“To suffer based on expectations is to live haunted and hunted. But we are fortunate. There could be no other answer to our meditation and prayers in dissolving hatred than to be placed front and center with it and be exposed.”
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
I wanted to thank you all for (1) being in my life. Your friendship and comradery- not just these past 32 days, but throughout the years- make me feel like I am the richest person on this earth. I am thankful for each and every one of you and I am blessed to have you in my life. And thank you for (2) being a part of this 32-day Lent; your participation means so much and it was amazing to be able to talk with many of you about the daily messages and our personal journeys. Getting up in the mornings and sending out my well wishes was truly the highlight of my day. Thank you for agreeing to do this and for helping me stay a peaceful person.
I am sorry that I didn’t send this final message sooner, but it has taken me some time to gather myself and get back to a strong center. To summarize, I feel that I am in the most bizarre episode of the Twilight Zone and as Trump gets closer to the White House with decisions and arrangements for his presidency, that episode has strong undertones of pain and grief.
Yes, we knew that there would be a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’ but we were all hoping and somewhat assured of our favorable outcome. I don’t think I have ever felt this level of sadness or shock as well as empathy for others; I am concerned about the well-being of many people in our country and my heart goes out to everyone.
But, as this Lenten promise outlined in the beginning, we will pray for Trump and give him a fair chance. We will not see ourselves as better than other people, including him. We will also put forth more kindness in the world and shine our lights brighter. I believe that means being extra, extra kind to people, listening to all people, protecting others, and sticking up for what is right even if your opinion is the secondary and unpopular one.
It is easy to be kind to people who voted the same as you did, but this is the challenge and the true meaning of kindness. Listen to those who voted for Trump and engage in a respectful conversation with them. One religious teacher, James Ishmael Ford, explains that it is most important to, “…recall the hurt and fear that led so many people to support him. To simply dismiss their emotions by cavalier broad struck condemnations, while it feels good, and I do like doing that, ultimately does no good.”
What were the reasons? If they were/are angry towards others, towards the government, find out why. Is there anything you can do to help them? Even if that just means showing them how to disagree while upholding another person’s decency, that is more than enough. If it means expressing a different opinion, they don’t have to agree with you, but at least you attempted to show them another perspective in a non-authoritative or shameful way. Listen to those who are angry or who feel that they have missed out on something and aim to help them, causing less harm to themselves and possibly to others.
And of course, listen and take care of those who have been hurt. Let them know that you care and stand up for them.
As the quote above, as well as the fabric of Buddhist teachings profess, unacceptance of reality is where suffering starts. We must accept that this is the reality of our country. Perhaps this election is to show how much hatred there is and now we must face it. Define what you must do for yourselves. Because as much as complaining about reality leads us nowhere, so too does becoming complacent and turning a blind eye to it.
What will you do when you see someone being targeted in a hate crime or someone being made fun of? Someone sharing an opinion that is bigoted? Someone who doesn’t understand the fear that others feel? Whether it is a joke, an actual crime, a comment or simply an attitude, what will you do? Will you think, “This is none of my business. I shouldn’t get involved.” or “Who am I to intervene?” or will you act out of an intention of calmness and love, even if our society encourages otherwise? It is clear as much as it is painful to see this true picture of the US, but it begs us to come up with our own game plans.
Do you remember Gandhi’s quote from this Lenten promise? “I shall not fear anyone on Earth. I shall fear only God. I shall not bear ill will toward anyone. I shall not submit to injustice from anyone. I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.”
Remember Rumi’s The Guest House when he encourages to us welcome the unwanted parts of our life? “Welcome and entertain them all/Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, /who violently sweep your house/empty of its furniture. /Still, treat each guest honorably”
Remember to be thankful for the times that lead you closer to prayer? Rumi states that we should be thankful for troublesome times because those are the ones that, “…make you return, for whatever reason, to the spirit, be grateful to them. Worry about the others, who give you delicious comfort that keeps you from prayer.”
Remember all of these points and use them to transform your worldview into one of, “Why is this happening?!” to “What can I learn from this?”
Please know that while I write this, I am still not 100% there and I am certainly no expert. But I know that this is what I aim for:
-I will realize that how I personally and internally handle the current climate of our society is where true change with society starts. (Click the link if you don’t quite get this: http://seatofthesoul.com/2016/11/dont-let-the-election-distract-you/)
-I will ask myself what I can do, and if sometimes that only involves keeping me and my heart free of hate and judgement, I will know that is a great contribution to the world.
-I will see with new eyes our home and fellow countrymen and do my very best to realize the common ground that naturally exist among all of us.
– I will still have faith in the good of mankind
-I will not pretend that everything is ok, but I will also not expect the worst
-I will not be silent about injustices. I will let people know that they can find comfort in me and confidence that I will stand up for everyone’s rights.
-I will love ALL people, and if that love is met with criticism, I will remember that sometimes people only sow seeds for others. Every kind act is remembered, so even if your kindness is met with roughness, know that you toiled the soil for something to grow their later.
When time passes and you tell your kids or grandkids what it was like living through this, make sure you are able to say that you were your best self. It is up to each of us to decide who that is. But I would bet that being your best self has something to do with a balance between optimism and realism and, being patient and being a catalyst for change and not losing inner stability despite times were it is easy to get hooked to hate and chaos.
Life has a way of giving you exactly what you need to learn right here and now. So find your lessons, study them, practice and be well.
Thank you my friends.
These two articles taken from the Buddhist website Lion’s Roar are amazing and may help you with this transition.