essays on suffering and awakening

Where do we go from here?

They say it's always darkest before the dawn. 

It looks very dark right now. I voted for Hillary Clinton and felt good about it. I thought I would be celebrating her victory. Of course that’s not what has happened.

We have chosen a new president who has embodied the worst parts of ourselves. Donald Trump has shown us over and over again that he can be cruel, violent, is full of fear and deeply selfish. I feel afraid and I know I’m not the only one. This is the sort of thing that isn’t supposed to happen here. 

But it did happen and I have to believe that it happened for a reason.

Much like our president-elect, I am selfish and full of fear. I often fear people who don’t look like me, or believe what I believe, or behave how I think they should behave. In truth, I often fear people like me too. 

Unlike our president-elect, I cover all this over as best I can and try to be a kind and polite member of society. Sometimes, I succeed. But the fear is always lurking, as it is with all of us. I can’t shame or force it away. I’ve tried. 

What Mr. Trump has done is brought all of that into the open. He has embodied our demons, and laid bare them for all to see. There is no more hiding.

Last night, we fought our demons and lost. 

We lost not because we didn’t try, but because we were hopelessly outmatched. We lost because we as a country made this about choosing sides. We lost because too often, we see each other as foes, not as brothers and sisters each wearing the face of God.

We lost because we fought at all.

There can be no real peace in a nation that is locked in a struggle of red against blue, white against black, city against country, young against old. It’s an endless tug-of-war where people get hurt. One side wins, than the other side wins, and on, and on. I am so tired of it. I know that whoever you voted for, you are too.

To make peace, we need to open ourselves up to something radical and new. We have to stop following our egos, our small minds, and start following the unconditional love that lives in all of us. 

Our small minds are never at peace. They always want what they don’t have, and when they get it, they soon want something else. They tell us that we’re different from each other and that we need to fear one another. They make every situation an I vs. you or an us vs. them. Pay attention to your own thoughts, and you’ll see this. Watch our president-elect speak, and you’ll see it as well.

Peace comes from our hearts. Not our emotional hearts, prone to shifting passions, but from our heart-minds: what the Buddhists call bodhicitta and the Christians call Christ-consciousness. It’s the place deep within us that is pure, limitless, unconditional love.

To get there, we can start by acknowledging the fear and the hopelessness and the anger we’re feeling, regardless of who we voted for. We can sit with with it and feel helpless to change it.

Second, we can be open to the idea that there is a better way. We don’t have to understand it, or know it, or believe it, just be willing to give it a shot.

Third, we can ask our heart-minds to guide us and to break open. We can surrender and really say, “I can’t do this on my own. Maybe you can. Take me by the hand. I’m yours.” We can commit to telling the truth and to loving everyone, and to forgiving ourselves and each other when we fall short. We can give and serve and be kind.

Our greatest leaders, from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, touched this place of unconditional love and let it guide them. Indeed, that’s what made them great. But what last night’s election made clear is that we no longer have the luxury of waiting for greatness in our leaders. We have to find it in ourselves. We have to learn to love as we secretly yearn to be loved: utterly, deeply and completely.

Our president-elect has shown us what we are when we follow our small minds. When we follow our heart-minds, we become something else entirely. We become as the ocean and the sky and the stars.

Last night, we brought our darkness into the open. I’m wish it hadn’t happened like this, but it did. We can resist that truth, or we see it for what it is, and get free. We can make peace. With ourselves, with each other and with our new president.

I pray that he and you and I all find the love and light within us. 

Ian Cooper