Keeping Our Hearts Open in the Face of Increasing Uncertainty
The recent U.S. election has stunned virtually every thoughtful person in the world. In the midst of this intensification of future uncertainty and the insecurity that generates, Richard speaks about how we can honor our reactions to this election by dedicating ourselves through our consciousness practices to embody, to the best of our abilities, the mind and heart of Love.
And I myself have felt just something inside of me that went two ways. It went toward anxiety and apprehension, and also into a kind of deeper, deeper silence. I don’t know if it was a kind of defensive numbing, or just a real listening.
I just came back from Japan. I came back on Election Day. And the reason I mention that is because I had some time to go touring in the city of Kyoto, which is the center of Japanese culture. And it’s Buddhist. It’s a Buddhist culture.
And I was standing in front of some of the most extraordinary statuary of representing different forms of contemplation. And one of them, a figure sitting like so. And the essence of this figure, this Buddha figure or Bodhisattva figure, contemplating the question of suffering and how do we address suffering.
And these are statues that are 700, 800, 900 years old. But the Buddhist answer to the question of suffering, which is 2,600 years old, was that suffering comes from the mind. It comes from ignorance of understanding our own minds.
And when we think about the election we have to think about how all of us do, and to what degree we do and don’t, understand our own minds; and how elections can play upon our vulnerability to fear, and play upon our sense of hope for the future, as well as whether the election addresses the kinds of issues that are pertinent to people. And it’s hard for me to get inside of it, honestly, recognize what does it feel like if you’ve not done any real awareness practice, or awareness training, and you are in a part of the, let’s say, the American society, such as the people who mined coal, and who maybe their fathers mined coal, and their grandfathers mined coal– generations of a particular microculture around a particular industry. The same with steel making. The same with many, many things.
As time changes, everything is always changing. And people don’t adapt to change very well. And our society doesn’t invest in helping people who are disenfranchised of their livelihoods, or disenfranchised of the kind of work that is inseparable from their sense of identity to be able to be retrained and reassimilated into the society. So a lot of people become despairing. They become hopeless. And in this election in the United States. Those are the people that heard the message of Donald Trump.
It’s hard for me to understand why they didn’t hear the egoism in the message. For me, Mr Trump is one of the most classic examples of the kind of human being– and we all have aspects of this to a greater or lesser degree– but it is that part of us that is unconsciously and not so sometimes unconsciously, but narcissistically manipulating the world to see us in a way we want to be seen. For example, he makes he wants to be seen as powerful, as wealthy, as bright, as a successful businessman, as a doer. We also saw him in many other ways through the course of the election.
We also manipulate to be seen the way we want to be seen. Sometimes we borrow our identity from wanting to be seen as smart and clever. Sometimes we borrow our identity from our vulnerability, our fears, our doubts about ourselves.
But the fact is that if we really contemplate that the answer that was made 2,600 years ago is if we aren’t students of our own minds, we will be ruled by our minds. We will be ruled by the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. We will be ruled by our judgments of other people. We will be ruled by our projections, out of unmet parts of ourselves onto other people.
And every single human being that walks up to cast a vote in an election, whether in the United States or anywhere else, is more or less conscious. And I know that can sound like a very elite position. What I want to say is simply yes, now we have an even greater degree of uncertainty about what America– the United States of America– is going to do in terms of issues such as support of the NATO alliance or, more importantly, in terms of the challenge of global warming. And the answer is I don’t know. I don’t know.
But what we have to do, we have to realize that it all comes from consciousness. We have to say to ourselves no matter what comes from the outside, we do not help the collective field of consciousness by becoming– it’s legitimate to feel angry. It’s legitimate to feel worried. But if we seek into any form of victim, then we ourselves become part of the problem. We ourselves become weakened in the quality of the presence that we’re emanating to others.
So the decision we need to make is regardless of what happens we are going to love. We are going to want to know what the heart and mind of love is. And that we are going to live the practices practically day by day– in all of our relationships, in our work, in our businesses, in our family dynamics– that have to do with moving further and further away from that kind of narcissistic manipulation of the world, that kind of self-centeredness, self-importance, self-involvement, with all the projective blame that goes outward, and instead say, no matter what, I’m keeping my heart open. No matter what, every human being made their choice based on their life experience– and it’s really hard to get into their shoes– based on who their mothers and fathers were, what kind of education they had.
Jesus was 2,000 years ago. And his answer to the question of why there is so much conflict and pain in the world was a little bit different than the Buddha’s. In simplistic way of saying it, he spoke about perverse will, that we deep down inside of ourselves know what God wants. That is, we know what real, what it is to be part of the wholeness of the world, to be connected to each other. We do know that. And it obliges us to turn the other cheek. And it obliges us to take the mote out of our own eye that we see in someone else’s eye before we judge them.
And he said you cannot flee from suffering you have to carry your cross. You can’t put it on someone else. You can’t blame others for it. You carry your own cross, and you find your way. And this is where Christianity and Buddhism overlap. The way you find your way to carry your own cross is you have to learn what it is you do to yourself with your thinking, what it is you do to yourself with your stories, what do you do to yourself with the feelings you don’t know how to hold, the difficult feelings that this election, and the uncertainty it brings about our future.
Because it has brought out more of the worst of us. The question now is with the shadow so dramatically presented and enlarged that this election seems to have brought, that we have basically got to make a decision how are we going to address the shadow? And the answer is of course we can’t address anyone else’s shadow– only our own. And I can’t address my shadow until I consecrate myself to something.
And so I say to you friends, consecrate yourself to for if you have 50 more years of life, if you have four or five more days of life, if you have five more years of life, can you become more and more part of the heart and mind of love? And what does that mean today?
And what kind of practices? I know the practices I teach about waking up out of stories. What kind of practices are you going to consecrate yourself to dedicate yourself to live so that you will become that much closer to the heart and mind of love, and not fight against the part of you that knows what wholeness is, knows what the right brain in a sense, that part of us that knows everything is new and part of the whole, versus the part of us that lives more in the left brain that we can call intellect, that builds realities out of fragments? We have a choice to know that we’re going to need language in fragments, but know that we have to have wholeness, that life has a kind of poetry and music to it, and that this election is just a short moment in an endless cycle of constant change, constant change, as we move closer and closer, waking up more and more.
Because consciousness is powerful. And what we’re conscious of we eventually outgrow. And if we become conscious of our selfishness and our fearfulness and our self involvement, in our narcissistic manipulation, then we outgrow it. So let’s just remember to do our work. And when it comes time to vote, to vote our hearts. And if you want to be an activist, to activate, but don’t activate out of anger. Activate out of how can I take action now if I am truly a disciple of the heart and mind of love?