After the election: Back to ground zero

For some of us, the recent election here in the US was a shock to the values we hold dear. While we cherish and practice love, kindness, and compassion and aspire to live from the realization that we are all essentially inseparable, the country as a whole elected a man who has vilified Muslims, Hispanics, immigrants, Jews, the disabled, and just about every other vulnerable minority and has a history of sexually abusive behavior toward women. How could this possibly have happened? And how can we relate to this turn of events without falling into the trap of becoming judgmental and closed-hearted ourselves?

All our spiritual practice and realization have prepared us for moments like this. First, we can let go of our preconceptions and return to ground zero, silence, beginner’s mind, unconditional presence. As we allow our sense of separation to dissolve and we merge back into our source, how does this drama appear to us now? Without the story the mind keeps telling us about how things should be and how they may turn out, where’s the suffering or struggle? Without a story, in fact, are there any problems in this moment right now?

At the same time, we can face the prospects realistically and make room for the feelings that have inevitably been aroused: the disappointment, the anger, the fear, the grief. Yes, this may set climate change back generations, our brothers and sisters may be harassed and deported, women may lose their right to choose–these are deeply disturbing possibilities, and as circumstances unfold we can act in whatever way we’re moved to do to prevent them. But right now, in this moment, is any of this happening yet? And what purpose do we serve, for ourselves or others, by fueling these painful feelings with doomsday scenarios? Now too, as always, we have the opportunity to meet each moment fresh, without preconceptions or expectations, and remain open and available for what happens next.

At a deeper level, the results of the election are profoundly disillusioning, which in the realm of spiritual awakening can be extremely good news. The current circumstances challenge our deeply cherished beliefs about how reality should be: We should be making progress, should be becoming more tolerant and inclusive, should be addressing world problems in a more enlightened and global way. Some of us have spent our lives working to embody these values. But reality has its own mysterious order and trajectory that we can’t comprehend–one that may not necessarily seem to be moving toward the greater love and light we had envisioned, at least not on the external level.

This situation offers a powerful invitation to return home, to the ground of being, the Self, awakened awareness, which is not disturbed by the ups and downs of life and has no agenda, even the spiritual kind. No wonder the wisdom traditions of Asia call this so-called material world maya, illusion, or samsara, the endless wheel of striving and becoming. At this level of reality, there is no ultimate, lasting satisfaction or fulfillment to be found out there; the only fulfillment, and the only reliable refuge, lies in resting in our true nature and welcoming reality just as it is. If we keep returning home in this way, we may find that action appropriate to the situation at hand arises naturally and spontaneously, without struggle or resistance, and we can continue to nurture the love and light we wish for the world, here, in our own hearts and lives.

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