Sunday, November 20, 2016

Unleashing the Shadows

Ever since the election, I've been oscillating between different mental and emotional states, having a hard time finding a comfortable place to stand.

When I first found out who won the election, it was 5 or so in the morning.  I was awoken by my daughter moving around, way earlier than she would ever be awake on a typical school day.  I quickly checked my phone to see the results that she'd already found out.

I knocked on her door, and she opened, revealing her tear stained face.  She told me she was crying because "now all those people in the different groups that he offended will feel like America isn't with them, and I can't stand that."  I felt exactly the same way myself. Before she pushed me out so she could start pulling herself together for school, I stumbled to get some words out, trying to help her not lose hope, help her continue to feel like our actions are important and can make a difference.

Telling her about the importance of our actions sent me in mental circles trying to feel out what useful action really looks like in this situation.  Is it showing up at demonstrations?  Making phone calls?  Donating money?  Signing petitions online?  Getting into debates on Facebook?  Which actions help, which hurt, and which don't really make any difference at all? 

Then, as I heard about the protests breaking out against Trump, I felt such mixed emotions.  On one hand, many of the protesters were young people like my daughter, that wanted to shout loud and clear that they are for an inclusive, diverse, and accepting America, that they are not against any of the groups of people that may have felt attacked or threatened by the Trump campaign.  And on the other hand, to hear of the violence and destruction that accompanied some of these protests, the harsh judgements and name calling against anyone who voted for Trump, these protests seem like the exact same energy that does not resonate for me - divisive and judgemental, just leading to more unrest and chaos.

The violent words and actions going in both directions are so upsetting and even confusing.  I don't want to bury my head and ignore what's happening, but I started noticing that when I read about the incidents, engaged in conversation with other people, believed in what was coming in from the airwaves and the conclusions being made by different people, I could feel myself getting sucked into a vortex of fear.

I felt overtaken by worry that we're getting deeper into a divided and volatile state.  I've felt this coming for such a long time, but I've always held on to and cultivate a hope that we'd change course somehow.  Even look at this blog, a tangible reflection of my hope that we actually will become a peaceful human race.  But looking, it sure hasn't seemed like we're changing course, and it can really freak me out at times. 

And then with my post last week, I realized that for my own well-being I really needed to back away from the opinion and information abyss coming to me through screens.  I started paying more attention to the energy of the people around me.  I started focusing more on making a conscious effort to lovingly connect with whoever crossed my path and to let go of the post-election chaos. It gave me a much needed respite from the madness I'd been feeling.

And as I was experiencing this shift of gears, a friend posted this video: Alanja Forsberg - Thank you Donald Trump!  With this title, I just had to watch, and listening to her, I felt this mix of "YES" and "huh..." 

YES, I long for more compassionate people, too, and YES, I see how he does bring a great opportunity for us to really see the shadows in our culture and in ourselves.

Huh... She really said thank you to him, and she really seemed to mean it.  No qualifiers, no back handed compliments, no negativity towards him at all.  And the longer I sat with that "huh", the more it started transforming into a yes.  As I've been coming across statements from different spiritual teachers that I love: Adyashanti and Pema Chodron and Byron Katie, there was also that common theme of cultivating equanimity and holding loving space, and it all very much resonated for me as the way I want to orient to this situation.  YES.

The unique and lovely thing about Alanja's video in particular is that she goes a little further.  She speaks his name, she does so with a loving tone, and she truly honors what he is bringing to the world and the alchemy that is possible with what he is unlocking in all of us.  Here I am: barely able to say Trump's name; I almost default into Voldemort style "he who shall not be named" manner.  And in the video, there she is: openly embracing his name and his place in the world.

I see how I can work harder on saying Donald Trump's name without wincing, without pushing away, without anger.  My husband had this set of Ram Dass cassette tapes that we used to listen to, and in one, Ram Dass talked about when he was deeply challenged by some public figure or individual in his personal life, he'd put a picture of that person on his meditation alter.  It's time for me to clear some space for Mr. Trump on my alter.

And, as I've been continuing to mull over this video in the last few days, I also realize that I feel called to be a warrior too, within myself.  I feel ready to deepen my focus on meeting my own trauma, fear, and fight reflex - head on.  Ready to hold it, become curious, become interested in giving space to what is being unlocked and released within me.

I've loved Gandhi's be the change quote for so long, but sometimes I can get caught up in my head - visualizing and attaching to a particular change I want to see, instead of really feeling in my heart the change I wish to see in the world.  I feel myself returning to a simpler perspective within that quote, one that feels so much more authentic and useful to me than the recent mental tornadoes that have been spinning.

The change I wish to see in the world is love, compassion, connection, peace.  That change isn't a cause I need to demonstrate about or a phone call I need to make; it's an action I take with my eyes, with my gestures, with my words, with my emotional openness to the people around me.  It's an action I take with my understanding and willingness to listen to people, even when what they say triggers me, alarms me or isn't in agreement with my values.  It's an action I take by keeping people close, even if someone didn't vote the same way, even if they don't believe in the same things, even if they don't see the same dangers I see on the course ahead.  It's an action I take when I humble myself and open to the truth that I really don't know any right answers, certainly not for anyone else.

An answer to the question about action that started spinning on the morning after the election is coming into view now.  For me, there may be some phone calls, some passionate discussions, some events that I'll be drawn to attend to stand up for the people and things I care about, but there is a much bigger call to action here, one which requires much more of me: the call to be a warrior.  Not a warrior that fights against people or things with aimed words and actions, but a warrior that has the courage and the strength to meet the shadows that have been unleashed in myself.  To hold space with love and compassion for whatever arises, both within and without.


And if I could return to that moment at my daughter's door on the morning after the election, I'd say that we don't know what's going to happen, whether we'll look back to this moment ten years from now and say this was a turning point for good or for bad.  Good luck, bad luck, we can't know.  All we can do is our best in whatever we are given to do and whatever we get to work with, one moment at a time.

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