ZPI encourages reflections from retreat participants, staff, members & others touched by our work and doing similar work from around the world, as part of the practice of bearing witness. In this article, Polish peacemaker Krzysztof Nowiński shares how he as used the pandemic to both deepen his practice and share this deepening with the benefit of his community.
With the lockdown, my world was fractured sharply. Speed reduction was huge. My life had been quite busy before. I owned a business, ran my law practice, co-lead a sporting club and was involved with a charity helping people with cancer. Overnight, all of this came to a halt. We were home alone, now, with my wife and a kid of three.
My initial anxiety in the face of the unknown did not last long. I made use of tools provided by our zen practice. As on a sesshin, I focused on the rhythm of the day, cutting off outside stimulations, and intensive zazen. Peace of mind and gratitude for my life showed themselves. This was so different from the scraps of outside reality that would come to me. I started to look around in search for an opportunity to share my energy. The answer came swiftly. As it occured, Poland’s health service was caught by the pandemic unprepared. Hospitals were short of almost everything, and the warehouses with equipment had gone empty. I was calling physicians offering them help.
It appeared that, in our sangha, there were more people concerned with the ongoing situation. We quickly decided to do something about it as a group. We got intel regarding the situation in Radom, a medium city in central Poland, from Prof. Paweł Nauman, physician whom we know from previous cooperation. He volunteered in the neurological ward in the hospital in Radom. The situation was dramatic there. The virus was found in the ward and it was quarantined. As a result, two doctors and one nurse worked non-stop with a few dozen patients who had suffered strokes and now had also got Covid-19. Personal protection equipment was running short.
We started to raise funds within the sangha and around. Meanwhile, with a group of friends I was looking around for PPE – face masks, safety uniforms, disinfectants. I also addressed requests for help to people I knew in Radom. It came out that local businessmen were rather anxious about their own future and would not join our efforts. On the other hand, local football supporters had already started to raise funds of their own initiative and were willing to join forces. It has to be noted that football supporters’ groups are seen by many as people who like violence, and their views are labeled as xeno- and homophobic. This was not, however, the time to discuss someone’s past or opinions. We focus on common action. With their help, within a week we were able to acquire enough PPE to help not just the neurological ward, but also the cardiological one.
To me, this was an experience of deepening my practice. Out of the comfort zone that zazen sometimes provides, with an open heart. It was a great experience to focus on action in a non-judgmental way. It would have not been possible to create our efforts from ordinary rescue coalitions otherwise.
We have done our part and this did make a difference. The true bodhisattvas, however, are doctors and nurses whom we aided. I bow humbly before them.
About the Author:
Krzysztof Nowiński, a member of the polish sangha Kanzeon Zen Center is also attorney at law. He has been practicing Zen for eleven years and received Jukai form Andrzej Getsugen Krajewski in 2016. Krzysztof is married with one child. He is also an activist in charity helping people with cancer.