Even before COVID-19, the prevalence of mental illness was on the rise. The pandemic has only exacerbated the negative impact on individuals’ psychological and emotional well-being due to self-isolation, anxiety, loneliness, fear, economic struggles, and so much more. Even with the hope of the vaccines on the horizon, the mental health impact of the pandemic may continue to affect society much longer than the virus itself. With this in mind, YABA held a mental health discussion-based workshop on New Year’s Eve.
Everyone has faced their own unique challenges this past year. Some have been unable to see their families and friends. Some have felt fear about the safety of themselves and of those closest to them. And others have faced the tragic death of loved ones. These challenges are not only being faced by those already existing with mental health issues, but also by those who are newly triggered by recent events. It is also important to recognize that minorities are generally disproportionately affected, especially the Asian American community.
“Being on a spiritual path does not prevent you from facing times of darkness. But it teaches you how to use the darkness as a tool to grow.” – Sadhak Anshit
Buddhism teaches us that suffering is inescapable. Life is suffering. Buddhism was founded on the experiences of one man’s own search for understanding suffering on his path to enlightenment. From my own experience with depression and anxiety, suffering can make you feel alone in your pain. However, by sharing our individual challenges with others in our workshop, it reminded me of the power of interconnectedness. It reminded me that we are not alone and that we can support each other in our struggles.
Even though we all were experiencing suffering, it was clear that these struggles also paved the way for positive change. This past year taught us how to better balance our lives, how to ask for help, how to appreciate those closest to us, and many more lessons that we can take into the new year and beyond. These are lessons that can teach us how to be kinder to ourselves and those around us, and how to live more healthy lives. A prime example was seeing how our temple had come together as a community this past year, such as making Obon at Home happen and holding Compassionate Conversations through the difficult challenges of 2020.
2020 was definitely a difficult first year for YABA. However, we are optimistic for the new year. We have welcomed a new cabinet: myself as President, Alec Matsumoto as Vice President, Ashley Andrews as Treasurer, and Lauren Muselman as Secretary. We hope to continue to build up YABA and find ways to contribute to not only the temple, but also the community.
As a final note, I implore everyone to reflect on the challenges you have faced and what positive lessons they have taught you. By focusing on these positive lessons, we can continue our journey to inner peace in this ever-changing and impermanent world.