The recently-concluded election year has been hard on the country. No matter who we voted for. Here are some offerings from Dharma Zephyr community members. They are alphabetical by last name. If you want to contribute something, please use the curated comment section below. Let’s have a conversation.
At the moment I feel more the need for inspiration than the ability to inspire. I am still struggling to reconcile the dharma with my anger and fear. Equanimity and metta elude me when it comes to the president elect, as his words and actions go against all my hopes and dreams for the future of all beings on this fragile planet. At this point, when disappointment and despair arise, I find some relief in the truth of impermanence and the fact that I am not alone, Sangha.
While looking for some inspiration, I found this passage from Gil Fronsdal’s The Issue at Hand: “The optimism of Buddhism is that we can make a difference to the world around us. Our thoughts, words, deeds of empathy, love and caring are the needed counter-forces to hatred, violence, and despair.”
He goes to offer this from the Buddha :
Victory gives birth to hate;
The defeated sleep tormented.
Giving up both victory and defeat,
The peaceful sleep delighted.”
The Three Jewels
When my heart feels wounded and my ego bruised I find solace in the three jewels, The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Here I find encouragement and an opportunity for practice, to be mindful of my judgements and my opinions of others.
Equally there is the opportunity to offer metta for all, without reservations, to myself, and to my loved ones, to my acquaintances and most importantly, to those I find most difficult. The walls between us collapse when there is a balance between heart and mind.
How do I open my heart?
No quotes today friends….I need help. I have learned in a very painful way that my lack of empathy for a dear friend’s fear and extreme unease over our election results may have permanently damaged my relationship with this cherished friend. I hope not.
So I need help from my friends – your reflections, meditations, experiences. Help me learn how I can work toward becoming a person who, when hearing someone else expresses anguish, I open my heart first so I can emotionally support this person, instead of being someone who starts by analyzing of the problem.
And that’s what I’ve been doing since Wednesday morning. Trying to analyze the fear, anger and unrest rather than trying to understand it emotionally. How selfish of me.
To all of my friends who are suffering, I am sincerely sorry for your pain and your fears. My friend finally revealed where her fear was coming from and how very well-founded her fears are.
It pains me that I walked right past her pain….right past my dear friend’s pain…. She needed to be loved, she needed to be protected and supported. She didn’t need to be fixed and being analyzed cut her to the core.
This was a very painful lesson for me to learn. Any thoughts are very welcome. Namaste…
—From Jeff Froschauer’s Daily Reflections
Stories in the mind
My initial shock and dismay at the presidential election results have now given way to a low-level anxiety about the future. I was surprised to notice that I’m a little disappointed with the impermanence of my no longer very “interesting” emotions. I realized I had wanted to write a dramatic blog that would inspire my dharma friends during a dark time while bringing me praise for writing the rallying cry!
From a dharma perspective, it’s interesting whenever I find myself caught up in an embellished story that puts me at the center of essentially impersonal external events. That’s the real rallying cry — but it’s a call to practice, not a call for drama. It’s a reminder of the delusion born of fixed views and stories, whether they’re about our president or our place in the world. It’s an excellent time to ground ourselves in the reality of the body, cultivating mindfulness of the sensations and thoughts that are present right now. I can unravel my delusions of self by reflecting on my interdependence with all the constantly changing people, animals, plants, bugs, clouds, oceans, rivers, and air that I share this planet with. I will try to keep my doors of compassion and wise action open by repeatedly returning from the dramatic stories in my mind to the reality of the present.
My anguish at the presidential election results has put me face-to-face with the three kleshas of greed, hatred and delusion.
What an unparalled opportunity for practice. I have all the prerequisites for practice the Buddha listed : health, food to eat, a roof over my head, and wise companions – and I’m miserable. I feel a stranger in my own country. So I’m exploring the misery and practicing with hatred. My goal is to try and recognize the moment when anger and fear harden into hatred. To see what that feels like. Then, of course, to avoid that turning if I can.
Here’s some of what I have noticed so far. When I asked other sangha leaders to write, if they liked, some teachings or impressions about the difficult election and its results, one sangha member wrote back mildly reminding me that some of our companions “might be happy” with the election results. In my mind, that person has become my enemy. I notice that many of my anguished mind states are now swirling around that person, as though by not agreeing with me they have somehow become a magnet for the negative.
I don’t think true hatred of this person has arisen yet – and of course I hope it does not – but the experience has certainly given me some insight into how hatred can become hardened and personified and thrust onto certain people or groups of people. A useful insight, I think, given the palpable hatred that seems to be arising in this country – and even worldwide – now manifested in actual attacks on the hated groups, whoever they may be. And of course it’s much worse in other places – need I mention the suffering of people in Syria?
I’m not saying I can cut through the hatred of other people, but at least I can gain some insight into how hatred, greed and delusion arise in my own mind and body. That, to me right now, is the true gift of the practice.
Our practice is most useful and most powerful when we use it for the benefit of all
I was on retreat at Camp Galilee with Shaila Catherine during the week of the election, and despite her recommendation that we not look at the election results until the end of the retreat, I peeked to see who our next president would be. I was surprised and shocked. My retreat experience went from centered and focused to scattered and distracted; my mind was in a turmoil. However, the retreat setting was an ideal environment to examine how I felt about this.
It took me half a day to get back to some sense of equanimity. But in that process, I realized the power of our practice. By looking at how I felt in body and mind, and with a concerted effort to regain some level of concentration, I was able to recognize a few things: 1) We cannot change the past. What has happened has happened, and it does no good to dwell on what might have been. 2) I am afraid of what may lie ahead but that has not happened yet. 3) That I can hold to “fixed views” which, while spurring me to action, reinforce a sense of self that I should not become attached to. 4) Our practice is most useful and most powerful when we use it for the benefit of all – thus I resolved to work hard to counteract the worst of what I fear lies ahead, while not becoming too attached to the outcome. It has spurred me to action, and for that I am grateful. 5) This a great opportunity to practice Metta.
Quiet the mind, open the heart
Like many people, I felt the wind had been knocked out of me by the presidential election results early this month. Whenever I feel uncertain about how to respond to difficult news, I return to a teaching Ram Dass (author of Be Here Now) gave many years ago in Reno.
He began by listing all the terrible things that were happening in the world (you can fill in the blanks here). People would say, “See, Ram Dass, everything’s getting worse!” He would reply that he really didn’t know, but perhaps they were right. What to do? he wondered. And he answered that it seemed he should quiet his mind, open his heart, and do what he could to relieve suffering.
And then he listed many wonderful things (again, fill in the blanks); people would say that all is getting better, asking for his agreement. Again, he didn’t really know. But if they were correct, what would be his response? To quiet his mind, open his heart, and do what he could to relieve suffering.
For me, quieting my mind means to meditate, take breaks from the news, go to yoga, walk in nature. To open my heart I remember that all beings want to be happy, even the ones I find difficult, and that we create suffering due to delusion. And to relieve suffering? There are so many ways; I vow to work as skillfully and lovingly as I can to stand up for people, animals, plants, and the earth, transforming anger and despair through action.
Peace is a choice
“Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calm lie down with ease,
having set winning and losing aside.”
(Dhammapada, Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s translation, p. 57)
The Buddhist path is a process of cutting through the illusion of the dualistic world via an understanding to interdependence. We are living at a time when division, non-inclusiveness, and hatred of everything deemed as “other” have come to the forefront. Our challenge is to keep an open heart in the face of oppression, to speak and act from a clear and quiet mind that knows no boundaries of “self” and “other.”
I have chosen to practice insight meditation and qigong to help keep myself centered. There are many examples in the suttas of individuals, even cruel ones, being transformed simply by observing the quiet dignity and embodied presence of a noble one. We don’t know the effect we have on others. Why not be a peacemaker?
“May you live in interesting times” is an English expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. While seemingly a blessing, the expression is always used ironically, with the clear implication that interesting times usually include disorder and conflict. It seems clear to me that this Presidential election and results qualify as interesting times, for all of us, regardless of our unique perspective.
For me, it is during the interesting times in my life that my practice really pays off. These are the times that the skills I’ve learned help reduce my suffering the most. These are the times when being able to consciously, purposely, dwell in the present moment helps me and hopefully all around me. When I watch or read the news, or talk to people who are agitated and I feel myself getting worked up it is a call to action, a mindfulness bell as Thich Nhat Hanh would say. I know what to do, I’ve done it thousands of times in meditation. Not a present moment emergency? Okay – breathe, center, be present. Patience, compassion, empathy, goodwill. As in the Buddha story – Enjoy the strawberry.
Now is the time to do our best
Challenging times call us to practice and give us more focus.
Now is the time to do our best! Now is the time to be our best!
As our teachers have told us again and again, there is not a moment to lose! Practice!
For me practice means sitting on the cushion, welcome centering, grounding. The sweet breath, again and again. Grateful for this very moment, right now. Metta meditation. Centering, calming meditation.
This is why we practice. To help end suffering,
This is why we practice, right here, right now.
So many opportunities to practice right speech and right action. We must practice these more than ever.
Now! Study! Share! Practice!
Go to Sangha! Go to retreats! Read! Talk! Practice!
Be the best you can be! Now! There is not a moment to lose!