There are folks all over the Interwebs right now telling us that we must freak out and we must keep on freaking out. If you express any sort of calm on social media lately, someone will call you out for tacitly supporting racism, xenophobia, and grabbing her by the pussy through your refusal to join in the collective madness. Apparently the only way to get rid of hate and fear is to produce more hate and more fear.
Here’s a secret: It’s not.
My friend Svetlana said, “Just as hate has strength when people join together to hate, so does the fear of hate when people join together to fear hatred.”
How can you do something about hate without just joining with those who want to strengthen their fear of hate by joining to fear it together?
You think people don’t enjoy fear? You haven’t been to the movies or watched TV then, or been to an amusement park, or read most of the best selling books since… well basically since ever! We love being afraid. We love it just as much in real life as in fiction.
Dogen wrote a piece called Flowers in Space. Part of it goes like this;
By eliminating disturbances, we redouble the disease…The very moment itself of “eliminating” is inevitably “disturbance.” They are simultaneous and are beyond simultaneousness. Disturbances always include the fact of trying to eliminate them.
I submit that we are being lied to, manipulated, and made fools of. And I submit to you that the one lying, manipulating and making fools of us is not Donald J. Trump, is not the DNC, is not the media, is not the Liberal Elite, is not the protesters, is not any of those things.
I submit that we are being lied to, manipulated, and being made fools of by ourselves.
I submit that, although freaking out and panicking may seem justifiable, they will not help us. I further offer that we are not the passive victims of our own feelings and emotions. Finally, I submit that it’s possible that filling our minds with fear of hate may not be the best way to work on hate.
Disturbances always include the fact of trying to eliminate them.
The very moment itself of “eliminating” is inevitably “disturbance.”
Let’s take this on a personal, internal level first.
Most of us turn to thought and reason to try to find comfort. We try to think our way out of our thoughts..
You can’t think your way out of a thought.
The “good thoughts” we use to counter “bad thoughts” contain the very same “bad thoughts” we are seeking to cure. Every thought contains its opposite. It only exists in contrast to another thought. By encouraging “good thoughts” we encourage “bad thoughts.”
Taking a break from the madness all around us is different. It is not an escape. It is a necessary part of making the situation better.
My advice, for what it’s worth, is first, walk away. Walk out if necessary. Begin by stepping away both externally and internally.
Stepping away externally is fairly simple. Log out of your social media accounts. If the discussion at the office gets too heavy, make an excuse that you’ve got things to do. If you find yourself in a conversation that’s only making your blood pressure higher, tell your friends you suddenly remembered you left something on the stove. You already know what’s on the news. You’ve already watched that Trevor Noah video. You’ve already read that impassioned think-piece about why freaking out about the election is not overreacting. I hereby grant you permission not to look at that stuff anymore. You got that.
The next part of the internal work takes a bit of doing to get the hang of. The trick is to allow whatever thoughts and feelings you have to be there. Don’t fight against them. Don’t try to eliminate the disturbance. Zazen can help. So can other forms of meditation.
When you watch your feelings you can learn that those feelings are not my feelings. They don’t belong to you. They don’t define you. And, most importantly, they are not you.
If you let those feelings go, you will not vanish. If you let them go, the oligarchs, fascists, and pussy grabbers do not win. If you let them go, you do not shirk your duty as part of the opposition to all that is wrong in the world. By letting go of these thoughts and feelings, you find the power to let go of the fear they bring. But you do not lose the knowledge you already have and you do not lose the person you already are.
Like they tell you on an airplane, “Put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others.” After we work on ourselves, then we can work other people.
You don’t have to become perfectly free from fear before you can help others with their fears. You’ll never achieve that! But you’ll be better able to help others deal with their fear when you have begun dealing with your own.
You won’t be alone in doing this. We are a teeny-weeny, itty-bitty minority. But we’re out there. And we all are looking for others to join us. When we join together to silently face who and what we are, the strength of that joining is bigger than fear.
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Check out my podcast with Pirooz Kalayeh, ONCE AGAIN ZEN!
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Every Monday at 7:30pm there’s zazen at Angel City Zen Center (NEW TIME, NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 10:00 am there’s zazen at the Angel City Zen Center (NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
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