Breaking Down the Walls of “Self Isolation”

by Keith Knapp

The following is a dipping of the toe by a perpetually novice wisdom seeker with early onset overly active mind syndrome who has several wonderful teachers and countless others.

I have been thinking a lot about the term “self isolation” recently.  The question I ponder is why, when combined, these two terms (i.e., self and isolation) have had such a hugely significant impact on our daily lives, but when separately considered the question is whether they even exist.  Does their combination make the meaning of the term “self isolation” something of great substance? Its structure must be at least equivalent to the strength of the walls that physically surround most of us and the space that must remain between us.  There has to be a difference, for example, between purposeful isolation in remote areas, delving into isolated silence for days or weeks on retreat, and being told to “self isolate”. Right?  The beginning, a shift in awareness.  Certainly something has to be amiss and something doesn’t quite match up when I compare my thoughts and the emotions they create while I complete similar activities during a purposeful self-isolation period, living on my own for many years, and forced self-isolation.  Walking deliberately, for example.  A continuation, something is there, go deeper.  While the motivations and the reasons for doing these activities are different and who is making the decisions to do this or that is different, each moment is the same.  Sit with it, stay with it, and go through it.  This moment, that moment, in isolation, here or there, is as it should be.  As it stands, it is not good or bad, it just is.  The same in their true essence.  It is what it is and nothing more, except thinking makes it so.  And if we combine this basic truth of the moment and embrace the full interconnectedness of ourselves with everything around us (which most of us feel much more acutely when outside among the organics and their natural order of chaos, but also includes the four walls enclosing us), can we find great hope and comfort in the idea that we are they and they are us.  That the walls we feel closing in around us are created in our mind and thoughts, resulting in an impact to our hearts, and are maybe not those we see.   What then, becomes of either “self”, “isolation”, or the combination of the two in our lives?  Let’s embrace the wonderful interconnectedness of everything, during these times, even when we are only one in the room.  Break down the walls of “self” and “isolation” and revel in the idea that everything that surrounds us at any moment is actually part of us.  That to be self-isolated, by definition, is to be among an infinite crowd.  If true, is this something to be savored as truly divine in the moment?  Rendering the term “self-isolation” and its impact into nothingness. Could our community-wide forced “isolation” lead to a larger collective understanding of the connection of what is within and without?  That the universal compassion within breaks free for all and melds into the sameness shared throughout the cosmos.  I say grab a bit of it, embrace it, and hold on tight.

Have you Noticed?

Have you noticed?

Heart beat

Orange juice

Buds daily growth

Frog sounds

Bird song

Felt time changing

Days melding

Sun and moon movement

Morse code rain

Wind embrace

Same as always, but totally different

Unnoticed but never gone

How could it be?

Have you noticed?


Have you noticed it?

Pounding rain, morse code of rain

Surrounding everything


Strong wind, spreading joy

Like a motherly embrace

Nothing else needed today


Be like the tadpole

Transition to jumping frog

Freedom to explore

Published by Daishin

Daishin Eric McCabe is a Buddhist monk. He teaches Soto Zen philosophy, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and calligraphy to people of all walks of life and spiritual paths. He was ordained in 2004 and given permission to teach in 2009. He is fully ordained in the Soto Zen tradition and is a recognized teacher both in the Association of Soto Zen Buddhists and in the Soto Zen Buddhist Association. Daishin undertook a 15 year mentorship with Abbess Dai-En Bennage of Mount Equity Zendo, located in rural central Pennsylvania. During this time he trained at various Soto Zen Monasteries in Japan. In France he trained with Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, practiced in California at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, and with Rev. Nonin Chowaney at the Nebraska Zen Center. He is a certified hatha Yoga teacher through Integral Yoga. Daishin has four years experience attending the spiritual and emotional needs of patients, family, and staff in a hospital setting, and three years experience giving spiritual direction and counsel to clients with mental health and substance abuse issues. He has ten years experience as a Guest Teacher and speaker at Buddhist meditation retreats, yoga centers, colleges, and multi-faith gatherings. Daishin studied at Bucknell University where he received a BA in Religion and Biology in 1995. He completed 5 units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Wellspan York Hospital in August of 2014, where he worked as a Chaplain in Behavioral Health, and in 2015 was granted by the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Incorporated the equivalent of a Master of Divinity. Prior to chaplaincy he taught meditation and yoga for two years to clients at White Deer Run, a drug and alcohol rehab in central PA. He presently teaches yoga at Broadlawns Medical Center to patients receiving mental health care. Daishin presently resides in Ames, Iowa with his wife and family.

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