Just before I started writing this letter I checked NYTimes.com (as I do compulsively throughout the day), and, as usual, the latest headline is more disturbing than the last: “Trump Vows to Deploy Military if Violence Continues.” What is happening here? Where are we living? Who are we?
On top of the suffering, wounds and privations of facing the global pandemic, the perennial violence, injustice and sin of systemic racism (which has never been squarely faced, never righted, never healed) is erupting with deep and righteous fury. At the same time, this explosion is being aided and abetted – nourished – by so-called leadership in the highest offices.
The deep, violent, festering delusion that is at the heart of systemic racism and the erasure of black and brown life after life after life, is on full display. The actions that foment and support this violence are pervasive (obvious to people of color but often unseen by those of us who are privileged and white). Yet, in this moment of resistance, of demonstration, protest, and manifestations of deep anger and frustration, we are all being invited (or demanded) to look at what we are, who we are, and how we are. This deep looking is dharma.
When the rest of the world is protesting the domestic actions of this country, once seen as a haven of hope and progress, we are surely being called to our deepest mindfulness – to truly stop, look, listen, and change. All of this is a process, for as we know from our practice “this moment conditions the next.” So what will our actions in this moment be? How will we as a community, as individuals, condition the next moment?
As Beth pointed out so beautifully in her raw, transparent, and wise talk on Sunday, she could not find something that made this all right, right now – that trying to do so was a form of spiritual bypass, and that the most real, authentic thing that she could do in this moment was to recognize and hold her honest feelings without turning away, and to do that in the support of community, our sangha.
We have often held “circles of support” around particularly troubling events; yet, right now, I want us to look at each of our ICD offerings – Meditation as Refuge, Wednesday Sit, CARE group, Metta practice, and Sunday Dharma and Meditation – as circles of support. And I would invite us to be with our own pain and fear, and to practice “externally” as the Buddha invited: looking deeply into the pain and suffering of others, and our own connection to every life. “Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them.”
No one of us is in this alone, and we will never be truly free alone.
May our sangha be a place of refuge; may our practice together encourage us to look deeply, clearly, and squarely without running; and may we, our country, and world know deep healing.
May you be well and held with love,