Some thoughts before today’s US electionsNovember 7, 2016 | 9 Comments
One could say that many of the world’s ills are rooted in fear. This is a pretty ordinary observation. If you watch a scary movie at night, you hear the noises in your home as ominous. If you don’t, they aren’t. Fear changes the way we perceive the world around us.
On this day just prior to our election in the US, we have an unusually potent opportunity to work with fear because no matter who we support, we are all f*cking terrified. The more afraid we are, the more likely we are to scare each other. The more we scare each other, the greater the distance between us.
The real danger is not in the policies of those we oppose. It is in dividing humanity into us and them. Fear makes us demonize some and cling to others. Someone has to put a stop to this and because you are reading this, that someone is you. (I didn’t tell you that reading this post was equivalent to being tagged “it” in the cosmic game of terror tag. Well, now you know.)
Your job is to assume responsibility for your terror by feeling it because without doing so you offload it into the environment. You turn others into your personal punching bag (by blaming them for what you fear) or your personal snuggy bear (for agreeing with you and assuaging your fear). We become trapped in an endless cycle of reactivity.
In Buddhist thought, the cycle of unexamined thought and emotion could take one of three forms. These are called the “three poisons.”
The first poison is grasping. We become emotionally terrified and reach out to anyone, everyone, for reassurance that everything will be okay. We may confess our terrors on Facebook (thereby offloading our fear onto others), obsessively watch the news or talk to friends in a desperate search for good news, or collapse into hopelessness. Everything we encounter is either proof that what we fear is imminent or that it is not. Our mind shrinks into a very tiny knot. It is extremely claustrophobic. This does not help anyone, most of all yourself.
The second poison is aggression. Our reaction to fear is to become enraged, so enraged that everyone we meet — and everything we read, think, or overhear — is categorized as either for us or against us. We lash out, seek to punish, destroy, or demean those we perceive as enemies — which only serves to strengthen what we oppose, by the way. Just as with grasping, our mind shrinks into a very tiny knot. It is extremely claustrophobic. This does not help anyone, most of all yourself.
The third poison is numbness. We simply hide out. We reach for whatever we can to self-narcotize, whether it is videos, drink, exercise, incessant social media surfing, food, drugs, books, or whatever works to keep us asleep to what we feel. We freeze. We try not to move because any wrong step may bring us face-to-face with what we are trying to avoid. Numbness too shrinks our mind into a very tiny knot. It is extremely claustrophobic. This does not help anyone, most of all yourself.
There is a fourth option. I’m not going to lie, it is not easy. It is to meet your fear. To feel it. Instead of shrinking away, you open to include it. This is the only response that expands and softens your mind. You actually relax with what you feel rather than working to disprove, demolish, or hide from it. This creates a kind of space in which you are able to notice others as more than potential devices to be used for good or for ill. (Others tend to really appreciate this, I might add.) Then, perhaps, you could do something intelligently kind to help them with their own grasping, aggression, and numbness. This helps everyone, most of all yourself.
To accomplish this type of mind state, it is really, really good to have a meditation practice. By working with your mind on the cushion, you develop the capacity to work with it off the cushion. This is the entire point of the practice. It is not to be good at meditating (so what?) but to be good at your life. Now we know the truth. Meditation is not a self-help tactic or a way to be more productive. It is a path of warriorship that enables us to meet our world with steadiness and sanity. It is a way to be brave.
The first definition of a warrior is one who is not afraid of him and/or herself, so it is essential to acknowledge your own fear, not in an effort to banish, subjugate, or ignore it, but to feel it.
When you know how to stop, turn around, and look directly at yourself, you come into possession of a super power. It is called the ability to care. Rather than protecting yourself at every turn by clinging to, blaming, or ignoring others, you can actually be there for and with them.
This is one solution to our terrible divide. We could care about each other. It is not easy but it seems we have to do it anyway. This is not to be all nicey-nice — I most certainly am not — but to enable us to take on our problems together. Also, personally, I don’t want to live in a world where everyone is afraid of everyone else.
It is a strange karmic trick that at those times when we most want to harden our hearts and ignore others, what is called for is to soften, first to ourselves and then to everyone else.
At this moment, on this day, we have the perfect opportunity to practice this because there is no place to hide. You can do it. Fear makes you feel powerless, but generosity is a gesture of power. If you want to recover a sense of stability and dominion, open your heart.Tags: actions, aggression, agitation, beyond aggression, bravery, community, compassion, compassion for enemies, courage, determination, discipline-t, doubt, emotions, enemies, exertion-t, feelings, fighting without aggression, groundless, groundlessness, happiness, interdependence, meditation, non-attachment, non-duality, pain, patience-t, social justice, wisdom-t