I’ve been all over the map lately: disbelief, rage, hope, despair, calm, frustration. I’ve also been watching myself go there. Paying attention, being mindful of the ways in which ego drags me around by the scruff of the neck, pokes me for reactions, cackles with glee when they’re big ones. Working this way with my own thoughts helps me remember that while I can't control external events, I can still use my faculties to notice my internal experience. And sometimes that brings me a measure of equanimity.
Then I read an article in the magazine “Lion’s Roar” by Pablo Das, challenging Western Buddhists to move beyond “a self-centered mindfulness practice,” and effectively, in reality, lock arms with those who have already lost so much, and who stand to lose so much more now that they’re in the crosshairs of the current administration. This president has offered me a rich spiritual practice—from dealing with the triggers he’s set of in me as a woman, to learning more about compassion, trying to see everyone in Washington as human beings. But that all takes place at my quiet little altar in my secure home, candles lit, incense burning. Mr. Das says, “If your practice is only about you, and you are not really standing in the margins with the most vulnerable members of society for the next four years, then for me, your compassion and wisdom are impotent.” I gave that some thought.
I mean, it's not like I've been hiding out on my meditation cushion. For the past several years, I have been working with underserved communities, putting time and money where my mouth is. Is that impotent? Of course not...but what Mr. Das is talking about is the bigger difference we can make when we speak on their behalf to those higher up. That's where the broader, more meaningful changes take place. I've completely ignored my power in that direction.
So I’ve stepped up my game. I don’t take my citizenship for granted anymore. I know who my representatives are. I printed out sheets of their address labels, and they sit right by my computer. I send postcards and speak with their offices regularly. (They answer. They want to hear from us.) Plus, I’ve printed out a copy of the Constitution and, probably for the first time in my life, I’m reading it through to the end.
This is something absolutely everyone should do, all parties, all races, all genders, all generations.
And speaking of generations, discuss with your young children what's important and why. And remember we live in the land of "free speech," so practice leaving room for differences of opinion. Practice respect. It might be hard. Do it anyway. Grapple with the challenge of behaving the way you wish everyone in Washington would behave. And let it all unfold at your own dinner table. Then maybe pick a night, and write postcards to the representatives who are working for YOU. Or call them. They really do want to hear from you, from us...and it makes a big difference.
There is a greater good to be nourished here, and it belongs to everyone. If we do not feed it, we are depleting it. Every single one of us is needed. Let’s move outward from our self-centered practices, even the righteous spiritual ones, and wake up to the fact that we actually do have a tremendous amount of skin in the game.
Our unborn children are watching.