Currently the USA is in election mode. Watching TV, getting e-mails, snail mail, tweets, etc., we are inundated with political advertising. I want to know what is happening in the world. I want to understand the positions of those running for office and the meaning of the propositions on our ballots. Yet the intention of advertising is much more to sell rather than to inform. So the ads (and often speeches) say what the buyers believe their target populations want to hear rather than what, if anything, the politicians or propositions stands for.
It is difficult for me to write about politics with a spiritual perspective. Just as bad as the fear and hate I hear and see too often even in the mainstream, is the overwhelming dishonesty. It is NOT a ‘both sides do it so it’s OK’ thing, because 1) both sides are not doing it anything close to equally, and 2) even if they were, it still damages the public discourse. The moderator of the second Presidential debate was attacked because she told Governor Romney he was factually wrong at one point, as if truth has no place in politics. The media presents politics as a team sport, using statistics and trends, even reporting the gambling handicaps for different players. Unfortunately, as with sports, the presumption becomes that it is all about winning: how you play counts for little unless you win.
Not surprisingly I get quite angry. This seems the opposite of living a spiritual life, being re-enforced by a combination of false advertising worth, at this point over 2 billion dollars! Yet I know I ‘lose,’ whenever I let such events and my emotional reactions to them, dictate how I respond.
Reverend Sonia Milton quoted the Dalai Lama at a recent Unity service. Apparently someone asked him if he ever got angry. I imagine he would have laughed at the question initially, but he responded that for Buddhists emotions are like the waves on the beach: they come in, and go out. Once they go out they are gone until the next one.
What I ‘hear’ in this is that the problem is not the emotions that arise, it is that rather than let them ‘go out,’ we too often hold onto them, and feed them. Anger, hurt, lust, etc., aren’t just let be, but fed over and over again until they become emotional storms that can be quite destructive. I can ruminate about the unfairness of denying Gays the right to marry, or these so-called ‘small government’ Republicans who want the federal government to tell women what to do with their bodies. Running with anger induces scenarios in my mind feeds the anger and frustration, but does nothing to improve life.
One of the reasons so many spiritual paths emphasize living in the present, is because what is here and now is knowable if we pay enough attention. We are not dependent on sound bites or media companies or reporters deciding what we need to know and not know. We have our eyes, ears, nose and bodies and only our own, internal filters between us and reality.
When I encounter my own emotional storms and droughts, highs and lows, meditation seems like a very weak response. Yet it is the one thing I know that can remind me to let go of what is passing through me, that I may better see what is. Noticing how my reactions to things affect me, I can chose to limit what gets in the way of being present. In addition, praying for guidance can help focus one’s intention, that we may be an instrument of honesty and caring rather than complaining or feeding the discomfort.
Attempting to live a more spiritual, value oriented life not only in retreat, but in the midsts of attacks, anger and hurt is most challenging. But where else is the practice more important, than in the belly of the beast. And it still is a challenge for me.