused on Asian Medicines and Buddhist Psychology. Nashalla went to the Institute of Taoist Education and Acupuncture for a Masters of Acupuncture in the Classical Five-Element lineage. She teaches as an Adjunct Professor at Naropa University, and lectures on Buddhism, meditation and Asian healing traditions worldwide to Tibetan and Western students, practitioners, doctors. Nashalla directs the Nyinda Clinic of Tibetan Medicine & Holistic Healing in Boulder, Colorado.
Published Originally: LIGHT OF CONSCIOUSNESS
AUTUMN/WINTER 2021 VOL. 33 NO. 2
© 2021 Nashalla Gwyn Nyinda, TMD, Menpa, LMT. Nashalla began studying Tibetan Medicine in 1999. Encouraged by her root teacher, The Very Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche, she interned at Chagpori Tibetan Medical Institute’s Clinic in Darjeeling, India for two years. Nashalla’s Menpa degree was conferred in 2009 by Qinghai Tibetan Medical College and The Shang Shung Institute of Tibetan Medicine. She founded The Sowa Birthing Method, a bodywork series geared at decreasing medical intervention and postpartum depression. Her Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies from Naropa University focused on Asian Medicines and Buddhist Psychology. Nashalla went to the Institute of Taoist Education and Acupuncture for a Masters of Acupuncture in the Classical Five-Element lineage. She teaches as an Adjunct Professor at Naropa University, and lectures on Buddhism, meditation and Asian healing traditions worldwide to Tibetan and Western students, practitioners and doctors. Nashalla and husband, Dr. Tsundu S. Nyinda, operate the Nyinda Clinic of Tibetan Medicine & Holistic Healing Clinic in Boulder, Colorado USA. www.holistic-health.org.