Words crowd my head like gulls to bread on the beach. But having been silent for so long, I wonder if I can speak again. And after all that has happened—to me and to the world as we knew it (or thought we did)—I wonder if I can say anything to add value to the great wave of voices already being unleashed by the divisive election of one Donald J. Trump as President of our United States. Only time and the courage to sit here and write will tell. Here we go!
Once upon a time there was a democracy, the mantle of which got passed from man to man. He was sometimes called a Republican, sometimes a Democrat. But he was always a man, which may have been part of the problem.
Because of my values, assumed and refined over decades of a life large and privileged (to study, to travel the world, to sit at the feet of a great yoga master and share his teachings with many), I far preferred what seemed the kinder, more inclusive view of the Democrats. So I wept like a baby on a train in India when I heard that George W. Bush had been reelected to run our country. It seemed as if the world had come to an end, again. Little did I (or any of us) know how relatively benign old doe-in-the-headlights “W” would soon come to seem.
I am riveted, and sometimes confused, by the many takes on the meaning of this latest election and the opportunities it may or may not present to turn things around in ways even the sagest of our pundits seem unable yet to imagine. But here’s the thing. Some of us saw it coming. Not Donald maybe, but the need for a major disruption in the status quo, a status quo that would, at best, have been maintained by the election of the kind of normal candidate Hillary Clinton was.
For years Trond and I have had long, soul-searching conversations to try to understand the state of the world and our place in it. We have known that something was very, very rotten, not so much in Denmark (or the other Scandinavian countries, including especially Trond’s home country, Norway, high on quality of life lists), but certainly here in the US of A. Our kids thought we were crazy, and we sometimes thought we were too.
We have worried ourselves sick about the takeover of our political system by Wall Street billionaires and lobbyists; the devaluation and disintegration of our public education system; the mass incarceration of black men and endemic racism; the patent unsustainability of the health care system and social safety nets; the increasing crudity of our entertainment culture; the takeover of human interaction, intimacy and jobs by computers, smart phones and robots; a dangerously widening economic divide, and, most important, of course, the horrific ongoing gang rape of our beloved Mother Earth, which—sorry, Elon Musk—is the only home most of us earthlings will ever know or want to know. We were already having trouble sleeping at night.
And now, thanks to a beyond-bizarre combo of a technophobic, greedy Hillary Clinton (too attached to her Blackberry and her millions), an oddly interloping FBI head (God knows what happened there), and Russian hacking with or without the participation of Trump campaign operatives (really don’t know what happened there!), we find ourselves at the mercy of a raving, particularly thin-skinned narcissist bent on making nearly every one of those things we worry sick about worse, far worse. What the F are we supposed to do now?
That is what used to be called the $64,000 question. There seem to be almost as many answers as there are voices in the rising online and media cacophony. At the march we took part in after the Inauguration, many (but not all) of the signs and rallying cries contained words like “fear,” and “anger,” “fight” and “resist.” Ditto for Facebook and the Internet. When things get as nasty as they quickly have gotten, an enraged, defensive posture is understandable, normal even.
But, seriously people, here’s my question: is this really the time for normal, a time to fight fire with scattershot fire, a tactic that hasn’t exactly worked so well with the hyper-defensive Donald Trump and company? Or maybe, just maybe, could it be time to lay down the sword and—dare I say it—wave the white flag of…surrender?
That may sound absurd and, I can imagine, irresponsible to many of you. And even if it were a good idea, how you might ask? What would surrender look like, and how could it possibly further the cause of liberty and justice for all? I don’t know if I’ll succeed. But I am going to do my damnedest to try to find out, starting with the question Trond adorably asks me whenever we don’t have ready answers to tough questions: What would Bapuji do?
I should say that Trond never even met Bapuji, aka Swami Kripalvanand, the great yogi (and many, myself included, thought saint). But I was blessed to have sat with him often during the four and a quarter years he lived at the Kripalu Center in Pennsylvania decades ago. Love, serve, surrender was his credo. He inspired my book and is to this day my greatest source of inspiration.
I know for certain from his life story, his writings, and especially from being with him, that Bapuji understood as well as anybody that all life is struggle. (My favorite talk by him has that as its title.) Well before his demise from what appeared to be terminal cancer, he knew it wasn’t easy being human. No question the Dalai Lama knows that too. But, like His Holiness, Bapuji never suggested we succumb to fear or lash out at perceived enemies, even in the face of blatant injustice. Except perhaps for those we create in our monkey minds, he didn’t believe in enemies!
So what would Bapuji do? Love, sweet love! It’s so simple it sounds silly, I know. And what on earth might ”doing love” look like under the dire circumstances we seekers after truth and justice now face? The closest current take I’ve seen on a loving, Bapuji-esque approach came, unsurprisingly, from the radical thinker, writer and speaker, Charles Eisenstein, whom I am privileged to know. Here’s part of what Charles had to say in a post Inaugural FB post where he describes a talk he gave in DC on January 20 at a side event called “Occupy the Inauguration”:
“In many cases, the war against the symptoms worsens the underlying causes (my italics). I spoke (to the Occupy the Inauguration crowd) about how compassion in the form of the question, What is it like to be them?” can get us past the find-the-enemy mindset, to understand the deeper matrix of causes that gives birth to terrorism, crime, racism, greed, etc.”
Charles wrote that most of the (presumably liberal) people in his audience looked baffled. In the face of Trump’s alarming ascent to the presidency, they seemed unready to hear Charles’ non-combative message. But he reported that when he told some “boozy homeless guys on the street” what he was going to say, they got it: “The revolution is love,” is how Charles put what they got.
Charles finished his post this way: “Despite my experience at this event, I still have high hopes that our political culture will eventually follow the tide of consciousness toward an age of compassion. Perhaps the breakdown of the usual political alignments that seems to be happening today will loosen the hold of us-versus-them thinking, as it become less and less clear who is us and who is them.”
An “age of compassion” without “them” and “us.” Utopian? Absolutely! But, really, dear people, isn’t to love and be loved—to feel intimately connected to others—what we all fundamentally want? No matter our political persuasion or who we are, Donald J. Trump definitely included.
Other than asking us to ask the question, “What is it like to be them,” Charles’ post doesn’t say how he thinks we might awaken that potentially transformative “tide of consciousness” he refers to. I have thoughts, starting with the obvious, but hardly banal—meditation.
I’m sure meditation is what Bapuji would do, and would suggest we do, to generate the healing power of love our besieged world so desperately needs. We are all one in the spirit after all. How could it be otherwise when we are made of the same stardust, or whatever you want to name the stuff we call you and me? We need only to remember and harness that spirit of oneness.
And isn’t that exactly what we do when we meditate? Isn’t our profound interconnectedness—with each other and all that is—precisely where we go, and what we know, when we drop out of our minds and into our own dear hearts, where love lives?
Okay, I don’t get there all that often myself, mostly because I don’t meditate as much as I’d like. But meditation is, of course, what my beloved Bapuji did do, in total silence yet, pretty much 24/7 for the nineteen years before he came to America to meet his spiritual grandchildren. By the time he emerged from his meditative cocoon, the man was love incarnate. He oozed compassion and showered it all over us by osmosis, transforming us into lovers from deep inside out.
I know meditation is a tough, possibly irrelevant seeming assignment for right now. It may appear to you to be far more self-serving and pointless than marching, shouting slogans and calling out our Senators and representatives about every hideous new Trump move. (And of course you can do those things, as I do.) But consider the surrender that is meditation. Please!
The Dalai Lama still starts every day with hours of it. The Pope, who is stepping right up to challenge Trump, kneels and prays. What would happen if even a few million of the tens of millions of us who are horrified by the current state of affairs were to make the practice of compassion paramount, by inviting the sweet self-compassion meditation invokes?
Wouldn’t it be a great service to the world if we were regularly to sink into ourselves and surrender mind and ego to our deep connection to all that is? To surrender to love so we begin to live—and evoke change, whether by marching, calling out members of Congress or whatever moves us—from that powerful place of consciousness and love?
Would we not, like Bapuji, become carriers of love and peace wherever we showed up in the world, spreading seeds of compassion by our mere presence? We would be living love. And with our newfound clarity and focus on love rather than fear, we would know exactly what steps were ours to take to make the world a better place. Activists we can be, but let us be activists for love.
I have more ideas about how to move toward compassion but will stop for now and invite you to share yours. What do you think about laying down the sword and surrendering ourselves to love? Would you kindly share even your simplest thoughts about how, in addition to my suggestion of meditation, we might do that? For one example, have any of you hung out with or tried to understand relatives, friends or strangers who voted for Trump? What did you learn? Were you able, as Charles suggests, to put yourselves in the other’s shoes, and, if so, how did it go? Lastly, if you find this post useful, I’d be honored if you’d send it around and foment activism with love. Categories: Facing Fear, Surrender