In this much written about contentious election season, filled with so many angry accusations and counter accusations, where civility and decency appear to often take a back seat to distrust and fear, we cannot but take a moment and ask ourselves: what does my personal integrity have to say? How do I rise above and hold meaningful, wise, helpful conversations?
Personally, this is a toughie.
On one hand, my background in traditional Buddhist teaching and training says one thing, but often my gut says something which feels a little more nuanced.
Often in these emails I find myself talking about forgiveness, loving-kindness and compassion, the staples of a Buddhist world view, in ways that sound to me, as I re-read them, as taking an easy way out of a messy situation by using sanitized examples, slightly moralistic platitudes or kind of pious sounding pronouncements.
The issue for me is that many people who consider themselves as a forgiving person, who have taken to heart the teachings on forgiveness, reconciliation and compassion offered by the world’s religions, and authentically mirrored in the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela – may not be psychologically ready to forgive.
Or, it just might not be what is called for if done in an inflexible or Pollyannaish manner.
Sometimes when we are hurting from hatred, distrust, anger, we can feel almost compelled or obliged to forgive – and this risks taking this felt obligation, often unconsciously, as a kind of spiritual threat. We can easily fall into feeling re-victimized.
So and so politician spews hateful speech, angering tens of thousands (and hurting under the anger, I would say). Yes, you can forgive as the crazy talk of a lunatic.
But is that truly what’s called for here?
Caveat: I am asking you personally, not making any blanket statements.
I am simply using this an example, with admittedly a low trauma potential. But the issues here apply to racial violence, gang rape of teenage women, politically motivated tortue …
It certainly doesn’t help to fall into the view, held by some, that folks who take the teachings on love, compassion and forgiveness to heart are somehow, or should be, above politics.
There is no denying that forgiveness, loving kindness and compassion can be revolutionarily transformative and healing. But can we really say we are “above” politics, when the issues in this election season are so critical to the future of not only our country, but the entire planet?
I have seen social media posts by sincere, spiritual folks that say that since a certain respected meditation oriented blog had some few Facebook posts that were “political” that anyone into forgiveness and compassion would unfollow them as the blog would be seen as “angry” or “not spiritual.” And the “political posts” in question were all well written, in a calm yet concerned tone.
This is what I am getting at, what I just wrote above.
A very fertile soil for contemplation.
The deal for me is how we as meditation practitioners position ourselves around these issues.
In other words, in choosing our own rhetoric, can we encourage folks who may superficially view forgiveness as weak or irrelevant, so they may explore the transformative potential here, and be mindful of those who are into going deep into forgiveness and compassion and hit some scary places inside, as it just may not be their time to go there?
Inside we know the right responses, but stuff gets in the way.
Meditation is incredibly helpful in clearing away a lot of this meaningless stuff that gets in the way of our heart’s genuine response.
Just take a moment and reflect what does my personal integrity have to say? How do I rise above and still hold meaningful, wise, helpful conversations?
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
-Antoine de Saint Exupéry
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