How to Do a Political Reality Check

We have so many hopes, dreams and fears — some beautiful and some scary, whereas others are a little painful. I think we don’t need to worry about or give a lot of weight to the ever-turning wheel of thoughts. Anytime is a good time to find a spot to relax and be kind and open to all beings.

As you consider and reflect on current issues, wherever you are across the spectrum of opinion, I have some thoughts to offer that might be helpful:

1. It is important to see the fact that such difficult experiences pervade our samsaric lives.

We go through them on an individual level in everyday life. But on a larger scale, going through an experience together, whether it’s a disastrous event or a political controversy, can make it feel much more emotionally intense.

Buddha taught the experience of individual and group karma. He taught that individual karma is easier to transform through one’s own practice, whereas group karma can only be changed by individuals working together with the skillful means of compassionate action in a group. Therefore, we must not be discouraged or bogged down by a divisive state of mind. Instead, we must be more vigilant, compassionate, and skillful in order to help lead others with awareness towards a unified group-mind of love, wisdom, and peace — without letting our negative emotional habits get in the way. This is the only way to make this world a better, kinder, and more peaceful place for all beings. We must not give up our loving kindness and compassion!

2. It is also important for us to notice our deep-rooted tendencies to want to control whatever is happening in our world.

Our inner control freak is always watching to see if things are going our way. When they don’t, or when things are feeling unpredictable, strong emotions can come up — fear, anxiety, anger. There’s a fear of the unknown, and not knowing can be a dark and scary place. It can be uncomfortable to realize that our belief in having control is just that — a thought or desire — which is not the same as knowing exactly how things will turn out.
There are two elements to consider here: our internal thoughts and emotions and the external actions and realities of the world outside. It is important for us to realize that the world inside our mind plays as important a role as the world outside, in terms of shaping what we experience.

On another note, we have seen clearly and definitively that the projections or news reports we see are sometimes neither true nor close to the truth. Similarly, our own thought projections about “good guys” and “bad guys” need to be reevaluated with the eyes of nondual wisdom and loving kindness.

3. From time to time, it’s helpful for all of us, especially spiritual practitioners, to do a reality check.

It feels like the experiences so many of us are going through now are exceptionally intense, polarized, and emotional. Nevertheless, every time a big change lies ahead of us, there will always be strong reactions. People have gone through similar experiences in the past and felt and expressed similar reactions. The reality is, we are still in samsara, and samsara by definition is imperfect. We are communities and countries populated by samsaric beings, and samsaric beings don’t always understand what they are doing. Samsara, as we learn from the dharma, means being ignorant, ego-centered, and full of negative emotions.

The divisive nature of public discourse these days is a wide and clear mirror for us, a powerful reflection of our own dualistic state of mind. It’s time for practitioners to bring this situation home to the path, along with all of the dharma, mindfulness and awareness we have learned and practiced. This is how to transform our own thoughts of duality and shine the light of compassion wherever it is needed.

If we can engage with our dharma practice, with our mindfulness and awareness, any difficult situation we are in can become an extremely powerful and transformative tool for the path of awakening. It can help us bring great benefit to all beings: starting with those closest to us and extending to all citizens of the world. The eyes of the world are on us. As dharma practitioners and as people committed to working with our emotions, we must be the anchor of calmness, compassion, and sanity in these uncertain times.