As I write this, the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election is still up in the air. The major news outlets sense our anxiety. We wonder how this can be? When will it be over?
Many of us watched for four years as what we held most dear, our aspirations and hopes, disappeared under clouds of fear.
Then suddenly, we could see the sky again, filling with the hope of saving the planet and righting the injustices of racial and social economic stigmatization.
Then, this… uncertainty.
What a perfect time to be a meditator!
the value of Buddhist meditation
For me, the real value of Buddhist meditation is that whatever I may be feeling is itself the way of touching peace and clarity.
The uncertainty, the roller-coaster of hope and fear, is not something to get over by practicing meditation.
The uncertainty is itself…. precious.
One Zen master of old China is known for his statement:
not knowing is most intimate.
He is describing an attitude to meditation practice of letting things be, of letting our hopes and fears sort themselves out, without any attempt to control, or even subtly influence, the so-called result of the practice.
Don’t misunderstand this vital point!
This is not saying don’t work for social justice, for example. This is saying be careful not to insist that your work will turn out a certain way.
don’t get carried away by the stories told by hope and fear
It helps to stay grounded in the here and now of your raw experience, and not be carried off by the stories in our head told by our hopes and fears.
In other words, it helps to meditate every day.
Granted, it’s not easy to be present when hope and fear swarm the freshly plowed fields of our lives. It takes effort and discipline to keep bringing ourselves back to the present moment.
But our practice reveals a secret–that it’s only in the present moment that we can receive the gifts the world is continuously offering us.
In this present moment we suspend hope and fear .. if only for this one moment.
The fear things will turn out in a way that seems unthinkable, and the hope they will not.
But there is another, more subtle kind of hope, that has nothing to do with conditions, of how things may or may not turn out, and is intimately connected with what Buddhists might call our essential nature.
the velvet revolution
Vaclav Havel, who led the former Czechoslovakia, to freedom from Soviet rule in the “Velvet Revolution” describes this kind of hope much the way a Buddhist might, as an aspect of our true nature, which is never dependent on causes, conditions or outcomes.
He describes this hope as a dimension of being, or as some Buddhists would say, our essential goodness, which is..
an orientation of the heart that transcends the world…it is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.
To feel this dimension of being in meditation takes courage to let hope and fear sort themselves out in the sacred space we make for them on our cushion.
Many years ago, the Dalai Lama counseled a group of social activists depressed about the state of the world to be patient.
“Do not despair,” he said. “Your work will bear fruit in 700 years or so.”
Can we be this patient with ourselves and the world?
This is a great time to be a meditator!