I found myself being literally “dragged down” by the tidbits of news and analysis I allowed into my space from the Republican National Convention last week. That was my re-action: an acting-out-again of my fears. Then I remembered in the calm of waking up the next morning that there’s a great deal of fear of the unknown everywhere as we are faced with a terminal social disorder that has never been diagnosed before and has no doctor in the house. That thought germinated this response, which empowers me to move beyond fear to hope.
This is what healing looks like when we examine the wound. Trump is neither good nor bad, he just is. He’s an expression of an unmet need, a revolutionary spilling-over of indignation and anxiety aimed at a failed political system that has pandered to corporate interests. The pitchforks are coming, like it or not, and we will transition to a more humane, non-violent society in rather unpredictable ways. Trump’s a symptom, not a cause. Upstream there’s a long history of injustice that’s been lurking in the dark and now is being exposed to the light.
This political event has global impact on the entirety of humanity. We are responding emotionally within one united field of “shock and awe.” I am not free from the influence of that field, I am an integral part of it. We are not alone. We are part of a much larger flow of evolutionary change that moves at a speed that is relative to our willingness to participate in it. Our personal willingness to go with this evolution, to not fight against it, affects everyone else on the planet. There is no standing still, no waiting to decide. Mother Earth is literally moving and shaking under our feet. To freeze in fear, to not make a commitment, is in itself a decision.
I am seeing the truth of what Oscar Ichazo was saying almost 50 years ago — that as we move into levels of consciousness that have fewer “rules” or “laws” or “agreements” — that the felt experience of those levels becomes increasingly unfamiliar and unpleasant because of the chaos and rapidity of change. Fortunately, there is a level of breakthrough to serenity. Humanity is now making sense out of the intense violence on the planet by collectively discarding the old story of external power and scarcity, and creating a new story of internal power and abundance. The movement of movements for human and environmental rights now accelerating to peak velocity will be bringing tangible benefits home to everyone. The chaos, poor decisions, violence, utter despair and suicidal panic that precedes peace seems to be the necessary parts of the process that motivate us “stiff-necked people” to let go of our obsolete ways.
My hope and my vision is that we are facing the prospect of an American Spring, even a Planetary Spring, no matter who is elected. However, Spring only comes after Fall and Winter. I think the media is terrified. They can see the approaching whirlwind — they’re not blind — they just have no wisdom to guide them to the positive side of the news. They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Summer is over. Globally, citizen-driven revolts are symptoms that we are, as one humanity, breaking out of the level of polite social agreement into the level of what Oscar called “saint ego,” a vicious claim on autonomy, the “I can do whatever the hell I want” kind of thinking. Donald Trump and his supporters, terrorist bombings, drone warfare, ISIS, mass shootings, police shootings and the open-carry laws in Texas and elsewhere are also signs of this kind of saint-ego consciousness. There are many nation-states, especially in the Mideast, that are already breaking apart or very fragile as regimes of social contract that no longer satisfy real human needs inspire angry, violent revolt. We all tend to react by wanting to numb ourselves to this kind of terrifying reality, yet that reaction will only keep saint ego alive and well.
Take a deep breath, it gets worse before it gets better. The RNC is just one blip. We now have on the planet many philosopher-charlatans who would take us to the next level of fewer rules with the “law of attraction,” or “the rapture” and many other spiritual beliefs that simplify reality, promising freedom from the awful events coming from saint ego. It’s all good, in a perverse kind of way. Waking up to connection with the Universe and powers outside of our limited ego-driven selves is a step forward, and yet it can quickly create a false and temporary kind of strength when we skip the examination and discarding of our belief that we are alone and abandoned. Very few people are so securely connected to unconditional love that they can afford to skip the agony of exposing this negative belief to the light of day. If this were not true, we would not be in the violent mess that we are in today.
If we were to honestly confront our fear of abandonment, it would lead us to a culture of nonviolence and peace. However, there is an incredible, just unbelievable monstrously convoluted American cultural rationalization for the use of violence to resolve conflict. It is suffused into our brains from day one. We’ve been accelerating violence education since the introduction of TV, and it was part of our culture since the establishment of the republic.
Our entanglement with our culture of violence is deep and unavoidable, so deep that to attempt to extricate ourselves from it is — to put it mildly — extremely vulnerable, painful and terrifying. It is literally a leap into the unknown. We may hold ourselves aloof from the most obvious forms of harm to others such as murder, yet ignore how violent we are in our opinions and snap judgements of others, and even more importantly, ourselves. We limit ourselves with cultural beliefs, stories about how separate we are, or how impossible it is to experience connections that we have broken with our own distrust.
That distrust of relationships has destroyed the very seed of our being. It is a dis-ease of the human spirit. The most blatant symptom of this disease is the deadly rage that is exploding from the barrels of guns, which is a desperate attempt to reclaim a love, a lust for life, that has been held down, beaten to death, had its eyes gouged out, and disemboweled. Imagine the excruciating pain boiling within the heart of the shooter who thinks they have no alternative pathway to making sense of their world. Imagine their hopelessness, their loss of dignity and humanity. Now is not the time to turn away in horror, now is the time to gaze steadily at this rage with eyes wide open with compassion.
The greatest challenge for those who would be nonviolent is to restore trust in their relentless and invisible participation — knowing it or not knowing it — in a process of learning and adaptation to “right relationship,” the experience of connection. We trusted our parents and teachers because we were dependent on them. The culture they gave to us may have had some value for prior centuries, and is now obsolete, a colossal mistake for this century. It is a natural part of the process to wake up to that mistake and return to square one with some forgiveness, respect and curiosity about strategies for a world of connection.
The violence pandemic we see all around us — this species suicide on the installment plan — arises from self-isolating thought patterns about the dangers of losing our individuality, becoming vulnerable and re-living the trauma of victim-hood. It is truly difficult for adults in our culture to become fearless, happy and trusting. So we make abandonment real by not talking, not trusting, and not feeling, keeping ourselves numb to the fear and depression that lingers just below our superficial emotions. The result is a very addictive, repeating cycle of abuse directed at ourselves and others. Some of it may be very subtle, some of it may be very overt.
However, that abuse and violence is precisely what can drive us to the next level, despair. We may know about it intellectually, analyze it, understand it, and still not be able to substantially do anything to reduce its intensity. This frustration leads us to depression, desperation, intense searching, and extreme simplicity in day-to-day living. Everything slows down to a crawl. We sleep alot. There is nothing to celebrate or feel gratitude about. We usually do everything we can to avoid this level, including reverting back to the good old days of “nice society” of polite agreements. We want to remain private and isolated individuals, numb to the silent screaming of our souls that yearn for an end to the reign of separateness, disconnection and abandonment. We often will literally numb ourselves with not only drugs and alcohol, but also excessive work, shopping, sex and other risk-taking behaviors.
We can try to go back, but we already know too much. Every day more news — the downward spiral of human events — will drag us again into despair. We seem to be running out of time, we seem to be at the end of time, apocalypse. We become painfully aware of the need for a new way of operating, and yet we don’t know how to create connection and bonding with other human beings. Nobody gave us The Official Field Manual for the times we are facing now.
We can stubbornly repeat the past, re-acting (acting again) with old solutions in this level. But most of us have learned helplessness from our culture. When violence and abandonment is in our face, many of us are actually prone to give up and dive headfirst into the level in which “nothing works any more,” a place where there are no answers anywhere, there is no hope, no value in living, and our mental process drops into suicidal panic. Oh joy! If you’ve never been there before, have no experience of what that’s like, you just might check out because the loss of control is so intolerable. This is the level of lethal assault, war, genocide, environmental wreckage and terrible darkness. Some of us have already been there.
If you have been to the suicidal level and survived, you are lucky, because at least part of you knows there is life after suicidal panic. It is that very loss of control that is the key, the doorway, to an incredibly novel experience of surrender and acceptance, of witnessing what is going on without any attachment to the way things used to be or fears about the way things might turn out. It is a very high vibrational state of consciousness, a moment of crystalline objective clarity. Suddenly, we enter the eye of the hurricane where there is complete calm. It will be unbelievably shocking, to say the least.
In this experience lies the “teachable moment” in which wisdom — not mental wisdom but heart wisdom — comes pouring in. The homo sapiens who survive will be the ones who overcome their isolation and develop the skills of cooperation and trust. It’s a paradoxical process, somewhat “irrational,” to become strong by letting go of power, to become decisive by letting go of analysis, to build community by looking at oneself. We finally see the sky is not falling, the ground is rising! This is exactly where we are going, and the journey doesn’t end there. We become internally balanced and secure. We find strengths and courage we never knew we had. We CAN create the joy, wonder and power of people working together in harmonious community. The suicidal crisis we face together is both dangerous and a beautiful, awesome opportunity to leap the chasm. Breathe deep, and take a run at it. Do that much, and you cannot fail.
There is a recent documentary film that describes this transition, called Scared Sacred, which is well worth watching. In addition, Michael Meade’s audio CD, The Light Inside Dark Times, has been a valuable inspiration for me. There are numerous other authors who have dealt with what is commonly called the Dark Night of the Soul, and Joanna Macy is one of our contemporary cultural treasures for this kind of information.
On the other side of this chasm, beyond it, life starts to work and feel better. There will be a great deal of mop-up to repair the mess, and events around us will still pull us back into the old ways, but we will be unable to forget this experience of cooperation and trust. We will seek it out. We will have been forever transformed, really, no longer the same persona. In a way of speaking, we will be re-born. Sacred scriptures speak of this in many different images and metaphors, and what is very important to know about this level is that it is not a matter of belief, knowing or talking about it, it is a transformative experience that is completely transitory. It cannot be bought or sold, owned or captured, stored or preserved. It must be sought constantly — daily — moment by moment.
Today we have a choice, regardless of our beliefs about our voting rights being denied in the American political process. Sure, go ahead and vote for what it’s worth, and at the same time see the larger movement of humanity and our individual role with and in that movement. When it comes to connection, trust, collaboration and teamwork, we can stretch our imagination to what perhaps 30 or 50 people could do on a football team, or even what a few thousand people could do for NASA to put a man on the moon, but seven and a half billion people working together? This is kind of “beyond the beyond,” which makes it so difficult to grasp. What is accelerating the evolution of our species now is the exponential increase in the numbers of people willing to take that risk of commitment to the common good, which is really a commitment to the satyagraha, the truth-force that Gandhi taught, which others call non-violence.
Satyagraha can be understood as the vast inner strength or “soul force” required for nonviolent acts. Gandhi never defined nonviolence as passive resistance because he saw nothing passive about what he was doing. He believed that a dedicated adherent to nonviolent resistance by taking authentic action to represent truth and working to uphold a just cause would inevitably reach the heart of the oppressor. Satyagraha is a positive and spiritually based form of resistance that starts in the heart of the resister and inevitably produces creative action. — Metta Center for Nonviolence
Satyagraha is another word, then, for commitment to loving one’s enemies. It works when it is based in empathy, trust and fearlessness, personal spiritual qualities that can never be taken away from us. As fear and mistrust grip the powers that be, we have the opportunity to remember that the real power, the greatest power of all, the power that has removed thousands of oppressive tyrants and dictators, is the power of non-violence which is not based in anger, cynicism and despair.
We cannot arrive at this level of action by simply thinking about its virtue. It becomes more obvious every day that it really is easier and faster to take the risk of acting our way into a new way of thinking than to think ourselves into a new way of acting. Today we have tangible proof that such spiritual courage is alive in millions of people. The American public is thrashing out the path forward faster than most of us, especially the bloggers and media, can possibly fathom. Spring is coming! Our most appropriate response now is to empower spiritual resilience in ourselves and others, i.e. build personal and community support networks for those rehearsals of seeking cooperation and trust. We need to create for ourselves constant mutual reinforcement within a community of like-minded seekers for a surrender of selfish interests to the common good, which is where we are going, ready or not.
Everything we need is within ourselves. Nothing is taller than we are. Nothing. We have all the resources within us that we need. We get to choose. We get to undo the choices we have made in the past. We create our future. We always have, we always will decide how we respond. Explore what is within, and what is without will as if by a miracle seem smaller and less powerful. That simple step is often the most difficult until an existential crisis tips our willingness to risk a commitment to an inner journey for which we have had almost no preparation.
The media would have us believe human progress depends on political battles. It does not. Politics is not about that risk. It’s not about self-conscious growth, self-empowerment or empathic understanding of what is real human security. Politics is most often about having enemies and rescuing the victims with whom we identify. It’s about competition, division and struggle. Our personal politics have become a limiting belief system deeply constrained by our personal history of trauma, our family’s style of relationships, our national and cultural methods for defining and solving social problems, the technology of communication systems, and the global climate of international opinion, not to mention rising planetary temperatures. Our politics has evolved into an existential crisis of never-ending struggle. It is time to move on, let go, and dive in to the somewhat terrifying root causes of that struggle.
To be part of the non-political movement of movements that is outside the box of politics and includes all of humanity, simply do your best to notice what is going on without judgment, choose the future your heart longs to live in, and then act with commitment and compassion to make it so. Be the hero you’ve been waiting for. When you become the president and secretary-general of yourself — when you Occupy Yourself — then everything you think, feel, or do — how you express who you truly are — affects the history of humanity forever. Choosing to respond as a participant in humanity’s evolution is a complex, painful, and transformative personal process requiring us to become someone we probably never intended to be, may have never imagined we might become, and has far-reaching healing powers for any catastrophe.
What are specific options for thriving during this dramatic collapse of the culture of violence?
1) each one of us individually seeking nonviolence in our own thoughts, words, and deeds,
2) each one of us seeking connection with others who walk the nonviolence path,
3) collectively discovering and constructing a local nonviolent social structure,
4) networking with other groups, globally, who are also moving outside the status quo,
5) making the network and structures visible,
6) in a moment of crisis, offering the alternative to the status quo directly and be prepared to take no for an answer,
7) while waiting for all this to happen, keep breathing, praying, singing and dancing.