MSC in Vietnam: “Saving the World” by Letting Go
“The healthcare community just contacted me and they would like us to deliver an MSC workshop and courses for doctors!” my co-teacher told me excitedly. I was honored and humbled at the opportunity to make such a meaningful contribution to the community that probably needs MSC the most at this strange moment in history.
The workshop was a success and we immediately received registration forms from doctors, who would take the first course for free. I opened the forms excitedly and closed them after two mere minutes of reading; I was overwhelmed by the amount of stress they were facing. Self-doubt kicked in. A million questions coursed through my mind.
Am I ready to take on such a challenging community? Do I understand enough about the suffering they are facing? What if they experience heavy backdraft?
I have had mini-panic of this kind ever since I started teaching mindfulness in general, and MSC specifically. It has been a mixture between the imposter syndrome — Who am I to teach mindfulness/MSC? — and a sense of burden that I was fully and solely responsible for the well-being of the people whom I teach, regardless of the background that they have. The sense of burden is further enhanced by the pandemic, in which, as a mindfulness and compassion practitioner, I somehow felt that it was an urgent situation and I had to play the hero to save the world. I offered more workshops. I wrote more articles to ease people’s pain. Eventually, I reached my limits and collapsed. Oooophhh … heavy!
Heaviness is annoying, but rationally, I love it, because when things get heavy enough, I let go – simply too tired to hold on. In this case, letting go gave me just enough space to realize that love and wisdom, which were the essence of what we were teaching, were a circular flow, rather than unidirectional from me to the participants. That this essence was already the nature of all beings, and my role was to give space to this unfolding, rather than “saving the world.” That life was always generous, and the sense of “urgency” came from a sense of grasping, rather than anything heroic. That I was learning from the participants as much as they were learning from me, and from each other. I took a deep breath… Ahhhhh…. Softening … Soothing… Allowing…
As my panic subdued and I started my class with the doctors, the sense of self-doubt was still there, but I met the situation with more joy and ease. And as we deepened our connection to one another, I simply let the sense of common humanity carry the energy of the class. Less effort – more allowing – very MSC.
The year is ending (in the case of Vietnam, the Lunar year) and many are rushing to finish year-end reports, coping with the pandemic, or making plans for the new year. I find myself being pulled by this pressure, and at the same time, I notice how my body naturally wants to retreat with the winter – the season of going inward, of resting and restoring, of receptivity. I listen to this inner call of life, at the same time, caring for the natural fear that comes up when the call seems to be against the current. The MSC team in Vietnam also lay low in this season – we are taking our time to deepen our practice, strengthen connection within the team and offer meet-ups for past participants, rather than engage in outward activities like marketing campaigns or offering more courses.
Interestingly, despite our minimal effort to reach out, more people have come to us to seek support. We have received requests that are of great impact: from the doctors’ community, to a development policy research institute that provides policy consultancy for the government, to big corporations with thousands of employees. So I guess this is what people need from us at the moment, isn’t it? Not the frantic “saving the world” heroic, but strong grounding, generosity, ease, joy, and love.
May we live with ease.
May we live with ease.
Happy New Year from Vietnam!
MSC Teacher and Director, Authentic Live & Learn, whose vision is “A Happy and Compassionate Vietnam.”