Those who long for love, compassion, universal equality and protection of the environment as a foundation of society are likely feeling despair today over an election that has forced us to see the shadow of our country in its willingness to support fear, bigotry, misogyny, ignorance of science and lies in a man who will become the acknowledged leader of the free world. But the worse thing we can do to ourselves is fall into the abyss of fear caused by our own projections of what will happen next.
Each of us, no matter who we supported in this election, was born with the capacity to create the energies of fear and anger in our bodies. This is a body/mind dynamic built in for protection in times of danger that is activated in the face of physical or psychological threats. Even the thought of threat can make us ill, but when the threat is only in the mind’s image and not in the immediate now (when we may need to run from a bear or a flood), it festers like cancer and destroys our capacity to do anything creative in our lives. We might feel paralyzed. We might run aimlessly even though we know we cannot successfully escape our own minds. We are part of a collective and just protecting oneself is not enough. We feel for the whole. The tragedy of 9/11 showed us we can hurt for everyone.
I recently listened to a Sufi talk about chillas. Chillas are challenging tasks a spiritual seeker requests from a Sufi Pir or teacher that force one to discover or develop new capacities within themselves, an inner strength they did not realize they had. It brings forth a new perspective that serves a spiritual seeker in finding his or her inner spirit, growing inner strength and awakening to the sacred in all of life. They are sometimes very challenging, such as going to an unfamiliar country with limited funds and finding someone, or walking through a desert. In ancient times they lasted 40 days and 40 nights but today they can be more condensed. They may be as simple as giving public talks when you are frightened of speaking or serving the poor for a few weeks.
It was a synchronistic talk for me because instead of falling into grief today I am seeing this event as a chilla for all of us. It is an event that will challenge all of us to grow through our personal and collective shadows by starkly meeting them, and finding new ways to live in love and truth despite the existence of our own fear, bigotry, ignorance and dishonesty. It will challenge us to see the darkness in our own political structures and their impact on the world. If we are all One, then this country and this world is all One, including all the shadow that we desperately wish was not there. How do we find the will to overcome our personal and collective shadows? How do we find in our autonomy the courage to stand directly for what an awakened heart and intuition is encouraging us to express?
Our personal darkness is fed by fear. To the extent we let this energy overwhelm us we become helpless and victims of the shadows. Out of this victim identification we risk becoming perpetrators, when our ego claims we must destroy those who think differently than us. But how do we stand up against our fear?
Michael Singer, in his book “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself” has offered some guidelines on living with fear. He says to be free “You must first accept the fact there is pain in your heart.” But he points out that joy, beauty, love , peace and even ecstasy and freedom lie on the other side of fear. He writes that freedom and greatness is available when we find the courage to relax with the pain instead of blocking it. It calls this the core of spiritual work. We can use our pain to become more open rather than contracted and closed.
This may seem paradoxical – as most true spiritual teachings are. But think of the freedom gained with complete acceptance of tragedy and trauma, darkness and pain. When we are able to connect with the deep center of Truth and Love within ourself no matter what the world throws into our path, we become free inside from the grinding, suffering, and resistance of our ego and let go of our personal demands that life be as we want. Because every life will have tragedy and loss not matter how we try to protect against it, no matter how good we are, or even how awake we are.
Our internal survival depends on our ability to overcome the downward spiral within ourself when these events occur, and to use this new-found strength to create change where we are able, rather than falling into paralysis, hatred or revenge. If our house burns down we must clean up the mess and create a new house. If our environment is threatened we must find within ourselves our unique role in protecting it. Life (or God, if you prefer) works through us but we have to let go of our noisy demands before we can hear the whisper of what it can enable us to do
Our minds believe we must fight in any way we can for our beliefs or when we feel we are “right” and others are wrong. No matter which side of politics you are on this is likely your motivation. No one fights for someone else’s beliefs. But this battle of the egoic stances denies wholeness, denies freedom, and energizes the fear and despair, the least helpful psychological qualities in our lives.
When awakening happens there is an opportunity to step out and back, to align with a sacred witness that sees the division in our human world without identifying with it. This does not mean an awakened person has detachment with indifference to the problems of the world. A deep awakening brings love for the whole and asks for our deepest, most authentic, unselfish and creative response to what is needed. We won’t find this if we succumb to fear and anger. We have to acknowledge our human fear – but choose not to let it be the decision maker and ruler of our spirit. We must find something greater, more inclusive within ourselves that brings forth our contribution to the greater good.
We have to refuse the projections of the mind about what will happen and face change day by day, acknowledging there is as much good as there is ignorance and greed in our world, there is as much light as darkness, and that both are within us, but we can choose, because we are awake, not to let the fear drag our life down into the shadows or allow despair to limit our lives and the acknowledgement of the sacred within and around us. Only then can we move forward and face change with integrity and compassion for others, and become effective agents of positive change in our collective consciousness.
I’ve always loved a comment by The Mother, who was the partner in the spiritual teaching of Aurobindo, and the founding of Auroville in India. She said that if there is a great darkness within you, you can be sure that at the core is also a great light.
Perhaps by seeing the shadow of our country with clarity and compassion we can contribute to bringing forth the light. If it be the will of the universe it will be done. We will all do it.