Monday, November 9, 2020

An Election Over: What We Can Celebrate - Talk From 11/8/20

This is the talk given at meditation on Sunday, November 8, 2020.

ll things change. After a week fraught with uncertainty, we have a new president. And though the candidate I wanted to win did, and though there is much relief inside me and Saturday night I felt a tremendous cloud lifted, there is a large part of me that is conflicted in the triumph. When the half the people lose, it feels hard for me to wholeheartedly celebrate. 

What I was left with this week was the feeling, once again, that no side has been listening very well. Each side makes their demands; thinks they’re right; thinks their values are better.

This week I came to the realization that if half the people voted differently than me, then I need to reconsider how I am thinking about all of it. Half the people can’t be wrong or bad or have values that don’t align with mine. What it does mean is that half the people have different experiences, different stories, histories, and their perceptions are different than mine because of them. AND they matter. They’re going to have different fears. Some may be the same, but some may be opposing. What I am taking in more fully than ever before is that if I don’t give consideration to these differences, I will start believing half the people in this country are “bad.” In my heart, I know that is not true. We are all unique individuals with specific experiences that shaped who we are and how we think. What if we gave everyone not our judgement, not our opinions, but consideration? What if we valued all beings as thinking/feeling vulnerable beings - and that means even if they are waving flags and guns. What if we could be steady and listen even then with wonder about what they are needing to feel safe and take it seriously?

What does seem true from this election is the presence of a whole lot of fear, all of which is valid. We fear terrorists. We fear freedom being taken away. We fear diversity. We fear racism. We fear the police. We fear the lack of policing. We fear restrictions. We fear the lack of restrictions. We fear the faltering economy. We fear greed. We fear climate change. We fear making sacrifices. Ultimately, we fear change and the evolution of humanity - the unknown of it. How can we reach greater understanding and unity if we don’t tend to all of the fears on both sides and not berate the other for having them but get truly interested in the what and the why underneath them? I suggest an even bigger inquiry is here…are we willing to hold the opposing views, fears, feelings that exist inside ourselves. We are all complicated.   

If we are really on a path of awareness, we must learn to hold greater and greater complexity and change judgement to curiosity. This week, a shift has taken root in me. It is a move away from us vs them thinking, seeing in black and white, moving away from right/wrong; good/bad. Those concepts won’t bring peace or understanding. We know from our own experience that they don’t work within ourselves…when we fail to hear and be with all the parts of ourselves and make room for the complexity within us, we suffer. When we judge ourselves, when we make ourselves good/bad, right/wrong, we suffer.  

We have a fresh start before us as a country. We can also have a fresh start with ourselves. I’ve said it before but if we can work with “the impossible” in ourselves, we can work with what seems impossible in others because we have developed that muscle that can hold opposing sides, that listens, that makes room for and tends to both. We can be with all of ourselves. When we do this, all of us feels heard. This is the only way to dissolve fear. And when we dissolve fear, our actions are open, generous, loving. We can approach everything outside of us in the same way. We can strengthen this muscle.

This is a whole other way of being. When I try it on, it feels like the embodiment of equanimity. I invite you to try it on as well. What if we embodied equanimity? This would mean that instead of reacting in judgement we would lean into the complexity and nuances of the other’s story. What if we got curious about them, trusted their experiences, their histories because that’s what is true for them. What if I don’t try to change them, but be with them. We can’t convince people to think like we do. It doesn’t work. What has greater impact is when we are truly present, listening, bringing in compassion, holding their truths even if they are different than ours.

I know this won’t happen overnight for me, but this is the next place I want to nurture in me. What it means is that I need to be able to be steady, because I will have to face the forces in me that want to resort to the old way of thinking that I am right. The image that comes is in the story of the Buddha on the night of his enlightenment with Mara shooting arrows at him to distract him and when they struck him, they turned to flowers. What if, we could be like that? What if we trusted ourselves enough to have the strength, the courage, the wherewithal to be that?

The country is ushering in change and growth. We know that growth or the birth of something is rarely easy or elegant. If you are celebrating, please enjoy it. But, let’s also know half of the country is not and we can’t disregard that. We have work to do inside ourselves. We can choose to see it as the work of enlightenment. The opportunity is exciting because winning an election is not the final accomplishment. There is no real winning. Becoming a more aware, loving, compassionate person with all living things - well now, that is something to truly celebrate. We can do that. 

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