essays on suffering and awakening

Three thoughts on the turbulence in our politics and society

This is a hard time for many of us in the United States. The new presidential administration has acted with ugliness and cruelty, and it’s both frightening and frustrating.

Three quick thoughts I want to share:

  1. The idea of a stable country is an illusion. We talk about America as though it is solid and permanent, but of course it isn’t. It’s a group of hundreds of millions of people who are all constantly changing and suffering and growing and evolving. Behind the curtain, the American government is likewise just a group of people with some nice offices and cool planes.

    This means that changing it for the better isn’t about defeating some intractable monolith. It’s much simpler than that. When we act with kindness, decency and honesty, we help other people want to do that too. If enough of us do it, there is a ripple effect that even those in the halls of power cannot escape (nor would they truly want to).

  2. Things are okay in the here and now. When I check the news or Twitter, I see a lot to get really angry about. I know I’m not the only one. But getting caught up in all that anger just breeds more anger, and a sense of defeat.

    For me at least, it’s really important to remember that right here and right now, things are pretty much always okay. I’m talking specifically about the present moment that’s right in front of us. As long as we’ve got air to breathe, we’re okay there. The practice is developing the faith to stay in the present, and act from that place, rather than fear about the future or anger over the past.

    If you need a reminder, take a walk on a sunny day. The sun will warm your face and the breeze will lift your spirit, and in the moment all is well.

  3. We have to look out for each other. The people leading the new government have taken a series of actions that have really hurt people. They will likely continue to do so. I believe that like the soldiers who crucified Christ, they truly know not what they do.

    My family has lived in this country for 400 years, and originally came from Britain. I don’t look like most of the people being directly hurt. But we all have skin in the game.

    Abuse against one of us hurts all of us. I don’t want to be a part of a country where our leaders act to divide us, and tell us that some of us are less than others. We all know that’s not right. That’s not a good place for anyone to live.

    Indeed, history constantly shows us that abuses against our more vulnerable brothers and sisters inevitably end up harming everyone, as the half-million dead soldiers who fought in the Civil War can attest.

    So we need to look out for each other. It’s crucial that people who look like me and people who don’t stand together, with unity and love. We need to speak up, and we need to each do our part to make our communities kinder, gentler, more open places.

    This can mean joining protest marches, writing essays and calling our congressmen. It can also mean a simple commitment to act with love in our daily lives. Practice meditation. Smile at the cashier in the checkout line. Offer forgiveness to another driver who honks. Help feed people in need. Reach out to friends and ask how they are. Really listen to what they have to say.

    If we just ask ourselves or the universe, “what can I do to be loving today,” a multitude of opportunities will arise.

    Each one of these acts is tiny, but they add up. They change the energy and the fabric of our society on a deep level. We don’t have to wait for a new election for things to change. We can start now.

Ian Cooper