Well, I’ve doe it again. I let myself go down a rabbit hole of crazy-making by inviting people with very different world views from my own to help me understand their position. This was on the internet, and it was about Donald Trump. I probably don’t have to tell you how this panned out, but I can say with certainty that it did not accomplish anything of any value. I suppose my post has to be construed as political (absolutely everything has been politicised right now, whether it is a deep moral, spiritual, and ethical concern, or the belief that we have the right to know what’s in the food we are buying and ingesting) but my original and true motive in starting the discussion was a desire for understanding. What I got was people who shared my beliefs encouraging me, and people who didn’t share my beliefs posting various unrelated things about how Trump was simply a misunderstood (though very good) man and president.
My posting an article with references to demonstrate every damning and puzzling point about this man did not move the needle for anyone, not one iota. What’s more, I already know that these kinds of open debates never go anywhere….at least not anywhere I want to go.
Political Debate 101: I make some spot on irrefutable statements of fact that absolutely cannot be denied by one who disagrees with me.
The One Who Disagrees with me slaps their forehead in awe, looks at me and says, “Oh my God! I’ve never looked at it this way before! You are right!”
SAID NO ONE EVER!
Politics is part of our life. It is how we decide things as a society, as a group. Important things, such as human rights, civil rights, health care, business and commerce and rules governing these things….you get the picture. But as it is part of life, the same spiritual principles I apply to my life must be applied here as well. For me this means that I do my responsibility as a citizen of a democracy, and all that involves – yes. But all the hard work of change; the heavy lifting, if you will – begins and ends with me and what is going on in me. Things are not going to get better once people start doing this or that, or get better once this or that happens. I do not postpone my sense of peace and happiness until these things happen. I have to root out anger and judgement within my own mind even as I try to effect change, otherwise I only add to the fear, anger and uncertainty that is swirling around and causing anguish and chaos right now.
Full disclosure: During the above mentioned exchange, I maintained an air of balance and calm in my written word. But my hidden thought was more like, “Look, you moron….” Yes. So the exchange was tainted even though the veneer of it from my end was quasi civil and respectful. The way forward for me is to own this and clean it up. On a spiritual level, I added to the hot mess of bad feelings (even if i thought it was “secret”). On a practical level, I have no moral persuasion with anyone if they can feel my underlying contempt. (to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King).
In conclusion, these interchanges between fellow humans will happen, and they will cause some form of pain in ourselves or others. It really is the human condition. The pain such things cause can be used as a catalyst for change. Pain of some sort is the key reason we evolve and improve our situation. In other words, when I suffer, or see others in pain or experiencing injustice, I am motivated to act. This is good, but I don’t want to act out of anger or judgement towards an individual. I can hate racism but I don’t want to hate the racist, to use an extreme example.
The process of “redemption” or coming back into balance with ourselves is to be honest and own our stuff. Not to the other person necessarily, but within ourselves. I absolutely have to be authentic within myself.
In Yoga tradition, we usually differentiate between avoidable and unavoidable suffering. According to the yoga sage Patanjali, “Unnecessary suffering must be avoided”. The unnecessary suffering usually means the drama that I create in my life myself. But there is another type of suffering (which can express itself in you as numbness, anxiety, anger, etc.) in which the only way to the other side is right through it. We cannot mask over it with positive mantras, or pseudo-spiritual maxims. It takes quiet, calm, and being able to go inward and sit with the muck, to face it down and just be authentic.
My yoga and meditation practice helps me with this. Just like you, I step in my own muck sometimes and one thing I know for sure is, it has never helped me tif I try o avoid, deny, or ignore it when I am triggered. Learning to settle my mind is crucial; I have to find the level of awareness within that is always quiet and peaceful. My go-to tools are Yoga postures, pranayama, and meditation. It starts as simply as noticing my negative emotions….and then not attempting to shout over them by justifying, judging .or ignoring them. I identify what is causing me discomfort or making me feel conflicted, then I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and face it. Sometimes all I need to do is sit with the discomfort for a while and see what comes up .Sometimes I have to ask myself questions like….Why has this impacted me so much? Are there any actions I can take to ease it?
But it all starts with noticing that I am not at peace. I believe the process is the same for you, for all of us. Even if your tools for doing this may be different from mine, ultimately what’s required is to get quiet, listen, and pay attention to fearful or angry thoughts. It’s worth cultivating this skill for your own peace of mind. Ultimately, this is far more important for achieving peace in the world than anyone I may vote for on election day.